ED&I Leaders Summit Reflection - Inclusive Culture Change

What's working to turn the dial

The final session at the ED&I Leaders Summit began with moderator, Justine Harris, Brunswick Group, highlighting some of the challenges  in the external environment facing DEI work and initiatives over the last 12 months. She noted that rhetoric has become more polarised in public discourse and opened up to the panel to ask them to share how each of their business has reacted to the changing context.

Gerald Lee, GSK, highlighted that his firm’s inclusion priorities have not changed, though they have adapted and adjusted over time which is to be expected. He confirmed that GSK remains resolute and steadfast in its commitments and highlighted how he and the business are working hard to get smarter on how we use our words and communicate, while making the case that good inclusion initiatives should be routinely reviewed for its impact.

Lena Milosevic MBE of AVEVA challenged the hypothesis recounting the poor state of race relations and exclusion in the early 80s, 90s and pointing to events of more recent years. What had changed, she explained, was some of the issues and emphasis particularly given technology and communications advancements. She pointed to the growing shift of people not engaging in dialogue with those of different views – which she thought was detrimental to progress. 

Bhavin Kotecha, Shell UK, outlined some of his company’s efforts. For a global company like Shell, he explained that country coordination on inclusion work is paramount to make it relevant to the local environment in which they operate. He warned against complacency and that while successes should always be celebrated, ‘you lose authenticity if you don’t continue to try to do better’. 

Donna Herdsman, Korn Ferry, explained that while strategy is great, it is nothing without action. She shared the example of the challenges that come if an individual speaks up, and then ‘is faced with no empathy from their manager? They just won’t do it again.’ She challenged the audience asking, ‘what is the difference between the intent of your actions and the impact of your actions?’

So what works?
With panellists given the chance to explain what has worked well for their businesses, Gerald took the chance to speak of GSK’s work on psychological safety for its people - where they are required to invest time to learn more about it. There has been a major focus on this in their UK and US operations, and He noted that such efforts can also look very different in other countries and cultures for a global company. Gerald cited a study by Amy Edmondson which concluded that if you have great diversity representation, but no psychological safety in the workplace, the outcomes are considerably worse.

Bhavin spoke of the far greater investment and coordination in Shell’s efforts this year for Neurodiversity Week, led by the Employee Resource Group and graduate group at Shell UK. He shared how important it was to encourage open and safe space conversations – while recognising that mistakes can be made, with the key being to be open to learning as you go on. 

Lena extolled the virtues of data and how that has supported her efforts at AVEVA. She explained how it is incredibly difficult to get the right, granular data, where intersectionality can help identify the issues at source. Good data is the ‘key to truly understanding what the fundamental problem is that you’re trying to address’. 

In the final contribution, Donna outlined how she believes that ‘I need to think about how I show up as a leader, and then I need to think about how I lead my team recognising that the team will be diverse in nature’. For her, cultural intelligence is vital. As a leader she must be flexible rather than putting that expectation on different country teams. She stated that at the end of the day ‘it is collective values that binds a multinational together’.


  • Justine Harris, Partner, Brunswick Group (Moderator)
  • Donna Herdsman, Senior Client Partner, Head of DE&I EMEA, Korn Ferry
  • Bhavin Kotecha, VP HR Shell UK
  • Gerald Lee, Global DE&I Director, GSK
    Lena Milosevic MBE, Global Director for DE&I, AVEVA
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