Why CEOs should have 'learn it all' rather than 'know it all' approach to diversity

WATCH: DIAL Global Virtual Summit - Day 1

Chief executives of top UK companies including Marks and Spencer (MKS.L) and Co-op discussed how they are working towards a more diverse and inclusive workspace at the DIAL Global Virtual Summit.

Acknowledging that all those on the panel were white and male, Steve Murrells, Co-Op CEO, said "we cannot imagine what is it for a young black person to go through their work life but we can actively listen and then do something about it."

Murrells said firms must look at inclusivity across the spectrum of gender, religion, race and society, adding the murder of George Floyd "triggered him" to want to do more around race and inclusion.

"We are a multi cultural society. I feel we will be a better business if we have a more diverse workforce," he said. "We need to become less know-it-all and more learn-it-all."

It wasn't just Murrells who was spurred to action by Floyd's death.

Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, said after the murder, a young employee on a grad scheme in the company emailed to ask him what he was doing to react to the injustice, which made him reflect.

He said he realised he wasn’t doing enough to make a positive difference and this graduate became his reverse mentor, putting the CEO "through [his] paces."

"I am still learning but I am fully committed to making M&S a diverse workplace," Rowe added.

CEO Panel: Collaboration not Competition: How the last 12 months have changed lives
CEO Panel: Collaboration not Competition: How the last 12 months have changed lives

DIAL Global Virtual Summit, in partnership with Yahoo Finance owner-Verizon Media (VZ), is a two-day free event where senior leaders from FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and Fortune 500 Companies discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging and how these components are essential for successful businesses.

Speaking at the 'CEO Panel: Collaboration not Competition: How the last 12 months have changed lives' session, Nathan Coe, Autotrader (AUTO.L) CEO, said being a father of two young girls and having colleagues from a range of diverse backgrounds has made him realise the importance of enabling everyone at work "to be themselves and the very best version of themselves and fulfil their potential."

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Leila Mckenzie-Delis, DIAL Global CEO who was chairing the panel, said that while those on the panel were white men, they are all "incredible executives." She added she hates the term "male, pale and stale."

"I want to remind everyone tuning in that not all diversity is on the surface level when we look at these things we need to have on board amazing allies who are willing to call out change for being anti-racist and call our bad business practices."

She said in this current age "CEOs are starting to evolve into leaders of society and humanity."