Think back to a time when you felt comfortable. Did you want things to do anything differently? Or where you happy for everything to remain as it was? Comfort may be a pleasant state to be in, but it certainly isn’t one that is conducive to change.
That was a key theme flowing through the recent City Hive social which fittingly took place on a day that was both International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Hindu festival of colour Holi. Guests were told, “We don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but we don’t want you to be too comfortable either.” Far from being you standard City networking event, the social wanted to offer a truly eye-opening look at what people of colour really talk about when no-one is listening, shining a light on some of their daily experiences.
The theme around comfort regularly weaved its way through the evening, especially with the tone of the evening which fluctuated between light-hearted quips and the more serious, surprising experiences of the speakers, Remi Ray of Cass Business School, Mona Shah of Stonehage Fleming, and LGIM’s Justin Onuekwusi. All three regularly find themselves confronting biases, in areas ranging from the mentality of having to work twice as hard as your Caucasian colleagues, to assumptions that a person of colour at an event was tech support or a security guard rather than an asset management professional.
Speakers shared their thoughts on a range of topics. The role of parenting a minority child when you know they will face biases was discussed on detail alongside the rarely talked about ‘black tax’, and the added challenge that many minorities face having to solely support their families, whilst already earning less than their white counterparts.
As the event drew to a close, each speaker was asked to offer a piece of advice to those coming through the industry. Justin spoke of the positive impact of mentoring circles and minority role models, while Mona commented that minorities shouldn't worry about tokenism. Remi felt that those coming into the industry should be comfortable in their own skin – it's not a question of capability, its often more about discomfort of being the only minority in the room.
So what was the key takeaway? Well, in the asset management industry, and indeed life, we achieve the best results when each and every one of us is given the space to fulfil our potential – an impossible goal unless we first bring about a more balanced industry. This starts with some very difficult conversations about how the status quo really doesn't work for everyone.
This evening was just the beginning. If you want to know what happens next, then sign up to City Hive and find out about our next events. After all, if we are ever going to achieve our goal of ushering in a more inclusive asset management industry, we not only need to work together, we also need to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
City Hive would like to give a special thank you to the sponsors of the evening - Pictet Asset Management, Eaton Vance and Hermes Investment Management. It took plenty of courage to sponsor an event like this and we are grateful for the support.