Privilege is not a bad thing. It’s how you use it that matters

As DiveIn Festival 2019 draws to a close, Mitra reflects on a discussion that stood out for her

Last Friday (27 September 2019) marked the conclusion of this year’s DiveIn Festival; the end of a week where the great and the good of the insurance sector discussed diversity and inclusion and how, as an industry, we can improve our record.

RSA was one of dozens of companies taking part, with events hosted in 30 different countries, attended by thousands of sector employees. And while the talk turned – as it rightly should – to women in insurance, the LGBT+ community and BAME representation, there was one topic which barely made it onto the agenda. Social mobility.

“Social mobility is not about questioning people’s life choices or being critical of those who have a greater chance of achieving their goals. It is about giving talented people the opportunity to become a success.”

Mitra Janes

Social mobility is incredibly important but little discussed. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to talk about. Social mobility is not about questioning people’s life choices or being critical of those who have a greater chance of achieving their goals. It is about giving talented people the opportunity to become a success.

In London, we hosted a session on social mobility, featuring Tim Campbell, the first winner of BBC’s The Apprentice, Debs Barlow, Employment Director, Leadership Through Sport and Business, Laura Marcelli, Senior Associate, DLA Piper and Reggie Nelson, an institutional client service analyst at Legal & General Investment Management. For those who haven’t heard Reggie’s story, it’s nothing short of inspirational.

Reggie was raised on a council estate by his mother following the death of his father. Striving to make his dreams a reality, Reggie searched the internet to find the wealthiest areas of London. Armed with a list of questions, Reggie made the trip to Gloucester Road in Kensington and Chelsea, where he began knocking doors and asking people for the secret of their success.

After getting some sage advice and a helping hand from Quintin Price, a senior manager of investment firm Blackrock, Reggie was able to earn a degree, win several internships, and land a job in the City.

 

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Watch our colleagues talk about why an inclusive culture is so important at RSA

How do we make social mobility a reality

So how do we make things easier for people like Reggie? How do we create an environment where social mobility is not only a reality but that people from different backgrounds feel comfortable in their surroundings?

““Privilege is not a bad thing. It is how you use it that matters. Will you pull up the drawbridge or put down a ladder?””

Tim Campbell

Creating diversity is one thing but it really can’t stand up on its own unless inclusion is there to lend its support. It’s like Tim said: “Privilege is not a bad thing. It is how you use it that matters. Will you pull up the drawbridge or put down a ladder?”

Despite Tim’s wise words and Reggie’s moving story, there is always a danger that the impact is only felt in the moment. We need to ensure that momentum is maintained and can be used to effect real change.

Everyone who took part in Dive In was encouraged to think about their actions going forward. What can they do to move the dial on diversity, how can they make others feel welcome and included, what behaviours can they call out that can change a culture?