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994508000007512001Diversity Dialogues – a new initiative from the British Chamber

Words by Rosie Halfhead, owner of R-˃Co and chair of the British Chamber’s Diversity Dialogues working group

Diversity is no longer a side issue; it is a business reality. Consequently, the chamber has launched a new initiative, Diversity Dialogues, to put the spotlight on a variety diversity issues and best practices.

Our first Diversity Dialogues event took place on 19 October. It was designed around the idea of ‘content-based networking’. Over 60 participants from a range of backgrounds and sectors engaged enthusiastically in three different hosted conversations.

Diversity in practice

Erik Kerkhofs, Director DX, Microsoft made some framing remarks that focused on the dynamics of today’s workplace. He talked about the pervasive use of technology and the impact of the changing demographics in both the workforce and the customer base, especially in terms of age, ethnicity and gender.

In the conversation that followed, Erik encouraged participants to share their own experiences about diversity and what works or not. There was a general view that diversity needs to be embraced by all business leaders collectively, and not ‘left’ to HR. It was also felt that corporate cultures need to evolve to be more understanding of the benefits of diversity, taking cues from the ‘outside-in’ and drawing on real experiences. Practical suggestions included training on unconscious bias; using personality profiling techniques to build diverse teams; creating a workplace environment that is gender friendly (eg, not scheduling meetings after 5pm); measuring people on the achievement of objectives rather than time in the office; as well as using peer pressure to bring about the needed change rather than imposing targets, eg for more women in senior roles.

The conversation ended with a strong agreement about the need for diversity and authenticity to go hand in hand.

The role of legislation in gender equality

Joanna Maycock, Secretary General, European Women’s Lobby suggested that gender equality progress has ground to a halt and encouraged participants to consider why, and what to do to kick-start it again. They talked about quotas – a necessary evil perhaps – but the means to an end, which has worked in many countries. However, whilst policy and legislation can help, everyone agreed that business must engage in order to bring about meaningful change.

As we are still living and working in a male-dominated society, the group felt that a cultural and mindset shift is needed, and this is necessary at personal, educational, institutional and societal levels.

As the conversation came to an end, participants took a vote on whether quotas should be introduced to achieve gender equality on boards. The majority said yes.

The impact of unconscious bias in recruitment

Steven Maisel, partner, Fitch Bennett Partners, drew on his many years of experience in executive recruiting stating that biases are present – conscious and unconscious – although he had never experienced overt bias around gender.

Participants agreed that the selection process (ie, finding and recommending a diverse slate of candidates) might be effective, but that in the end the hiring manager makes the choice. And this selection may well then be a ‘safe option’, conditioned by the manager’s own frame of reference that is likely to be influenced by personal biases. The group felt it would be beneficial to re-frame and emphasize the values defined for roles to be more inclusive – eg, valuing leadership, team building, communication rather than only the hard skills.

Future events

Given the success of this kick-off event, the Diversity Dialogues Working Group* is currently planning four events in 2016, one per quarter, and we are now looking for speakers and sponsors interested in getting involved.

The topics we will explore are:

Making gender equality a reality – a high-level, moderated debate on the issue of women in leadership and executive roles; women on boards as well as the role of men in making gender equality a reality.

Creating a corporate culture that embraces diversity – a listen and learn session that will feature practical insights and experience from 2-3 companies from different sectors that are leading the way in embracing diversity in business, with follow up Q&A.

Understanding and dealing with unconscious bias – a practical, hands-on training session.

Reflecting on progress and shaping the future agenda – mid-November we will organize another content-based networking session that builds on the successful formula of our launch event.

In addition, in order to keep the dialogue going and encourage connections, information sharing and on-going networking, we have created a DiversityDialoguesBXL group on LinkedIn. Please join to stay connected & informed and to share thoughts and continue the diversity dialogue. Please also help us raise awareness of the topic and initiative by using the #DiversityDialoguesBXL hashtag on Twitter wherever relevant.

Rosie Halfhead chairs the British Chamber’s Diversity Dialogues working group. Rosie is a former C-suite executive in global financial services who now runs the Brussels-based brand & marketing consultancy, R->Co, working mainly with non-profits, startups and SMEs. She is a strong advocate for diversity in business and was Programme Director, Diversity on Boards for the Hong Kong non-profit Community Business, co-authoring a guide on ‘how to improve governance through board diversity’. On her return to Brussels recently, Rosie began working with the chamber to develop an initiative around diversity, which has now materialised into the Diversity Dialogues programme.

* Working Group members

Melanie Barker, The Fry Group

Inge Boets, Porter Novelli

Linda-Jean Cockcroft, Risk & Policy Analysts

Kristel De Prins, TIMESMORE

Rosie Halfhead (Working Group Chair), R-Co

Angela Jones, RobinsonHenry

Catherine Stewart, Interel

Aylin Lusi, UPS

Steven Maisel, Fitch Bennett Partners

James Pearson, British Chamber

Zsuzsanna Kovacs, British Chamber

29-04-2015 : Glenn Vaughan van de British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

After reflecting on his experiences in this year’s Leaders-for-a-Day programme in partnership with JA Europe, our CEO Glenn Vaughan, gives his advice to leaders of the future on what they can do to maximise their opportunities and their potential.

