The FTAdviser DIFA 2020 Diversity Champion (Individual) award was the most highly contested category this year.
Nearly 30 entries showcasing amazing initiatives across the industry were submitted by individuals at various financial services companies.
There were people who made it their business to improve social mobility and help bring disadvantaged young people into the fold; several others set up Black History Month events in their companies for the first time; some set up LGBTQI forums in their workplaces; others still set about improving gender diversity and helping women return to work after having children.
All these initiatives were encouraging to read, speaking to the wealth of talent that this industry is fostering and to the depth of genuine desire to improve workplaces, working practices and client outcomes through better diversity and inclusion strategies.
As a result, the shortlist was rather long – six names were whittled down to three and then, finally, to one: Helen Walpole, HR business partner for MetLife.
Her single-handed commitment to implementing a raft of measures to improve diversity and inclusion across the workplace and in the local communities not only earned her this coveted accolade of Diversity Champion (Individual) 2020, but also helped to cinch the Provider of the Year award for her employer.
The judges said Ms Walpole’s work deserved to win because it dealt with so many different areas.
She was not campaigning on a single issue that resonated with her own lived experience, but on a range of issues that have affected many of her colleagues and the local community in which she works.
In some ways, as the judges commented, this is harder to do, because it means committing yourself to championing a broad range of causes, all of which need care and determination and attention in order to address these successfully, and to be a strong ally to so many groups.
Because of her brother’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Ms Walpole developed valuable knowledge and experience of mental health issues that she has transferred to the workplace.
In turn, this inspired a keen interest in neurodiversity, which spurred MetLife’s work with Genius Within, to help arrange neurodiversity training for managers and provide support to employees diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
She also created the only diversity and inclusion forum in Brighton, using MetLife’s offices as a venue, and created policies to support couples undergoing fertility treatment, and staff with caring responsibilities. She is also now researching issues that affect women going through menopause, with a view to finding out how employers can support them.
Hot on her heels were the two candidates awarded Highly Commended accolades for their work as diversity champions.
These were Beena Joseph, head of HR, Europe for WisdomTree, and Tali Shlomo for her work as people engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute.