As the site that has played host to many events bringing together people of all walks of life, the great Wembley stadium was the perfect setting to hold the inaugural ‘Diversity in Inclusion in Grocery’ conference early in March. The vision of 5 founding companies, Tesco, Accenture, P&G, Mondelez and Coca Cola, in partnership with Grocery Aid, the conference was a first in the industry, attracting participation from over 800 delegates across the Grocery sector, sharing knowledge and best practice from over 50 companies in a packed agenda that culminated with a rousing speech from Baroness Karren Brady of Kensington.
Hosts for the event, Tesco’s Alessandra Bellini and Mondelez’s Louise Stigant opened the proceedings to a packed audience, sharing their own personal D&I stories, setting the tone for the authenticity and honesty of the speakers to come.
Next up was a panel discussion comprised of representatives from the five founding companies (Tesco’s Kari Daniels, P&G’s Ranya Shamoon, Accenture’s Jill Standish, Coca Cola’s Leendert den Hollander and Mondelez’s Mary Barnard) who tackled subjects ranging from the role of men in driving gender equality to the challenges faced by smaller businesses to drive diversity within their organisations. The panel took turns to also share their personal D&I stories, giving moving accounts of events that have shaped them as leaders, what they learnt and how their experience is helping drive change in their own organisations. Each was a truly honest and open account which united the room on the subject of inclusion. Kari Daniels called for even greater flexibility to enable both women and men to succeed in their career, Kari told a story from Tesco Ireland of offering flexibility to help a store manager who happened to be a working mother- changing her start times was a small gesture that made an enormous difference to her quality of life. Ranya Shamoon delighted the audience with a Netflix style account of the different chapters in her life, encouraging the audience to remember to love every phase of their life, no matter which chapter they are in. Jill Standish brought a tear to the eye of many in the audience when she read aloud a piece her son had written about his mother, proving that having a working mother as a role model instils a real sense of pride and purpose in our children. Mary Barnard encouraged people to be braver to ask for what you want in order to progress your career, reminding that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Bringing the panel sessions to an end, the mantra Leendert den Hollander shared that has been adopted by Coca Cola summed up the overall tone of the session – ‘be yourself, be valued, belong’.
Next up was a change in gear as the audience was split into groups that took it in turns to visit the various speed networking booths run by the event sponsors, covering subjects such as people with disabilities inclusion, LGBTQ+, mental health and mentoring, to name but a few. The sessions were quick fire 10-minute presentations with lots of discussion and interaction amongst organisations to make the most of the sharing opportunities.
Meanwhile one floor below, other delegates took the opportunity to join one of the learning sessions, led by the main sponsors in the style of a ‘silent disco’. Each session provided opportunities for self-development in areas such as building resilience, developing self-belief, creating a culture for D&I transformation, tackling unconscious bias and being at my best, participants had the opportunity to tune into two of the sessions.
Finally, the climax of the day came, as ‘the first lady of football’ Baroness Karren Brady took to the stage to tell her own unique D&I journey. She captivated the audience with tales of her career as a woman in a very male dominated environment and how she overcame challenges to rise to the top of her game. She left the audience with her top tips for success, rounding off the day perfectly.
All proceeds from the event will be donated to the industry charity, Grocery Aid. Delegates left Wembley in the knowledge they had helped others whilst helping develop themselves and helped the wider industry take a huge stride forward in creating an inclusive environment in which people can work and thrive and most importantly be valued for being themselves.