On May 11th, we're hosting the first in a series of three events addressing inclusion and diversity in the world of PE and finance. Our first event is Are You and Your Business Seizing the New Opportunity for Diversity?. It discusses if remote working is a good thing – or a potential disaster – in terms of gender inclusivity.
But why is D&I (diversity and inclusion) so essential to us at Altus Partners? Here is an interview with our founder and MD Ed Chamberlain to explain more.
Why is D&I vital to you and your mission at Altus Partners?
The word inclusion is, in my opinion, the most crucial factor. An inclusive environment is one where everyone is welcome. Individuals are personalities in their own right, rather than having a label placed on you due to implicit, conscious, or unconscious bias. If you have an inclusive workplace, you will, in turn, have a diverse one. They go together – but it must start with inclusivity.
In turn (because of differing backgrounds), a diverse group of people leads to diversity in thoughts. It allows individuals to be challenged and learn to take onboard other perspectives. This personal growth has benefits for the business as well as the individual. But you can't reap the rewards of a diverse workforce if everyone doesn't feel safe to be themself.
On a personal level, I grew up in an industrial town and a world away from Private Equity, working in many factory-based jobs and helping to provide for my family from a young age. In trying to move away from this world and bettering my opportunities, I faced constant bullying and labels. I am acutely aware this is far from the discrimination others meet, and I do not make light of that. However, it further empowers the fact that Altus Partners can help change the industry for the better and hopefully create more inclusive environments and opportunities for others in the future.
This industry has a vast reach, so if we can help diversify the people working in it, hopefully, it will trickle down into the businesses these PE companies own. It is a domino effect across sectors, and we believe that will help make the world a better place.
What positive impact have you seen the push in D&I (from search firms in particular) had on PE?
The efforts of organisations like Level 20 and the Diversity Project are inspiring. They understand the level of influence search firms has on effecting change in the industry. For instance, the Diversity Project brought competing search firms together to not only pledge their commitment but act on it with initiatives and workstreams that all have an impact on D&I. We're proud to be working with them.
At Altus, our commitment to D&I meant changing how we report certain things to clients and approaching specific searches. It's also about opening up the conversation around the commercial benefits of D&I. Many people feel uncomfortable putting the two together, but if you want to get everyone involved in the movement, some might need to see there is an opportunity to be convinced.
What part is Altus Partners playing in this?
The only way to change the industry is to create movements and raise the voice of different initiatives to ensure they stay current. We need to be an ally of those underrepresented in the industry keep supporting issues like gender diversity until that change is seen, not just whilst it's a hot topic.
That's why we've created the ID2021 series of events and campaigns this year. The three core areas it will look at are gender diversity (in particular retention of women in the industry), ethnic diversity and mental health.
We do all the things every day within our retained searches to support D&I in the industry. As part of our candidate registration and screening process, we ensure that:
● We look for candidates from a wide range of backgrounds
● We provide regular training for our team around best interview practice and mental health
● We use psychometric screening to remove bias and understand each individual better
● Sharing redacted CVs and shortlists to remove unconscious bias
How can we remove unconscious bias in the screening process of potential candidates for roles?
Training! It's fascinating that every person I interview to join Altus Partners, I'll ask if they've had training on interviewing a candidate. So, few of them have, and the same goes for clients. People seem to think they do not need training because it is just a conversation. But, without training, bias, whether conscious or unconscious, is likely to happen, and the only way to remove that is with training. Interviewers need to have benchmarks and run structured interviews so that people can be assessed on the same set of parameters – it's something we cover in-depth in our masterclass training.
We're also working on a piece of technology that will allow us to automate the process of redacting CVs automatically for our clients. We (the recruiters) will be able to see the candidate information in full, but it will remove as much prejudgment as possible for the client. This will level the playing field, allowing clients to focus on raw talent and motivation rather than someone's background.
When it comes to D&I, we must appreciate the influence search companies have on driving change within their sectors. The Private Equity industry isn't the same as it was even 10 years ago, but it still has quite a way to go. We're committed to never standing on the side-lines and to propelling change within the companies we work with.
If you're interested in attending our event on May 11th, Are You and Your Business Seizing the New Opportunity for Diversity? Get your tickets here.