Foreword by Dowshan Humzah: ‘Diversity Works…’ 101 portraits and perspectives of diversity in the UK

I became aware of the artist, Shahid Bashir, when I saw his photographs in the foyer of KPMG’s UK headquarters during the presentation of Lord Davies’ final review of women on FTSE 100 boards towards the end of 2015. The striking portraiture, accompanied by three statements provided by each individual (Diversity is…; Diversity isn’t…; and Diversity works…) stood out and provoked discussion and debate.

At the time, this was a project he had been pursuing for two years; he continued taking the concept to others in the corporate sector and in June 2016 he photographed me. Here is the image that Shahid took of me and my contribution prior to our collaboration.

Dowshan Humzah

Diversity Is… life; it is valuing and realising the benefits arising from difference.

Diversity Isn’t… a tick-box or a social exercise of preference over merit.

Diversity Works… YES, absolutely. Especially when fully embraced, providing ‘access to opportunity’ and a level-playing field, so the best talent from the widest pools rise.

Dowshan Humzah – Digital & Business Transformation Director; Executive Ambassador, Board Apprentice

Focusing on completion of the online gallery, we extended the project from its base of diversity & inclusion practitioners and professional services’ leaders to a broader range of business and thought leaders given my clients, associates and friends. Many participants were captured and we selected 101 from them to launch the online gallery.

So why feature 101 contributors? Well, the concept of ‘Room 101’ was introduced in George Orwell’s novel 1984 and as a number has always remained with me. Room 101 is a chamber in the Ministry of Love where prisoners were subjected to their fears with the objective of breaking down their resistance. This aspect of ‘breaking down resistance’ really came through in the various conversations that we had with many contributors. The equality, societal, business and strategic benefits of diversity are well proven; however, there still seems to be resistance and slow progress in fully embracing and benefiting from diversity. As a result, we decided to focus on 101 individuals whose statements help to break down this resistance.

The ‘101’ is not meant to be a ranking or a list based on a set criteria, but it is meant to represent a broad cross-section of UK plc, and leaders who espouse diversity as a social, business and organisational imperative. Many of the discussions focused on what I have previously termed diversity of ‘POETS’ (Perspective, Outlook, Experience, Thought, Sector and Social Background). It is these ‘POETS’ differences that truly drive change and impact; and yes, these differences correlate to a significant degree with the more talked about ‘visible differences’ such as gender, ethnicity, age and disability and ‘less-visible differences’ such as sexual orientation and professional background.

As a result, we are delighted to present a gallery which features contributors from diversifying individuals such as: Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Purple; Baroness Valerie Amos, Director, SOAS, University of London; Inga Beale DBE, Chief Executive Officer, Lloyd’s of London; The Right Honourable John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons; Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympian and Crossbench Peer, House of Lords; Atul Kochhar, Chef and Restaurateur; Trevor Nelson MBE, DJ and Broadcaster; Anne Richards CBE, CEO M&G Investments; Gok Wan, TV Presenter and Stylist; and Wretch 32, Rapper – just 10 from the initial 101 (the 101 names can be seen on the downloadable press release below).

The starting point for the project was to explore the ‘corporate brand’ of diversity. We did debate what this meant along with many aspects of the project; after all difference is good! However, I always go back to my definition of a brand as a ‘promise delivered’. In this case, the three statements (Diversity is…; Diversity isn’t…; and Diversity works…) provide the basis of the ‘promise of diversity’ and how it can be delivered. The imagery and the contributors’ statements capture this beautifully.

It has been great for the last 7 months collaborating, engaging with a variety of champions of diversity, providing over 40 of the featured contributors (all of whom, along with the original contributors, were generous with their time) and then curating the online gallery. We hope that ‘Diversity Works…’ will now expand into other geographies and influence other projects that advocate diversity or ‘happen to’ challenge identity and social perception.

Uncertainty and ‘distrust’ must not derail our focus from valuing difference, driving inclusion and bringing people together. We must build a narrative for inclusion via conversations that are authentic, uplifting, and emotionally resonant – embracing diversity of or the difference of POETS. ‘Diversity works…’ with its strong imagery and contributors’ statements does just that!”

The full launch press release with the listing of the 101 featured contributors can be downloaded by clicking here.

Dowshan Humzah, ‘Diversity Works…’ Project Collaborator & Curator

About Dowshan Humzah