DiversityQ and sister publication ESG Clarity have partnered with the reboot. campaign to spotlight the journeys of successful ethnic minority professionals who have risen to senior positions in the corporate world.
The series aims to support positive dialogue on race in the workplace and engage senior leadership across large organisations to help tackle conscious and unconscious biases, as well as create a truly inclusive workplace, by showcasing the ‘SuperBAMEs‘.
In this first piece, Lawrence Heming reboot. member and marketing professional, shares some insights from a video interview with Ronnie Ahluwalia (pictured), EMEA head of global key accounts at Invesco, carried out by CEO EMEA of Invesco Doug Sharp.
Ronnie’s story is an inspiring place to start our series of reboot. narratives. It’s typical of the journey experienced by the senior Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals, yet unique in so many ways.
The Invesco EMEA head of global key accounts has seen plenty of progress in reducing racial inequalities in the workplace across the UK, and although things are still not where they should be, he is optimistic about the future.
Growing up as a Sikh, Punjabi-British kiddigrant (a child of immigrants), in 70s and 80s Britain, stereotyped views of Ronnie’s long hair and his Patka led to consternation, microaggressions and fights. His mother had already given him an English name, which he believed helped him, but he then took the difficult decision as a Sikh to cut his hair anyway.
Fast forward to today – through a stellar career in investment banking, consulting and asset management – against a backdrop of equal opportunities legislation – and Ronnie has plenty of thoughts about how the investment management industry can progress further.
The mood has shifted gear, he says. The Black Lives Matter movement has provoked a fresh assessment of the issues – and a lot of positive change for ethnic minorities.
Next, he believes, “senior leadership teams in the sector increasingly recognise – and act on – the positive benefits of diversity.”
This is supported by research that shows diversity of leadership and at organisations more broadly can deliver better outcomes. These include increased market share, tapping new markets and driving financial performance in a more meaningful way.
He’d like to see more focus on tackling unconscious bias – from understanding and facing up to microaggressions to hiring with blind resumes – as organisations turn more of their good words into good deeds. They could start by working harder to measure the size of their ethnic minority population.
He urges ethnic minority professionals to engage in more mentoring. This is something Ronnie has benefitted from personally, especially since joining Invesco in 2016. But the industry lags more broadly – a 2019 survey carried out by the Investment Association indicated that more than 50% of black professionals said they had no black role models at work.
The more people from minority backgrounds that have access to people further up the organisation who can inspire, lead and mentor, the better they will perform. Ronnie sees this in his own employer – as his ethnic minority mentees go on to become high performers.
Finally, he’d like to see ethnic minority professionals take control and push their careers on.
He advises anyone at the early stages of their career in asset management to: “Be yourself, be authentic, be persistent. Go against stereotypes. Don’t be afraid to be innovative and build new skills – nor ask for feedback from mentors and colleagues. And succeed so that you, in turn, can mentor the next generation.”
The sector has changed profoundly since undergraduate Ronnie turned away from the ‘pale, male and stale’ fund managers he met on the milk round. His optimism for the future is shared by the reboot. movement.
We’re only cautiously optimistic because there’s a still a big problem to fix – but we’re beginning to figure out a roadmap.
The full video interview is below.