Being ‘shadowed’ for a day and meeting all of my fellow leaders made me realise just what a great opportunity the Leaders-For-A-Day programme is for potential young leaders. And from talking to many leaders, and young leaders as part of the programme here’s my advice for young people on the programme to maximise the value on the experience for myself.

  • Prepare. Make sure you know the company you’re interested in as much as is reasonably possible. Know about the sector and key trends or issues for people in that business. If you can, do your homework on the person you’re shadowing too. It helps you to highlight experience that you might want to find out more about.
  • When you meet people be ready to actively listen, reflect and then get your own thoughts in. So, people like to talk.  Well, I do. But they like a real conversation too – not just a one way. Asking open questions is a good way to draw out knowledge and experience. Your host may not appreciate an interrogation but having thought about things you’d like to understand better means you can use the time most effectively.
  • Don’t just formulate a list of questions though. Reflect on your own experience and have your own opinions, ideas and projects

This project is such a great experience because it is so very different. As an employer, I’m not just interested in your education and experience directly related to the job or sector.  A diversity of experience is more interesting than lots of the same. Things that demonstrate how you can take the lead and bring people together to achieve something really grabs the attention, and different examples from different settings are even better. Showing your entrepreneurial talents and initiative is a seriously big plus.

The Leader-For-A-Day programme is an excellent opportunity for the young people who take part. And it’s an engaging and worthwhile thing to do as a leader – without reorganising a whole work day. So if the chance comes along – get involved!

GBA banner

The Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium are very excited to announce the finalists for the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, which will be presented at a gala dinner and awards ceremony in London on 26 November! The Golden Bridge awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from Belgium and Luxembourg market to the UK.

For the participating companies, the awards are an opportunity to celebrate success, raise their company profile and showcase their business credentials.Former winners and finalists – such as Farnell, Brussels Airlines, Le Pain Quotidien, Alpro, Real Good Food and Netshield – have confirmed that the award has enhanced their image both at home and abroad. Whether large or small, every finalist has achieved outstanding success in exporting and trading in Great Britain, Belgium or Luxembourg, and are among the standard bearers for the very best of UK-Belux exports.

The shortlist of British companies truly showcase the diversity of this year’s candidates; from training solutions experts Ignition to one of the world’s leading translation companies RWS.

It’s a similar story across the water with Belgian synthetic foam manufacturer NMC SA being nominated alongside carpet designers, manufacturers and distributors Classis Carpets, and Syx Automation, active in the field of leisure management software. Also in the mix are Projective, a leading independent provider of programme and project management to financial services institutions across Europe and beyond, The Fenzi Group, specialising in solutions for secondary processing of flat glass, and Soudal NV, Europe’s leading independent manufacturer of sealants, PU-Foams and adhesives.

The applicants have been shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards. Belgian companies will be pitching to a board of judges in London on 15 October, chaired by Belgian Ambassador Guy Trouveroy, whilst British companies will be facing a similar selection panel in Brussels on 29 October, chaired by British Ambassador Alison Rose. Awards will be given in various categories based on company size, export history, and the overseas market in question.

Find the full list of finalists and their company descriptions here!

Join us at the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, now in their 19th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please contact events@blcc.co.uk for details of how to book.

 

Tom_Parker_2015

The issue of Brexit is an ever-present in today’s media; particularly in recent weeks as Nigel Farage begins his attempt to unify the ‘out’ campaign. This week Tom Parker, Managing Director of Cambre Associates and British Chamber Vice President writes about the Chamber’s stance on the UK referendum debate.

With the UK Referendum fast approaching, the debate about the UK and its EU future is heating up. Opinion from both sides of the business community has been put forward. Empowered by an opinion survey of its members, the British Chamber will be arguing strongly the reasons why the UK should vote to remain in.

Our members believe that being a member of the EU brings major benefits to the UK, including, though not limited to foreign direct investment: trade, greater security (energy, climate, defence) and support for our research and regions.

Members of the chamber also believe that a decision by the UK to leave would hurt their businesses. The majority of members surveyed said that if the UK were to leave the EU this would be bad for their business (58%) and for the British economy

Looking beyond the implications for the UK, we also very firmly believe that the UK’s EU membership is vital for the future of the union itself. The UK has played an important role in helping shape a more competitive Europe and as the EU seeks to drive European growth and competitiveness, we believe the UK must remain in the EU and at the heart of this process.

Europe’s patchy economic performance in recent years and events like the migration crisis and potential Grexit have exposed a systemic EU weakness in a rapidly evolving, globalised world.

We believe the UK referendum offers a major opportunity to drive a new momentum to reform the European Union, enabling it to better serve its people and work equally for all its members, both inside and outside of the Eurozone.

In short, the UK referendum fits within a wider EU process of renewal. To this end, our members believe the EU is making good progress on priority issues that matter to business. In our survey of members:

  • 81% said the EU was making progress in completing the Single Market;
  • 78% said the EU was making progress in promoting External Trade;

However, we believe more can still be done and building on the reforms to date, the referendum offers an opportunity to help renew the EU, to make it more competitive, dynamic and to make it a Europe of opportunity for all its citizens.

