DisruptAbility Podcast – Ep.4 – Toby Mildon

DisruptAbility Podcast – Ep.4 – Toby Mildon


Hello and welcome to the DisruptAbility podcast presented by Inclusive Cork. Today’s interview is with Toby Mildon, who is a diversity and inclusion specialist based in the UK. Toby helps companies to be more inclusive of the diverse talent pool. He has formerly worked with Deloitte and the BBC and in today’s interview, he will give some really good insights into diversity and inclusion, especially for companies who are starting out on their inclusion journey. Thank you for listening. So today I’m really happy to be talking virtually to Toby Mildon, who is a diversity and inclusion architect and we are talking all the way from London, isn’t that right? Is that where you’re based Toby? Yeah. That’s right. Yeah, I’m in London. Yeah. Brilliant. Well, we’re delighted to have you here in Cork with us today. Cool, thank you very much. Thanks. Yeah, so Toby, can you give us a little bit of your background, where you’re coming from and how you got into the whole diversity and inclusion business? Yeah, I got into diversity and inclusion, when I was working for the BBC, I’d spent many years working in technology as a, a project manager. And, uh, when I was working at the BBC, um, I was working with the chief operating officer who was concerned about the, the gender imbalance within the technology department of the BBC. Um, and, uh, we were very different to the rest of the organization, which is about 50/50 male/female. And so, uh, I, with, with Andy, I created the gender balance action plan, and then as a project manager, I implemented the plan. And, um, but then, uh, my portfolio grew. So, uh, I worked in radio, I worked with all of the corporate services at the BBC, like finance and marketing and HR. Um, and then, um, and then I moved into the city working for Deloitte as a diversity and inclusion manager. Okay. So you kind of left the technical world and went into the diversity and inclusion world. Yeah, that’s right. Yup. Um, and then since Deloitte I left, I left, I left the city and I’ve set up my own diversity and inclusion consultancy working with my own clients now. Okay. So what do you offer your clients? So I mainly work with HR directors and senior business leaders to help them hardwire diversity and inclusion into their culture and their business infrastructure. Um, I do that through a number of ways. I’ve got a flag ship program that I take my clients through that enables them to hardwire it into their business. I then do bespoke consultancy work for my clients. I do training, for example, I’m doing unconscious bias training at the moment for Sony. Um, and I run training workshops, um, that are largely bespoke to meet my client needs. Okay. Can you tell us a little bit about unconscious bias because people are hearing about it, but what does that mean? Yeah. Unconscious bias is a really popular term. Um, I suppose in a nutshell. Um, biases are judgements or opinions that we make up about people before we really get to know them. And, uh, it’s a, it’s a natural human phenomenon. Um, we, we all have bias. Um, it’s partly the way that our brains are wired. Um, and you know, actually we need bias in order to, to get through the day and to be able to make decisions and things like that. Um, and it’s also largely part down to, you know, social conditioning as we’re growing up and images that are presented to us in the media and seeing people in positions of power and that kind of thing. Okay, really good. Now a city like London is diverse. Why do they need diversity and inclusion when the diversity is all around you walk down the street and there it is. So why do people need training in that or organizations need training. Yeah. I mean this is the really interesting thing, so getting the balance right between diversity and inclusion, because I say to my clients, that they are already diverse. Even if you have an organization that doesn’t appear diverse. Um, so you might, you know, organizations might have said to me in the past you know, we’re, we’re predominantly a male organization. We’re predominantly white. Um, you know, we’re predominantly straight. Uh, we, we don’t have many people with disabilities working in our organization. We don’t think of ourselves as diverse. And I often say to them, actually that’s maybe the wrong mindset start off with because, um, you know, diversity is a bit like an iceberg. Uh, you can see 10% of the iceberg above the water line and these are things that we can see, you know, like somebody’s gender or ethnicity or, you know, physical or visible disability. However, there is so much under the waterline. So it could be the type of education background that you had. Um, whether you’re, you know, you grew up in a family where your parents served in the military for example. Uh, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, um, you know, that is all diversity as well. So the argument that I talk about with my clients is that we need to focus a lot more on inclusion because actually if you have an organization that is inclusive culturally but also process wise and you know, the infrastructure of the organization is inclusive, then diversity will naturally follow because, you know, we live in a diverse nation anyway. The diversity is there, but we, you know, we, we choose to be inclusive or we put up barriers, um, to being inclusive of those. Okay. So the key really is getting the inclusion right because the diversity already exists, whether it’s in Ireland or Britain, we have plenty diversity. Diversity is everywhere! In everywhere, exactly. Now you mentioned the infrastructure. Can you unpack that a little bit for us? What do you mean by the infrastructure of an organization? Yeah, so, um, basically when I talk