Read our latest guest blog from Karl Brown, commercial property partner at Clarke Willmott LLP, social mobility ambassador for The Law Society and who helped launch Bristol’s Inclusion in Property Charter.
Michelle Obama in one of her many famous speeches once said “When you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You give back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
The sentiment expressed by Michelle is my ethos in life. I have been a beneficiary of others giving back and helping me to achieve my ambitions. This has included a former magic circle lawyer who mentored me. And it has also included a former Partner in a Bristol law firm (who like myself was born of Jamaican immigrants to the UK) introduced to me by my barber and whose mentoring helped me eventually get a position as a trainee solicitor despite my having previously received over one hundred rejections for applications to become a trainee solicitor. The latter mentor was also very important in assisting me in being able to visualize myself as someone who could one day work at a top 100 law firm. Today I feel privileged to be a Partner at top 100 national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP.
I have also been fortunate to have held a number of positions in addition to my day job such as in 2014 becoming the first black President in the history of business group the Bristol Junior Chamber and in 2015 being a founder board member of the Bristol Learning City Partnership Board (to promote Bristol being a Learning City).
In 2019 I founded the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter to help drive the composition of the Bristol property industry/sector becoming more reflective of the diversity of Bristol and I now chair the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission which oversees the running of the Charter. Property affects all of us whether as homeowners and/ or as commercial/residential tenants and so it is critical that all communities have a stake in the delivery and running of property.
Possible ways in which business can help the doorways of opportunity for the next diverse generations of leaders are as follows:
- Reaching all sections of our communities – It would be remiss of me not to encourage business to work with great organizations such as BeOnBoard to ensure that potential opportunities reach the widest cross sections of our communities.
- Mentoring – Both traditional mentoring of potential candidates and young recruits and reverse mentoring.
- Adopting Contextual Recruitment Practices – This has been recommended by the Government’s Social Mobility Commission and is referred to by the Commission as placing “attainment and successes achieved in the context of disadvantage, including underperforming schools and less advantaged neighbourhoods.”
- Assisting with CV Clinics/Career Talks – This can raise aspirations and also give potential recruits tips to ensure their application has a good chance of being progressed.
- Monitoring not just recruitment but also progression – Young people from less privileged and/ or diverse backgrounds and communities must be able to identify themselves in those who hold positions of power and influence in business and industry. This will help those young people be able to visualize themselves as one day holding such positions.
- Importance of Data – Data is key to check the effectiveness of recruitment and progression policies. Business should be open and transparent with such data.
My three top tips for the next generation of diverse leaders are: 1. Networking beyond your immediate circle of friends/co-workers is very important; 2. Aim high and 3. Seek experience/positions in areas outside of the field of your day job.
From my experience greater diversity in boardrooms brings a greater range of life experiences and thoughts which assist in the progression of organisations. There have been many reports which point out that boosting social mobility and increasing diversity in business and industry is not just a moral cause but will help the success of UK plc. If we can succeed in this mission then I have every faith that the greatest days of the UK are not behind it but lay ahead of it in the future.