Brexit

Image taken from here

By Inge Boets, Managing Director
Porter Novelli

Brexit, the construed term to allude to the UK’s potential separation from the European Union, has been a trending topic for the past two years to the point that has become part of its brand identity.

Disenchantment with the EU has been a common occurrence since the UK joined the EU in 1973. This has given the Member State a reputation of playing-hard-to-get: fickle, high maintenance but a valuable asset in the Union.

The UK-EU relationship has however evolved to the point that the current marital predicament resembles the famous Clash-song “Should I stay or Should I go”. Yet this implied question also marks the shared values, interests and history.

The United Kingdom, by political design a union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern-Ireland, combines very different cultural traditions and projects. It has a firm grasp on the difficulties of managing these different identities while professing its common interests. This was recently on display during the Scottish Independence referendum in September 2014. The contradiction in the arguments the UK put forward in its plea for Scotland to stay within the Union and its stance vis-a-vis the European Union can’t hereby go unnoticed.

Better together has been the blueprint of the European Union since its inception. The debate whether the EU should remain the sum of its parts or go beyond, is also part of that blueprint; A debate that the UK has excelled in, for better or worse. The UK’s role as guardian of an alternative political thought has an important value but there are boundaries to the Europe à la carte.

The insular mentality and the imperial longing to days past as the “Perfidious Albion” have shown their limits on many occasions, especially in the last few years where close cooperation and common regulation saved the day.

There is always a give and take to any relationship but the benefits of close cooperation outweigh the costs of going alone and become the dependent party in the negotiations for access; asking for more as a modern Oliver Twist.

Aside from the economies of scale argument, there is also the concept of brand Britain that has been part of the cultural identity of scores of Europeans. The emotional and familiar connection through the arts for instance is unparalleled but also products seen as quintessential British have been promoted from beyond the borders with the EU as main trading partner. The jury is still out whether this would have an influence in case of a Brexit but emotional connections are capricious and the feeling of belonging in flux.

The upcoming elections and a potential referendum in 2017 will keep our eyes firmly set on the UK. How this will play out with its Presidency of the EU in 2017 is everybody’s guess but it promises to be, as the British tend to say, interesting.

Following a year of changes in the European Commisssion, European Parliament and European Council, the British Chamber’s EU Committee has undergone its own changes so that the Committee remains up to date, reflects both the priorities of our members and political realities, and able to continue delivering the highest value to our members.

The leadership of the EU Committee decided in December that for the 2015-2017 period, the committee will be comprised of six cross cutting task forces.

These task forces are

  • Security, focusing on all areas of business security concerns, ranging from counterfeit goods and improving customs control to fraud, taxation, and cyber security, and their effect on business profitability and brand reputation.
  • Competition and Trade, focusing on not only competition, trade and internal market issues but other issues concerning the business community in general.
  • Industrial Competitiveness, focusing on innovation and technology, environmental sustainability, energy and transportation
  • Financial Markets, focusing on both European and global aspects of financial regulation.
  • Food, Health and Consumers, focusing on agriculture, food security and sustainability, production and consumption, and health and well-being along the whole value chain.
  • Single Market, focusing on areas including –but not limited to- jobs, growth and investment, entrepreneurship and SMEs, employment and  the digital economy.

We received a large number of applications from members both new and old who expressed their interest in helping to shape the content and focus of our events. My colleagues assisting me in running the programme of the EU Committee for the coming years will be:

EU Committee leadership

Chair
James Stevens – FleishmanHillardVice-Chairs
David Reed – KreabGavin Anderson
Max Von Olenhusen – Novartis
Richard Corliss – Weber Shandwick
Claire Harris – FTI Consulting

Task force leadership

Security

Chair

Barbara Wynne, Accenture

Vice-Chairs

Ralf Ploufmann Olsen – BAT

Sean Murray –EUK Consulting

Selma Turki – IBM

Competition  and Trade

Chair

Claire Harris – FTI

Vice-Chairs

Bill Batchelor – Baker McKenzie

Till Kupfer – BT

Industrial Competitiveness

Chair

Dessa Langevoort – BASF

Vice-Chairs

Julie Kjestrup – APCO Worldwide

Nicolas Robin – Owens-Illinois

Vicky Voulgaraki – Thermo Fisher Scientific

Financial Markets

Chair

Cian Rice – Barclays

Vice-Chair

David Reed – Kreab Gavin Anderson

Food, Health and Consumers

Chair

Olivier Espeisse -Elanco

Vice-Chairs

Sebastian Emig – European Snacks Association

Richard Corliss – Weber Shandwick

Tom Murray – EUK Consulting

Single Market

Chair

Henk Mannekens – BT

Vice-Chairs

Marzena Rembowski – FTI Consulting

Robert Anger – FleishmanHillard

 I and the British Chamber team welcome the new EU leadership team, and look forward to a productive term.

James Stevens
Chair, EU Committee
British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

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