How Diageo is creating an inclusive and diverse working environment

In a special article marking International Women's Day, Belinda Brown, global audit & risk director at Diageo, talks to Business Insight. From growing up in Antrim to leading the audit and risk agenda for Diageo in Africa and Europe, she has a passion for growing and developing talent and is proud to work for a company that champions diversity and inclusion

Belinda Brown from Antrim, pictured back at Queen's University. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

I WENT to Queen’s University in Belfast, where I graduated with a first-class BSc honours in finance and a distinction in MSc finance. In 2005 I made the move to work in London as a consultant for Deloitte and worked across a variety of industries and clients including the Ministry of Defence, NHS and Britannia Building Society.

From 2007-2013 I worked for L’Oréal UK in a variety of marketing finance and commercial finance roles for brands such as Garnier & Maybelline.

I joined Diageo’s global audit & risk (GAR) team in 2013 and prior to this I spent two and a half years as procurement commercial finance manager for Africa, Turkey, Russia & Eastern Europe.

In my GAR director role I feel truly privileged, because my job gives me immense exposure to the different functions, businesses, brands and regions across Diageo and, in the process, I get to work with and learn from such interesting and diverse people every day.

Diageo’s culture is rooted in a deep sense of our purpose as a company – celebrating life, every day, everywhere.

One of our company values is that we give each other the freedom to succeed, that we trust each other as a team – when we’re together and when we’re apart.

As the co-founder and co-lead of the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) employee resource group, I'm at the forefront of fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can be at their best, by providing a community structure and support system that promotes the recruitment, retention and development of ethnically diverse employees.

We launched the group last July and have made significant impact to date including establishing a reverse mentoring scheme where an ethnically diverse group of employees mentor senior leaders. We are also working to improve the onboarding experience for international movers and investing on our employee engagement and awareness sessions including racial disparities in maternal healthcare and bringing Diwali to life at our HQ.

As a mother myself I know how important an integrated support system like this can be. I returned to work when my son was seven months old. I came back on a four-day week and my son’s father took shared parental leave to be at home with him full-time for the first three months after my return.

All parents employed by Diageo in the UK and Ireland are eligible for the same fully-paid 26 weeks, retaining benefits and bonuses regardless of gender, sexual orientation or whether they become parents biologically, via surrogacy or adopt. This is part of Diageo’s leading work to support gender equality and to create a fully inclusive and diverse workforce, where barriers to career progression are removed and talent is retained and nurtured.

Our son is nearly three, and I manage my working days so that I get to pick him up from nursery and spend a little time with him in the evening before starting his bedtime routine. Once he’s in bed, I log back on to finish my work for the day. I choose to work a longer than usual “working day” from Monday to Thursday but the flipside of that is that I rarely work on Fridays or weekends.

I read somewhere about there being no such thing as work-life balance, but rather there is a work-life rhythm. This resonates with me so much. Agile working means that I can manage my time to build the other important things in my work and life into my day.

Diageo’s commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse working environment was recognised by the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index in 2019, and this International Women’s Day we will be supporting the #EachForEqual campaign.

Central to this will be driving dialogue around 'allyship' to inspire our employees, both male and female, to be allies for inclusion and diversity, challenging stereotypes and joining the conversation externally.

As well as celebrating what it means to be an everyday ally for women, we will be exploring the theme of #EachForEqual aiming for transformative discussions that acknowledge the way men and women have different experiences and explore how we can all show greater allyship for each other so we can build a collective strength in the face of those differences and because of them.

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