about infrastructure, it’s to do with systems and processes and things like that, you know, and also the other things that businesses do, like the policies that they create and things. So if we look at, you know, we, we can take a, a process like the recruitment process, um, recruitment is not a . . . . It’s not a particularly inclusive process. Um, you know, it, it, it does exclude people. Um, you could look at things like that. If we take unconscious bias, for example, if the managers who are doing the recruitment are not aware of their biases, then they, you know, they’re going to lean on their biases and they’re going to make biased decisions. They might end up choosing somebody that’s just like them for example. Or, um, you know, there’s a thing called distance bias. So you actually give extra Brownie points to people that you, um, are closer to in time in terms of time and space. So if you’re doing, say half of your interviews online, like we are today or half of your interviews in the office, you are more likely to give points to the people that come into your office, but you know, perhaps the best candidate is the person that you met on Skype. Um, so that’s an example of, of some infrastructure, uh, stuff. That’s really interesting. The other one I’ve been reading up around a lot is the “mini me” syndrome or the “affinity bias” where we tend to hire people like ourselves, who look like ourselves or sound like ourselves. Would you agree with that or is that proven? Absolutely, it is. It’s a well known bias, um, there’s a, there’s about 140 different types of cataloged, cognitive biases that you know, that I don’t know about you, but my, you know, my memory is not good enough to remember that. (Laughing) and I’m not even gonna test you on those. No, that’s grand, grand . . As long as people are aware that they do exist. Yeah. And also the Institute of Neuro Leadership, I’ve done the hard work for us and they’ve created a really useful model called the SEEDS model, uh, which are five broad categories of types of bias. So thats “Similarity, Expedience, Experience, Distance and Safety and the, I talk about these five different biases with my clients. Really good. So anyone who’s in recruitment should be aware of their own biases so that when they are recruiting, they’re maybe thinking about the decisions that they’re making when they’re dealing with people. Yeah, I would argue actually that they need to go beyond awareness so, there’s a lot in online and about the effectiveness of unconscious bias training. So if I made you aware of your biases, if you went online and did the implicit association tests that Harvard have created, um, and find that you’re biased in favor of or against a particular group of people. Um, that there are, there is an argument out there that suggests that, that that’s not helpful. Um, you know, I did the association test myself and believe it or not, I am mildly biased against disabled people. Um, you know, and I’ve got, you know, I’ve got a disability, I’ve grown up around disability and my brother’s got the same condition as me. I’ve got disabled friends, yet I’m mildly biased against disabled people. Um, what’s really interesting is, you know, I’m aware of that cause that means if I’m interviewing a disabled person that I might be a bit more lenient with them and perhaps they aren’t the best candidate for the job. So actually the training that I do for example, is that what part, you know, part A is about just increasing awareness of what bias is and how it occurs and that, it is a natural human phenomenon. But Part B, which I argue is more important is that actually people need to take action, but really small bits of action, you know, you don’t have to boil the ocean, you can just do really simple things like, uh, you know, we’re, we’re a lot more prone to making biased decisions when we’re working under pressure. So if you can put a bit of time in between making a decision, for example, then that would, that would help de-bias decision-making. Um, so it’s just small, small things like that that people can do. Yeah, and you mentioned there, like you can have a positive bias or a negative bias. Like, I think sometimes when we talk about biases, we presume they’re all negative, but it can be, you know, positively predisposed to a particular group of people, you know? Yeah. Yeah. And the thing is we need bias. If we, if we didn’t operate with bias, we would really struggle to get through the day. Um, you know, and making simple decisions and completing simple tasks would be excruciatingly slow. You know, we, we need our brains operate through, you know, through shortcuts and we need those shortcuts to function. Yeah. Okay. So when you go out to your clients and you’re talking about diversity, inclusion is gender the big one? Absolutely. Yeah. And it’s got, it’s increased up the agenda item, the agenda as well, because the gender pay gap. So particularly we’re now into, you know, what, two or three years after the first reporting was required, um, the data is starting to tell the story and businesses are having to explain that story and explain the gap. And so it’s, diversity and inclusion has definitely, uh, moved up the agenda item and also in a big movements like “Me Too” and “Black Lives Matter”, for example, have, you know, have really increased up the agenda as well. Okay. But when we’re talking about gender, we can’t ignore and all the other sections of diversity because even within gender, surely, whether you’re black or disabled or, have a, you know, um, a minority family status or something. All of that impacts on the gender gap as well, doesn’t it? Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, what we’re talking about there is intersectionality, and, you know, for instance, you know, I could tick the I’m disabled box and I’m also gay box. Now if I, you know, if, if there’s two networking events on the same day, which one do I go to? Um, so, that’s why I do talk to my clients about intersectionality because I get really frustrated and I’ve worked in businesses where they say, oh, it’s, you know, we’re, we’re doing women in leadership this year and it’s women in leadership, you know, not even the other women in the business you know, we’re doing women in leadership this year. Um, next year we’re gonna do our ethnicity action plan. Um, we may eventually get round to doing disability one day. Okay we’re way down the list. Um, yeah ,and people get really demoralized and they feel left out or part of their identity is ignored cause they, somebody might say, well hang on a minute, I’m a woman, but I’m also a lesbian you know, so you’re, you’re kind of, you know, you’re appealing to one side of me, but not the other. Exactly. So this is what intersectionality is. It’s all the different sections of diversity and not, I suppose making one superior to another are putting one before another that we are all versions of all of the different types of diversities. Yeah. And it’s acknowledging and it’s respecting and it’s, and it’s, um, you know, all of the parts of ourselves. Um, and, and, you know, intersectionality changes over time. So, you know, you might, I might be talking to a, uh, a man, uh, and in five years time he may get or develop a disability. Um, and yeah so intersectionality changes, uh, . . Yeah, it’s fluid. It’s fluid, yeah. Good. Okay. I always say we’re not one dimensional, you know, like there is many parts to me. Yes. I’m a woman and yes, I have a disability, but there’s a lot more to me than just those two aspects that you might be aware of. Yeah, yeah. I mean, some of it’s, you know, sticks for example, you know, we’re born with our ethnicity. Um, you know, and, um, that, you know, that’s, that’s pretty static. Um, but you know, other bits of fluids, uh, you know, you might, uh, you might be working with a colleague who is, um, you know, a, a gay man for example, and is not out at work. Um, and you know, maybe, maybe later on in life they do come out and therefore, um, that part of themselves needs to be acknowledged in the workplace Okay, really good. Toby, everyone’s talking about diversity and inclusion at the moment. I think, um, companies are setting up ERG’s these employee resource groups. They want to do something around diversity and inclusion. Is the, are the ERG’s a good place to start. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, ERG’s have been around for years. I mean, they were kind of first created in the 60s in the states, particularly around, you know, race, race, race, movement. Um, they, you know, they’re, they’re everywhere. Uh, big, most big organizations have ERGs, some, you know, some more than others. Um, and you know, they range from a company having sort of 4, covering things like LGBT, uh, gender, disability, ethnicity, others have loads, you know, from, uh, yeah, uh, loads and even, even if you look at, uh, one organization that I, I work with for example, has say a disability network, but then they also have the, the stammering network and the blind network and the deaf network and things like that. Um, I think when, when ERGs, are managed well, they’re incredibly powerful. Um, the key is in managing them well. So ERGs need to be aligned with the, the overall DNI strategy of an organization. Um, it’s very easy for ERGs to get very excited about things and go off and do lots of wonderful things, but then don’t link it back to the corporate strategy or they certainly don’t link in with the other networks. Um, and there is, you know, we’ve just talked about intersectionality that there’s so much overlap. So if I was running say the disability ERG and I go well actually I want to do something around mentoring disabled people in the workplace. Well maybe the ethnicity ERG would like to do something around mentoring as well. It’s something that can be shared. Um, and with that you get savings and efficiencies and things like that. Okay. That’s really good, and the company that you said has the disability network and then they actually break it down into stammering and deaf, et cetera. They must be huge. I mean like for a small company that only have one or two people in any one of those groups. So is this a big global company that can do that? And then the network trans-national? Yeah. I mean they are a huge global company. Um, but even in UK where these networks are base they, you know, they have thousands, tens of thousands of, of, of employees in the UK. Right. But that’s really good, positive action and very supportive to those workers. Yeah, I like that. And the thing is, you know, all organizations of all sizes can create ERGs. Um, you know, there’s no rule to say how big or small your network is. You could be a network of two if you wanted say, um, uh, I, I would argue that actually smaller organizations might be better off creating an inclusion council. So getting a number of employees together to focus on inclusion and working together, you know, they might not be big enough to have separate, uh, you know, diversity networks, but they could certainly do an inclusion council. Okay. Um, what about disability in Britain? Are People afraid of the word disability? Cause I’m hearing a lot of negativity around the word here and I’ve even had a call from a tech company asking me, is it politically correct to use the word disability? And I’m like, of course it is. It’s the word we have in legislation. Yeah. What about in Britain? What’s the attitude to the word Disability? I think it’s the same. Um, there’s a lot of nervousness and anxiety around disability saying and doing the wrong thing. Quite