Cobalt Sky MD Rebecca Cole discusses signing the MRS Inclusion Pledge and the journey the company took to get there.
I first heard about the MRS Inclusion Pledge in late 2019 (then known as the CEO Pledge) – and was instantly convinced that it was vital to our industry. It was ambitious but tangible, had clear pillars and guidelines, and was something that I definitely wanted Cobalt Sky to sign up to. I immediately went and looked at the manifesto in more detail to see what was involved and then…. paused. For nearly a year. Not because anything in the detail changed my mind about how important it was (the opposite in fact), and not because I thought that elements of the manifesto were overly onerous. It was because a) I had some concerns that the small size of our company would make it difficult to be able to fulfil some elements of the pledge and b) The pledge is so important, I felt we should give it the respect and consideration it deserved and take time to look at our internal policies and procedures, as well as consulting with the wider company ahead of signing up. I am very happy to say that we have now overcome these areas of concern and are proud to have recently signed the pledge.
During the period of 6-12 months where we were reflecting on how we could get to a position to sign, I reached out to MRS for support. I would strongly urge anyone keen to sign the pledge but unsure how to start to do the same. Through various emails, phone calls and video calls they reassured me that the manifesto was in no way designed just for big companies – and in fact, I believe companies as small as 5 people have signed up. They were incredibly helpful and supportive in guiding us in the best way to monitor our pay statistics and progress, as well as giving useful background and advice on the other pillars of the pledge.
The first element in the manifesto is a commitment to publish pay statistics, and demonstrate clear, sustained progress towards ethnic and gender parity. As a company who deals with data daily (indeed, we would not exist without it, being a data processing company first and foremost) we know better than most the pitfalls of publishing data where the base is too small. We have only 19 people in our company – and looking at our pay statistics can be problematic because of this. For example, if we employ a female graduate starting on our lowest pay band, it makes a drastic difference to our female pay average – because 1 person makes much more difference to a base of 10 than it does to a base of 100 of course. It took us some time to come up with a system that could accurately allow us to track pay statistics but that wasn’t too much of a “blunt instrument”.
Once we agreed a good system for pay statistics and were happy with the other pillars of the manifesto, we knew WHAT we needed to do, but still felt we weren’t quite ready to sign. I heard somebody recently say “action needs intention” – and whilst we had the action, I wanted to have more intention before signing. We believed that any initiatives or policy changes we made on this topic had to be developed through a process of consultation with staff, our collective brain is much wiser than any individual one after all. We wanted the signing of the pledge to be something that we did collectively as a company (regardless of whose “name” went next to it) – and for it to be something that everyone felt proud to be affiliated with. For us this was about a journey that we would all take together as a company.
So, we introduced an internal survey (of course!) for all members of staff to help us identify areas of concern – something we will now do annually. We included questions around well-being, support, inclusion and whistleblowing, and made it as open as possible so people could talk about anything on this topic that they felt needed consideration. We used the results of this survey to produce a company-wide presentation that set out and tracked our pay gaps on ethnicity and gender, as well as reporting wider findings from the consultation. We have now introduced an “open door policy” in terms of suggestions for improving well-being, using an online suggestions board software, as well as a “blind CV” policy for recruitment. I have no doubt that many other initiatives will follow because of our efforts to consult with people internally, with some wonderful ideas around improving well-being coming in from the teams.
We see this pledge as more than just a one-off signing. It’s a commitment – and a long-term one at that. But it’s one that we have found invigorating, and inspiring – and has made us even more excited about our future as a company – a company that is truly open to everyone, where everyone can see their voice mirrored back to them in decisions that their company makes, and we believe we will be much stronger because of that.
If you would like to sign the Manifesto for Opportunity on behalf of your organisation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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