Meet Belinda Brown, Investor Relations Director and REACH Co-Founder
Hear from Belinda as she tells us why she set up an employee resource group, the importance of allies and how Diageo’s culture has enabled her to thrive.
Feature 13 DEC 2020
Belinda Brown is one of our Investor Relations Directors. She’s also the co-founder of our Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) employee group in the UK, created to promote an inclusive culture whilst supporting the recruitment, retention and development of black, indigenous, and other people of colour in Diageo.
With newly established chapters in Hungary and Brazil, and further expansion plans into India and Ireland, we sat down with Belinda to discover why she got involved, the importance of allies and how Diageo’s culture has enabled her to thrive.
What made you get involved with REACH?
REACH focuses on enhancing the employee experience for all at Diageo, creating an even more inclusive environment where employees feel as though they have the freedom to be their authentic selves. I got involved and stay involved with REACH, as I thrive off the level of passion and energy that our members exude when it comes to making a positive impact in the business. As a group, we have been able to put into place a number of amazing initiatives for our BIPOC employees and white allies, including enhancements to our onboarding experience for international movers to our London HQ, hosting events with guest speakers to highlight important topics and we’ve also curated a “Learning Journey” which is accessible to all employees globally.
Why is having an inclusive culture important to you as a person?
Fundamentally, a sense of belonging is what counts. We often talk about inclusion and diversity, but we also need to recognise that just because someone is included in our organisation and teams, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they feel that they belong. In Diageo, I feel like I belong – I get to bring my whole self to work every day.
To what extent is the working culture at Diageo one that enables you to thrive in the business and excel at your role here?
One of our company values is that we give each other the freedom to succeed, that we trust each other as a team – when we’re together and when we’re apart. There is a real commitment to create an environment where all employees feel included and are able to perform at their best in all aspects of their lives. I experienced this following my maternity leave, where I was soon promoted into a new role. I work a four-day week and as a mum to a three-year old boy, this is extremely important to me as it means that I get to manage my time to build the other important things in my work and life into my day. I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have fantastic coaches and mentors in Diageo who have helped me work through and progress against my leadership development areas.
Do you think that having role models and allies can improve our personal & professional development, the companies we work for and the future? In what way are they beneficial?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but I truly believe that you can’t be what you don’t see. Representation both inside and outside of work is vitally important. As a young professional, I was inspired by people who were already thriving in my field – I still am inspired by those people – but we need those people to reflect ourselves, for example, to have overcome similar social-economic barriers to those that you face. Then you can really start to believe that you can be successful and flourish too. And where those role models are lacking, that’s where the role of our allies becomes ever so important. We need our allies to seek out and listen to the minority and marginalised voices so that they can understand how they can use their platforms and their privilege to amplify the concerns that have been raised to them, and more importantly, take action and use their influence to start to break down some of these barriers.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do more to support their peers and help to create that inclusive culture we can all thrive in and be our best?
Get comfortable being uncomfortable – be brave, show vulnerability and admit that there are things that you are still learning! There is no shame in being wrong. But it’s not acceptable to refuse to acknowledge your conscious and unconscious biases, to refuse to listen to someone else’s point of view or to refuse to take accountability for your own education/re-education needs. Assume everyone is starting from a place of good intentions and wants to understand each other’s perspective. Doing so will help you suspend judgement and become naturally inquisitive, more willing to listen and more empathetic.
Also, don’t underestimate the difference that you personally can make to someone. This can be as simple as asking someone the correct pronunciation of their name and then really trying to get it right. I’ll borrow a quote that I read somewhere and has stuck with me: “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” We can talk about making a difference or we can get up, do something and make a difference! Get involved, speak up, share your thoughts, experiences and ideas. Everyone’s contribution is needed to make a difference and even if you choose to play a smaller supporting role, the cumulative impact will soon add up!
Inclusion and diversity
We believe the most inclusive and diverse culture makes for a better business and a better world; so we will champion inclusion & diversity across our business, with our partners and communities, to celebrate diversity and help shape a tolerant society.