I&D: 60 second interview - Nneka Orji, London First Board Member
60 second interview — Nneka Orji, London First Board Member
As part of our plans to drive forward a more inclusive vision of doing business in London, we’ve launched a series of short interviews to find out what some of our members and Board are doing to improve inclusion and diversity (I&D).
Today we hear from Nneka Orji, London First Board member and COO at Morrisons Wealth Management. Nneka is also a supporter of Social Mobility Foundation and Inspiring the Future.
Q: Why is having an inclusive and diverse working environment so important?
We can’t create a more equitable and inclusive society if our workplaces don’t reflect the inclusion and diversity across London. It’s important that workplaces foster cultures that are welcoming of diverse talent and where people can thrive – regardless of an individual’s background or preferences.
Q: What has your career journey highlighted for you in terms of the value of embracing diversity?
My biggest learning has been that a truly enriching career requires everyone to embrace diversity. I was lucky enough to come to the conclusion early on in my career that I wouldn’t fit the traditional profile of success in the City. This gave me the freedom to chart my own path and although it has been challenging at times, it has given me the opportunity to build relationships and support networks with diverse teams both in London and internationally. It has allowed me to have a truly enriching experience to date, and more importantly, I’ve been able to progress my career while remaining true to my values and to show others that they can too.
Q: When it comes to improving diversity at a senior level, what does your company do to support people from under-represented groups in their journey to the top?
An extremely important part of improving diversity in the longer term is role modelling for the next generation, which I’m personally committed to doing. Managing a career isn’t always easy for anyone and it can be even more challenging if you’re not familiar with the business norms and you’re in a minority group. Retaining great talent is a challenge for businesses and sometimes the power of a strong support network can be underestimated, but it must be a priority to prevent people leaving because the “culture isn’t right”. Through formal mentoring networks and informal mentoring relationships, I work with other mentors and advocates to encourage school leavers, university graduates and those early in their careers.
Q: Are there any other companies that you feel are at the forefront of this journey?
It’s clear that many companies are looking at different ways to progress inclusion and diversity within their businesses. However, the challenges can’t be addressed solely through an internal lens. I’ve been particularly interested in the work Goldman Sachs is leading in terms of impact in communities with initiatives such as their One Million Black Women grant. By considering initiatives to support communities in which businesses operate, there’s an opportunity for all of us to collectively make a greater and longer lasting change.
Q: What is a key piece of advice for companies just starting their inclusion and diversity journeys?
I would encourage businesses to have the difficult but constructive discussions to understand the culture within the business and gain a good understanding of employees’ views on the barriers to inclusion and diversity in the business. By understanding the core issues and leveraging data, employers can better identify the key priorities and the metrics with which they can assess progress. Importantly, it is a journey and there is no simple “fix”. What we’re all working towards is changing mindsets and this is a complex task that can’t be achieved overnight.