MEET OUR NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
Describe your career in five words.
Can I have six? Excited by what’s around the corner.
And if I can have seven it would be, always excited by what’s around the corner!
You led the Organising Committee for the London 2012 Olympic Games – a truly diverse organisation, which you’ve previously said was not just one of your proudest achievements but also a key reason as to why the Games was so successful. Now, you head up the Global Diversity & Inclusion Council here at CSM. To your mind, why is it so important to foster an inclusive workplace and diverse workforce?
A lot of our views as human beings are shaped by experiences in our early years. When I was Chief of Staff at the Conservative Party, I had the opportunity to help encourage and find better pathways and processes to get more women into politics, particularly as Members of Parliament. However, when I look back on that period, I am frustrated I didn’t do more. I should have challenged certain views far more than I did. From then on, I always said that if I was ever in the position to shape an organisation again, I would make this one of my key priorities.
That position came around when I was made Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Ensuring that the workforce was diverse and inclusive was a top priority, and the result was that 51% of the organising committee were women. But my definition of diversity in the workplace isn’t just about gender balance. It’s about representation of disabilities, orientation, ethnicity, and other communities. Even locality came into it. We set ourselves a target of ensuring that 25% of staff would be from East London, where we were delivering the Games, and we got that up to nearly 30%. Not only was London 2012 the best Games ever but it was delivered by the most diverse committee ever too. On every metric and target we set ourselves, we did better, which is something that we are hugely proud of.
Instinctively, I think diversity and inclusivity is important – not because it’s a nice-to-have or a box-ticking exercise -but because it makes you a better organisation. We all want to be world-class, but you can’t be world-class if you don’t have diversity. When people look to join your organisation, they aren’t just looking at you as a Marketing agency; they are asking themselves, does this organisation reflect the world I live in? And if it doesn’t, they are going to find organisations that are. In sport, we talk about marginal gains, but a diverse organisation is going to outperform an organisation that lacks diversity by 15%. I can’t stress enough how important it is.
You’ve enjoyed a varied career – from winning Olympic Gold in Moscow and LA, to earning a seat in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the UK. If you had to pick just one, what would you consider to be the most extraordinary highlight from your lifetime?
I’m going to be slightly nostalgic and say the birth of my children. Watching them make their way through life has been amazing.
I’m very lucky and privileged to have won two Olympic gold medals and to chair a bid for the Games to come to London in 2005. Against the odds, I have to say! We won it in the last few strides, which I always loved doing anyway.
If I had to commit to just one thing from a professional perspective, I think it would be being part of the team that delivered London 2012. Working with the most talented group of people for seven years in the delivery of the best Games ever s was something I will never forget.
Besides that, I’m also proud and excited about the work I have achieved with CSM. Having watched this business grow over the last eight or nine years into one of the world’s leading agencies has been incredibly rewarding.
We’re into 2021 now, with a huge year of sport ahead of us – in whichever guise that may take. Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to? Any trends to watch out for, or things you would like to see happen in the next twelve months?
The first thing for me, is getting back to Stamford Bridge. I miss my season ticket in the Shed end. I’ve always been a Chelsea fan and I miss walking to the ground and enjoying the pre-match atmosphere and hopefully enjoying the result. I am desperate to get back to that!
In sporting terms, there’s nothing bigger than the Tokyo Games. I am President of World Athletics and we have fought hard to get our sport back into the calendar, delivering events safely and securely. Getting the Games up and running this year is not just about sport, it’s a symbol of optimism and hope as we come out of a hugely difficult period. There are billions of people on the planet that want the Games to take place, either with or without a crowd, so they can get behind their country. It will take place, but it will no doubt look a little different.
When not at work, what would we find you doing?
My ideal Saturday when I’m in the UK, is going for a nice long run in the morning, most likely in Richmond Park. I would then go to watch Chelsea FC at home, ideally a 3pm kick off. And then going to the 606 on Lots Road in London. It’s a Jazz club which I’ve been going to for years to spend the evening there.