Workplace Leaders
Evelyn Partners
Director of Inclusivity & Diversity

Charlotte Cobb

It is essential to remember that, in any workplace, diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, and one cannot thrive without the other.  Being in a managerial position is about ensuring that both are encouraged and valued.

Charlotte Cobb, Director of Inclusion & Diversity (D&I) at Evelyn Partners spoke with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, about the importance of creating an inclusive workplace culture, and how she gets employees involved and engaged in the initiatives she is rolling out.

Charlotte's Journey

Luke: Can we begin with an introduction to your current role?

My role as Director of Inclusion and Diversity is to drive forward the inclusion agenda at Evelyn Partners so we can reach our goals, mainly around creating an inclusive culture.  That is my role across the entire group and for all departments.

Luke: What drew you to this role? I know you took it on fairly recently.

My background is in professional services and Human Resources, and I joined Evelyn Partners about two years ago to do a similar role.  I came here to work in HR, but I&D has always been a passion of mine, and I think that was evident when I joined, so I incorporated that work into my role.  

Initially, it was a case of doing the I&D work I could in the time I had, but I then decided I wanted to dedicate all of my time and role to that.  I was offered this new role because we needed someone to give 100% to this cause, and overall that’s an investment in the firm and becoming more successful.

Luke: What are the main initiatives you are working on there?

We made a conscious decision around eight months ago to focus on inclusion.  We deliberately changed the title of D&I to I&D, which might seem like semantics, but we did that because diversity can only happen if you have an inclusive culture.  That culture then drives diversity of thought, innovation, growth and more.  We know the business case for diversity, but we wanted to clarify that it doesn’t work without inclusion.

One of the first things we focussed on was being an inclusive employer.  We submitted ourselves for a bronze standard of Inclusive Employers last summer and managed to obtain that.  This is the first pillar of our newly branded firm and paves the way for our future progress.

Luke: How do you use internal initiatives to show people the importance of inclusion?

Last year was about setting it all up by building an I&D committee and ensuring a wide range of representatives.  We then initiated our networks, led by those on the committee. They are empowered to self-direct and run their initiatives and belonging events, so we’re investing in that. During national inclusion week last year, we launched our Inclusion Champions Network; a group passionate about inclusion who are role models on the ground for others to use as an example.  They can also feed information back to us about things that need to be changed.

This year we have a full engagement plan, from colleague focus events to network events.  Our first focus event is coming up, and it’s a full team webinar with a guest speaker discussing intersectionality.  We wanted the first topic to be all-encompassing, so it wasn't focusing on one particular area but on how they intersect and look at their history.  It’s a complex topic, but I hope it will be a good start.

Luke: How do you generate employee engagement on these issues?

Much of it concerns getting senior leadership on board and championing what we are leading.  It’s also about people understanding why we are doing something — I’m often challenged about why we run these events and initiatives, and when an understanding of it is gained, it makes engagement more likely.  This is also the case with the role models we have assigned; these people have overcome barriers and can show others that it is possible.  It’s still a challenge for us, and we struggle to get a broader engagement to events, but it’s about ensuring everyone knows why it matters.

Luke: How does your work feed into your gender equality goals of having 30% of those in senior positions be female by 2025?

Last year we started our Women in Leadership program, which was the first of its kind here.  At our first roundtable, we spoke a lot about women's experiences and focussed on creating a network of women so we could use one another as role models too.  We also had an external speaker talking about their experiences.

The standard graduate processes are difficult for underrepresented groups to do well in, so we’re trying to break some of that down and begin at the early careers level.

We also want to look at the grassroots level regarding the graduates and school leavers we are bringing in, so we are looking to have a female-only program for candidates to begin at the firm.  The standard graduate processes are difficult for underrepresented groups to do well in, so we’re trying to break some of that down and begin at the early careers level.

3 Quick-fire Questions

Luke: What is your top advice for anyone looking to enter an EDI role?

Don’t try and do everything.  The topic is so broad and complex that it’s easy to lose purpose when you feel you’re trying to solve every problem in the world.  Don’t try and do it all yourself, learn how to delegate and also make sure you remember why you are doing it in the first place.

Luke: Who is someone you look up to in EDI?

Jen Barnett; we worked together at Grant Thornton.  She started so much amazing work there and has achieved a lot making EDI a priority within the firm.  I really admire her.

Luke: What is the most important book you have read?

I’m currently reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. To me, the content of this book is so important — it’s giving me a whole new perspective as a White female and a lot to challenge myself on regarding my biases and what I believe.

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Luke James
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