2020 has certainly been a year to remember.
Covid-19 has forced the world to slow down, reset and think about how we live our lives.
There has been historic solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement with high-profile footballers and Formula 1 drivers showing their support by taking the knee, and people of all races coming together for peaceful protests.
Companies, big and small, have started to look within their own organisations to remove any barriers that may exist to reflect the wider society.
For me, this is very much welcomed. As one of the few (and I mean very few) black COOs in asset management, it bothers me that there are not more black people in C-suite roles.
Diversity and inclusion has been on the agenda for asset managers for many years. Ironically, however, these programmes have typically not been inclusive enough.
But what do we mean by diversity and inclusion? It is not uncommon for diversity and inclusion to be used interchangeably, and for diversity to be baked into the cake of inclusion, but these are two distinctly separate things.
The term diversity includes the innumerable ways that humans are different; inclusion is a more generic term implying how welcome an organisation makes us feel.
Very simply put, diversity is the presence of difference and can be measured, tracked and recorded. Inclusion is defined as the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunity and resources and can contribute fully towards the organisation's success.
So, what can asset management firms do in order to push forward the conversation? Firstly, they need to understand that, while the front door is open, the internal doors often remain closed when it comes to progression.
They need to create a talent action plan that outlines talent processes and career development which should also encompass BAME role models at a senior level.
Line managers need to have diversity objectives built into their job descriptions to ensure they are developed as inclusive leaders.
It is important that through continuous training firms address unconscious bias and, while on the outset it may feel uncomfortable, it is an effective way to drive behavioural change.
Leadership on these issues is a key factor in change; however, it is everyone's responsibility and needs to happen at every level.
Everyone in an organisation has a responsibility to make people feel comfortable and accepted. When employees feel like they belong, they contribute more fully as they feel a closer connection to the firm.
In my opinion, diversity is not just about race, ability, sexual orientation or gender. At the very core it is about backgrounds and mindset.
Changing a firm's mindset leads to an increase in productivity, an ability to successfully function and grow on a global scale, and most importantly it gives people a sense of belonging.
Use this extraordinary year to reset and seek out those different mindsets.
Darren Johnson is COO - listed equities, executive director at Impax Asset Management