Harnessing the Power of Diversity

Too often, the subjects of gender equality, ethnic and sexual diversity and disability rights are viewed with wariness in the world of business.

As a woman working in the third sector, I realise that you might expect me actively to promote the positive aspects of diversity.

However when I began my career in the 1980s in the Metropolitan Police, I and many others faced a lot of discrimination.

In other jobs I've had since then, I have found that having a child with a disability brings challenges to career aspirations when you are viewed as someone who has to take time off at short notice or viewed as always putting your family before the business.

Things have changed significantly over 30 years but there are still some who question the business benefits of harnessing the power of diversity and seeing these issues as opportunities, not obstacles.
Different views and perspectives keep an organisation vibrant and ahead of the curve.

Part of my mission as the president of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has been to challenge the preconceptions that still exist in some businesses today.

One of the reasons I initially joined the board of the Chamber was to be a role model for young women in particular, and because I would like to see more opportunities for people with a disability in the workplace.

I am particularly proud that the Chamber is promoting the Power of Diversity with its conference next month, making the business case for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Not from an HR perspective, but from a bottom line perspective - embracing diversity is good for business.

Dame Anne Begg – a passionate campaigner on disability rights - is with us, reflecting on how things have changed during her 30-year career, which has included chairing the Work and Pensions Select Committee as well as the All Party Group on Equalities.

The director of Stonewall Scotland Colin Macfarlane is addressing the conference, explaining how a different set of experiences and perspectives can help organisations to flourish.

We are delighted to welcome Heather Melville, who is recognised as one of the top 100 women worldwide who have made a difference to the economic empowerment of women, as well as His Excellency Obed Mlaba, the High Commissioner of South Africa to the UK.

To top it all, I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas who will be speaking about his own personal story and the barriers he has come up against in his career.

  • Edel is the first female President of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and chief executive of Cornerstone, a charity which generates an annual income in excess of £37million, employing over 2,400 people and providing support to more than 2,600 people across 20 local authority areas in Scotland. Earlier this year, she was named as Aberdeen and Grampian regional director of the year by the Institute of Directors.
  • More information on the Power of Diversity conference is at powerofdiversity.co.uk