Diversity And Inclusion Advice For Small Businesses

/ Insights      / Diversity And Inclusion Advice For Small Businesses

Diversity And Inclusion Advice For Small Businesses

Following the global Black Lives Matter protests, businesses across all sectors have taken to social media in a bid to show solidarity with the movement. No longer concerned with the reputational implications of being ‘too political’, brands including Tetley Tea, Ben & Jerrys and Spotify have all come out in support with the Black Lives Matter movement. Whilst this is a noble show of support from high profile established brands, small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs can also do their part to show solidarity.


Letitiah Obiri, Founder @ Polkadot Digital

As a black female business owner, I understand the double-edged challenge faced by women of colour trying to succeed in a typically white, male dominated industry. That’s why I have been committed to doing pro-bono work for a select number of aspiring black entrepreneurs who would otherwise struggle to access business support. I’ve also volunteered and partnered with organisations that champion black professionals such as the BYP Network and Founder vine. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many white allies who have shown solidarity for the movement and really put their money where their mouth is. An example of this is when a white female founder is asked to speak on a panel, she demands the panel include a balanced mix of female/BAME speakers before she agrees. It may be a small token gesture, but it does go some way to make a difference.


Jas Panesar, COO @ Aspiring Panda

For the team at Aspiring Panda, having a diverse workforce enables each employee to bring their unique experiences and skills to the business. Subsequently by nurturing our team and building an inclusive workplace culture, we have organically improved our bottom line just by having that human touch in everything we do. The best way to implement a diversity scheme is to make purposeful and genuine efforts to address the problem and take a top down approach. Management must not dismiss diversity as simply a HR issue; it should run through your business so it naturally filters into the work and company culture.


Laura Sagen, Founder @ The Hair Fuel

Diversity and inclusion in our marketing campaigns comes from really thinking through the creative assets we use to promote our brand. If it’s photography or video footage, does it have a variety of body shapes and skin tones? Our customers aren’t tall white skinny young girls, so neither are the models in our marketing campaigns. When it comes to influencer collaborations, we focus more on engagement metrics and suitability of the message that influencers convey, with that of our brand’s. Unsurprisingly, this results in a balanced representation here too, since engagement metrics don’t care what colour, size or age are you — and neither do we. I’m a mixed-race immigrant female who happens to be a business owner. I can share my lessons with other entrepreneurs who want to cater to all communities. Many companies show solidarity when things go wrong, but how about we think long term, stay inclusive and keep our diverse customers at the hearts of our businesses?


Matthew Knight, Founder @ Leapers

Within the past few weeks, we’ve been reminded of the inequality and inexcusable discrimination that Black people have to face daily. There’s no reporting or accountability for diversity in race and this leads to poor investment in under-served groups (namely women and minorities), meaning their perspectives are easily ignored – leading to a further echo chamber. Diversity and inclusion falls off the radar entirely as no moral or legal obligations are in place to support freelancers for example, and discrimination along all lines becomes worse, as there is little or no recourse to claim unfair practices as freelancers are not protected. Legally, business owners aren’t obliged to explain their hiring decisions, even if racial bias crept into that decision-making. There’s certainly no obligation to publicly report on diversity hires either, especially when that comes to pay gap reporting. In order to improve workplace diversity and level out the playing field, there must be accurate reporting not just for the gender pay gap but for the ethnicity pay gap too.


Christina Taylor, Founder @ The Aim Sky High Company

Aim Sky High implements diversity & inclusion in a unique way, through educating young people through the arts and using our organisation to provide opportunities to those who are underprivileged. We are a dance organisation focused on addressing social issues and aiding social mobility for young people by teaching life-long transferable skills such as determination, perseverance, teamwork and leadership. I am committed to using enterprise to regenerate underprivileged communities and support future generations. We have transitioned from a community organisation to business with a social conscience that has shown our community that you can succeed no matter your background and we help children to do the same through opportunities.


Kul Mahay, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership @ Ignite Your Inner Potential

As a founding member of the UK’s Black Police Association, I spent more than 32 years working for Derbyshire Constabulary. As an ethnic minority police officer, I worked with the police trying to bring about understanding and change across the service. My take is that this is not just a police service issue. It transcends across all organisations and institutions and we must do whatever we can to create an inclusive and equal platform for everyone to thrive. In the past, I have worked with high level Government ministers – including Home Secretaries Jack Straw and David Blunkett – and police officers to bring about change. I also advised the police service following the death of teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. My current role as an emotional and social intelligence specialist enables me to deliver leadership development and emotional intelligence programmes, working with organisations nationwide to empower cultures and inclusive leadership. My experience has been that there is an appetite within the service to improve – but it needs to be much wider than just the police service.