frankly, people then avoid the situation because they don’t want to look stupid if I’m being brutally honest and, uh, it is a problem. And you know, unfortunately there is a hierarchy, in diversity and disability is often at the bottom, the bottom of the hierarchy. And I noticed in one of the articles that you wrote that you mentioned the #diversish article, do you want to explain about them and the valuable 500 and all of that. Yeah. So the valuable 500 is a campaign that was kicked off this year, 2019, um, at the Davos summit, um, A load of business leaders got together and it, it, it, it’s accompanied by a really humorous video, that you can get on Youtube. Um, and it is, you know, it’s certainly what I’ve experienced working in businesses. Um, you know, the, the lip service that organizations pray to disability inclusion, um, organizations not really getting it. Um, and yeah, I suppose the argument of the campaign diversish is the organization say, of course, you know, we’re diverse or we value diversity, of course we, you know, we’re striving for inclusion. Um, but you know, we haven’t quite got round to disability yet. Um, or yeah. Yeah. Or you know, why would disabled people use our services we’re a high end high, you know, luxury brands. Um, these kinds of things unfortunately are what businesses are saying. Yeah, I love that video. It’s so nails it, doesn’t have Toby? I mean, I’ve been in those meetings and I’ve talked to those individuals. The video is just, . . It’s perfect. It’s perfect. And they have a number of videos that really sort of, I suppose monetize as well. They say how much the purple pound is worth to the British economy like that by, um, by businesses ignoring the disability, the customers with disability and the families who have children with disabilities, et cetera. It’s worth, Billions. . . Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s so much untapped market and potential out there, that businesses are not tapping into. For example, if you’re, if you’re an insurance company and you have an inaccessible website, how is somebody that can’t see very well, or blind, going to buy a premium from you but you, that that’s money that you’re leaving on the table. Um, also, uh, you know, if you look at say inclusion of employees, you know, disabled people are under employed compared to non disabled people. If you then break that down into different types of disabilities, um, people are on the autism spectrum are, you know, underemployed yet people with autism have skills that we need in the work place. So, you know, if we’re not employing autistic people in the workplace and that’s talent that we’re leaving on the table. Right yeah, we’re ignoring a very diverse and talent pool that has just so much to offer. Yeah, yeah. And with a diverse workforce, your innovation goes up, you get better at making decisions. There’s evidence out there that many organizations have conducted, which shows that the more diverse organizations are more profitable. Um, there is a really strong commercial case to be diverse. Absolutely. Where do we get started? So that’s my, the question that so many organizations when I talk to them, they’re like, where do we start Clare? All right. Do you have any ideas for organizations where they can get started? Oh, there’s so much that, but that’s part of the problem actually. I think organizations get so overwhelmed because there’s so much to do and they think that they have to like go, out, go out and please everybody. Um, and also organizations are quite tactical. So they will, you know, they’ll go, okay, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna do something around International Women’s Day and then we’ll do something for pride for LGBT. And then we’ve got the UN day for disabled people every December. So we need to do something there. The problem with that approach, it’s really tactical and it doesn’t really make an impact. I mean, it increases awareness, um, but actually the things that you have to be addressed is the organizational culture that needs to be inclusive and the really, you know, the infrastructure, the processes that you have in the infrastructure. So, when I advise clients, so first of all, when, when clients say to meet God, wherever do I start, I always say start with your people. Like go out and talk to your people. Find out from them you know um, what their day to day lived experience is like working in your organization. Um, you can do that anonymous anonymously through surveys or if you’re able to do, if you do like an annual staff engagement survey, that kind of thing. Um, get a picture of how inclusive your business is right now. Identify the barriers and obstacles and then start to remove those barriers and obstacles. Okay. Toby, that is brilliant advice. That is fantastic because we all have to start at 101 don’t we? Just level one. Because I think there is a lot of good intent out there. People want to do the right thing. but you’re dead right, they’re overwhelmed. There’s so much diversity out there. They don’t know where to start. Especially when it comes to disability. There is a fear of getting it wrong, and if they get it wrong, that it will be all over social media. But we want to take those fears away and hold organizations hands and say, you can do it and you can do it right and step by step. Just start with your people. Yup. Yeah. Start with your people. That’s brilliant, Toby. Listen, thank you so much for joining us today on the DisruptAbility Podcast, and I hope we’ll talk to you again soon. I hope so, I hope I can talk talk to you. Yes, absolutely. Have a great day Toby, cheers. Take care, thank you. Slán! Please be advised that this recording does not constitute medical or legal advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *