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Diversity in the workplace: “It’s the right thing to do.”

At Cardano, diversity and inclusion is a key corporate value, which is why Cardano group member NOW: Pensions was recently shortlisted for PR Week’s ‘Purpose Awards EMEA 2021’, in the Category: Brand-led: Best Equality & Inclusion Cause Campaign, for its ‘Fair Pensions for All’ video. Not only is this no mean feat, given that the other nominees on the shortlist include big household names such as Nestlé, Starbucks and Sainsbury’s. It’s also a huge testament to the campaigning work that NOW: Pensions has been doing to help raise awareness of the gender pensions gap.

In short, Cardano is firmly committed to the principle in both words and deeds. Dawn Thirley, Cardano’s Group HR Director, explains why. “It’s a real priority for us. It’s critical both to the business and to our performance. But we also believe in diversity because it’s simply the right thing to do. We want to have a diverse population. We want to represent our customers and the communities that we work for. And we also want to have diversity of thought – people thinking differently and bringing new things to the table. So while we feel that it will help our performance culture, we also really want to make a difference. Cardano has always been a value-driven business and this is simply one of our key values. We do want to make sure that everybody feels a sense of belonging. We want everyone to have the chance to thrive and reach their potential.”

Dawn Thirley, Group Head of HR

Attractive to potential recruits

Naturally, the company keeps an eye on what’s going on in the world around it and how it’s viewed by potential recruits. Dawn Thirley: “We would like new employees who are interested in joining us to feel like there is a place for them at Cardano. It really means getting the best from our people. And for me personally, it’s about everyone feeling that they can grow and develop and achieve more within the business.”

A sense of belonging

“One of the things that’s really interesting for us is this sense of belonging. It’s fine to want a diverse workforce, it’s fine to include people, but they also need to feel like they belong. They need to feel like they’re valued and being listened to and being heard and that they have a key part to play.”

Fostering a sense of belonging, a sense of community, has of course been made much more difficult by the past year’s Covid-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to combat it. One of the aspects that readily springs to mind is the practice of working from home (WFH). We are looking forward to getting back together as teams and collaborating and working together.

The financial services industry has not, of course, traditionally offered the most diverse of working environments. Could it be just a passing fad full of hollow phrases and boxes waiting to be ticked?

Dawn Thirley couldn’t disagree more: “We want to go out there and really make a difference. It’s something that we feel consciously that we’ve got to drive forward more because change is happening, but it’s not quick enough. We feel like we really need to help it along its way.”

People talk a lot about a ‘culture fit’ when new staff are recruited. But a ‘culture fit’ means that they fit in, which is rather the opposite of diversity. We’re more interested in ‘culture add’. In other words, would a new recruit add to our culture?”

Culture add

Dawn is quick to rebut any suggestion that diversity at Cardano is no more than ticking a box by taking the odd course on implicit bias. “We’re not a box-ticking organisation. We’re very value-driven. We wouldn’t do it just for the sake of it. We want to hold ourselves accountable. It’s about really embedding that culture of ‘everyone matters’.”

“People talk a lot about a ‘culture fit’ when new staff are recruited. But a ‘culture fit’ means that they fit in, which is rather the opposite of diversity. We’re more interested in ‘culture add’. In other words, would a new recruit add to our culture?”


But it’s not all about letting people in at the front door. It’s also a matter of making sure that people continue to mix, at all stages of their working careers. Dawn Thirley: “Part of our focus on belonging is that we want to get people to really work together on projects. We’re trying to mix things up and get people involved in things.”

Then there’s the bottom line, of course. Are there tangible gains, in terms of corporate performance, to be earned from diversity? Dawn Thirley: “Certainly, all of the research and evidence points to the fact that diversity is good for financial performance. I think it’s because you’ve got a broader group of people that you can choose from. The results come from turning away from a situation in which everyone has similar viewpoints.

Mutually exclusive?

Two head-hunters recently suggested in a letter to the Financial Times that diversity and competence are mutually exclusive. “I don’t believe they are. First of all, I think there’s plenty of competent females and diverse candidates out there. But I also think this is why we’re looking at belonging to the whole group. It’s not about one particular group belonging. It’s about everyone belonging, because I do think you want everyone to feel part of the organisation. I do believe there is a bar for all forms of recruitment. So you don’t just recruit somebody because they happen to meet the diversity criterion. You need to make sure that you are getting that pipeline of candidates.”

Feeling valued

“You hear a lot of people saying that they want “a voice at the table”, but if you’ve got a voice at the table and nobody’s listening, that’s not really a table you want to sit at. That sums it up: people need to feel valued. For me, it’s about people feeling that, when they come to Cardano, they’re treated well, they’re valued. They’ve got a place here. They’re here because we think they’re talented and they’ve got a future with us.”

“You know, people do want to make a difference. They want to be in a business that they’re proud of, because they feel it’s a company that has a heart and is really values-driven.”