Francesca Baker, Marketing & Communications @ The Lord’s Mayor Appeal

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet many people face significant barriers to getting a job or progressing their careers in the City, because of their background. The Power of Inclusion forum and workshop series breaks down barriers to inclusion by empowering organisations to create inclusive workplace cultures. By sharing learning and best practice to tackle the challenges of diverse representation, it is making a huge impact on the professional culture of the City, creating fully inclusive workplaces and equal opportunities for all. We believe that it is only by addressing structural issues such as recruitment bias, offering internal support, allowing peer networks to develop, and providing a safe space for discussion, can we create more inclusive workplaces. That’s why we explore how to develop inclusive cultures, and support organisations to address potential biases, so that they can consider diverse topics such as recruitment, inclusive workplace cultures, diversity in leadership, sponsorship and networks, and measuring impact.


Letitiah Obiri

Copywriter & Founder, ‎Polkadot Digital

Letitiah Obiri is a content marketer and copywriter with experience at leading digital marketing agencies including Brooklyn Brothers and Havas. Letitiah has worked with some of the UK’s biggest brands including John Lewis, Tesco, Reuters and Virgin Trains. As a qualified journalist, she has also been featured in The Guardian, The Telegraph and Business Zone writing frequently about ecommerce, small business and social media. As an active public speaker, Letitiah often shares advice on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and is a staunch supporter of social enterprises including Hatch and Foundervine as well as charities like Lend With Care and The Prince’s Trust.

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Aspiring Women Diversity

How diversity in the workplace can improve profitability

/ Insights      / How diversity in the workplace can improve profitability

How diversity in the workplace can improve profitability

With the growing publicity and outrage around the lack of diversity and inclusion in British workplaces, business owners concerned about brand perceptions and potential PR blunders (Starbucks anyone?), should instead consider how increased representation in their workforce can actually have a positive impact on profitability.

First published on

With the growing publicity and outrage around the lack of diversity and inclusion in British workplaces, business owners concerned about brand perceptions and potential PR blunders (Starbucks anyone?), should instead consider how increased representation in their workforce can actually have a positive impact on profitability.

The main points of contention at the upcoming Diversity in Technology event range from whether quotas can bring about real diversity to the challenges of building accessible products without diverse development teams. Fortunately, as the female co-founder of IT development consultancy Aspiring Panda, these are not barriers I’ve faced in business as diversity and inclusion has always been at the heart of our brand.

My previous career at a global consulting firm was in stark contrast to my own business; when joining the firm in the Eighties I was the only Indian woman in a mostly white male office. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that more women and ethnic minorities began to arrive so one can imagine the challenges faced during those early years.

One particular moment still stays with me to this day. During a performance review with my white male mentor, I was hoping to discuss a promotion as I felt ready for the career progression. He advised me as an Indian woman to ‘listen to my mother and settle down,’ instead of concerning myself with silly promotions. Being young and naïve I laughed it off, knowing deep down that as his subordinate I couldn’t question him. Since I wasn’t much of the fighting type, I usually kept my head down and got on with the job at hand; I refused to let things slip and give anyone the ammunition to use my race or gender as a factor against me. I wanted to let my work speak for itself but it was frustrating to see myself progressing in that environment when there was already such a fixed view of me as an Indian woman.

Facing this type of insidious discrimination personally, as an Indian woman, gave me the insight to ensure that my own employees don’t suffer in the same way. The result of which was unexpected; the rich diversity of our customers reflecting our staff.

I do accept that many multinational corporations are sorely lacking when it comes to workplace diversity and are now desperately scrambling to implement tokenistic workplace schemes in a feeble box ticking exercise. However, my experience as an Indian business owner with 25 years in the corporate sector has actually indicated that diversity can and does improve the quality of services, products and ultimately sales.

A study from global consultancy firm McKinsey in 2015 highlighted that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform their national industry medians, with ethnically diverse companies 35% more likely. Furthermore a London Stock Exchange study revealed 1,279 female-led businesses have contributed a total of £25.9 billion in revenue to the UK economy- definitive evidence that having women in leadership positions can in fact have a positive impact on sales.

Certainly for the team at Aspiring Panda, having a diverse workforce enables each employee to bring their unique experiences and skills to the business. This richness of experiences can usually lead to greater innovation and growth as well as improved creative outputs. The benefit of having a diverse workforce on an app development project is that we are better equipped to look at the product holistically from multiple perspectives, where clients may be blind-sided. This adds value to the product and ensures clients are more likely to work with us hence improving customer lifetime value and ultimately profitability.

Having these shared experiences means we can not only continue to effectively grow our business, but also gives us the tools to reach a broader range of clients who share similar cultural backgrounds and helps us secure repeat custom. Management lead by example so staff learn how to treat clients with the utmost respect as they would each other. Subsequently by nurturing our team and building an inclusive workplace culture, we have organically improved our bottom line just by having that human touch in everything we do.

For us as a company, true inclusion has to begin with more empathetic recruitment practices. Much like the research suggests hiring candidates from a diverse pool ensures employees are more engaged and subsequently less likely to leave the company. This saves on costly and time-consuming recruitment processes as inclusive workplaces appear to have lower staff turnovers.

Needless to say, diversity is not just limited to race and gender, it also covers disabilities. We recently hired a candidate with hearing difficulties and frequently asked how we could support his growth in areas where he felt his disability could hinder him. By doing so, his confidence to assist on key projects and pitches which are more client-facing has vastly improved and this has given him increased job satisfaction.

By having a real willingness to learn about the rich differences of all our staff from the moment we hire them, we naturally have a more productive and happier team. This general curiosity about our employees as human beings and our openness as leaders also trickles down to our staff and helps foster a harmonious team culture.

So whilst more and more companies look for practical ways to address diversity in the workplace, Aspiring Panda is very proud of its inclusive culture that encourages productivity amongst employees and subsequently drives profitability amongst clients. Having diversity and inclusion at the heart of your business can only be a fundamental strength as the breadth of experiences and differences, whether its gender, race or disability will always lend itself to empathy and understanding with clients from either new or current markets and lead to greater business success.


Jas Panesar

Chief Operation Officer

Jas spent 25 years as a principal consultant and database specialist at Capgemini where she led digital transformation and migration projects for Public Sector Services, the Insurance and Property industry, DHL, Citibank, General Motors Acceptance Corporation, Nationwide Building Society, Swansea County Council and more. Jas now manages our operations and development team to ensure the highest level of quality for your development project.

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Deaf Talent Diversity

Diversity at Aspiring Panda

/ Insights      / Diversity at Aspiring Panda

Diversity at Aspiring Panda

Guest blog by our Usability Tester Trishan Chandarana who shares his experiences as a Deaf person working in our team.

According to UK government statistics published in October 2017, only 65% of working age deaf people are in employment, compared to 79% of the general population. * Moreover, many deaf workers face barriers in the workplace.

As a bilateral cochlear implant user, I can converse with small groups of hearing people without any need for additional support apart from my own strategies such as asking them to repeat, speak slowly or face me in order for me to lip-read them.

I work with the same team on a daily basis at the Aspiring Panda office based in Harrow. Overtime, we have built up strong relationships which makes it easier to understand each other. Furthermore, when working with my colleagues in India I often use written methods of communication. Whenever I need to partake in a telephone conversation, my colleague will write down what the caller is saying on a piece of paper or repeat what they are saying to enable me to lip-read. I make the most of opportunities given to me in this company such as meeting clients and public speaking.

Meeting new people

Whilst Aspiring Panda is very accommodating to my needs, I still have a fear of meeting new people in a formal environment like a networking event mainly because I am unsure whether I will be able to understand them. I was asked to attend the Bett Show, a trade show marketing technology in the education field, at the ExCeL exhibition centre in January. I was apprehensive on going at first but after some encouragement from my colleagues, I took the plunge and went. During the event, I sat at the front whenever a seminar was being held ensuring I could lip-read the speaker, I also took voice notes which was useful for the team as well.

In March, I was asked to pitch an in-house app at the Harrow Business Den to a panel of four judges alongside a colleague. This consisted of five minutes pitching and ten minutes answering the questions from the judges. Naturally, I was nervous speaking in public to an audience of a hundred people demonstrating an app live. Several concerns came to my head like forgetting my lines or technical faults during the live demo. But, none could beat the main fear I had of misunderstanding the judges’ questions and answering the wrong question. To ensure that I could make the best use of this opportunity, I requested for a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter and Harrow Council who hosted the event were happy to provide me with one. I have had experience with an interpreter during school but never requested one for work. The pitch exceeded our expectations and I understood the judges’ questions. We were inundated with enquiries and praise from the public about the app and our performance. Having a BSL interpreter not only supported me in answering the questions but it provided a statement in the room that I am Deaf and people naturally adjusted themselves when speaking to me.

Tips for employers or colleagues of deaf workers

Employers and colleagues can adjust the working environment to cater for deaf people’s needs easily by using the following tips:

  • Change the seating arrangements in a meeting/group task in a way that a deaf employee can lip-read everyone.
  • Speak slowly and one at a time, we only have one pair of eyes to lip-read.
  • When doing a presentation, provide a transcript or include most of the content in the presentation, this is beneficial for everyone in future.
  • During conference calls, have someone taking notes of the conversation. You can use this for reference afterwards.
  • Hold classes teaching Deaf awareness or basic sign language to educate all employees on how to work with deaf people.

Tips for deaf employees

Deaf employees can use the following tips to progress in their career:

  • Ask for help from the employer – in most cases they are willing to help.
  • Face your fears – one of the ways of progressing further is facing your fears and going through with it.
  • Use government initiatives such as Access to Work to acquire interpreters or aids to make the workplace accessible for you.
  • Take extra courses to boost your skills – there are plenty of free online courses available that you can use to upskill yourself.

Whilst all of the tips mentioned above may work for me, every deaf person is different so it is important to discuss with them how best to accommodate to their needs.

If you have any more tips you would like to share or even a blog describing your experiences in the workplace please do not hesitate to give the Aspiring Panda team a call…

Just kidding! Drop them an e-mail on and they will happily share their experience from an employer perspective.


Anoop Panesar

Business Development Manager

Digital marketing and tech specialist Anoop is a well-known figure in the Harrow and North London community. Currently the Operations Director for Aspiring Panda, the company uses cloud and development expertise to solve some of the toughest business challenges – which has recently included consulting with East African nations to provide sustainable farming.

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