National Inclusion Week: Making inclusion an everyday reality at M&S
From our fantastic store teams, to the designers and developers that create and make our products and the distribution teams that help deliver them—M&S is a business that is built on people. And no two M&S colleagues are the same, because we’re made up over 78,000 colleagues with different backgrounds, perspectives and ambitions.
As we kick off National Inclusion Week, we’re embracing this year’s campaign theme—Each One, Reach One—to connect with someone else in order to better understand the opportunity inclusivity brings. We all need to take ownership for inspiring and connecting with each other as individuals, to make inclusion an everyday reality for all of us.
I am very new to M&S, having joined as Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion just two weeks ago. But part of the reason I joined was the candour I saw in the leadership team about the work that needs to be done—but also the passion across the business to create a culture where everyone feels they can belong and progress. As an employer, a retailer and a brand, we have both a responsibility to our colleagues and a huge opportunity to make M&S a more inclusive place to work and shop.
There have been some positive steps to create a more inclusive M&S, from establishing and growing our colleague networks bringing together different diverse communities such as BAME, LGBTQ+ and Gen for better gender balance, to setting targets for BAME (15%) and female (50%) leadership representation by 2022. The intentions are great but what really matters is what we do—and the actions we put in place to reach these targets.
That’s why we’re using National Inclusion Week to start conversations and better connect with each other through a series of online events and activities. We’ve witnessed some tragic events unfold this year that have made people across the globe reflect. It’s made many of us reset our thinking and willingness to have slightly uncomfortable conversations and to learn and gain knowledge from others. Ultimately, it’s the power of conversation that will help drive the thinking and action we all need to take.
Watch Imani Jeffers, an ecommerce graduate at M&S interview CEO Steve Rowe about making M&S more diverse and inclusive
When you bring your whole self, you bring your best self and you provide your best service to our customers. We know inclusion isn’t just about one week and my job is to help facilitate long-term, systemic change across the business. But this week is a reminder that we all have a part to play and a personal responsibility to spark change for a more inclusive future. Let’s hear from some of the people making it happen at M&S:
Louise Blaize, co-chairs our colleague BAME network:
"2020 has brought about huge changes within our personal lives, our communities and within our business. I am thrilled that M&S has recognised the need to diversify the charities we support as we recently welcomed to our Sparks loyalty scheme both the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and the Black Curriculum, which is helping to provide educational resources for our customers and their children via our social channels. I'm also looking forward to taking part in our new diversity and inclusion e-learning, which encourages everyone to take ownership and play a part."
Rob Rankin, Store Manager of M&S Merthyr Tydfil, who suggested the introduction of Sunflower Lanyards across our stores last year:
“For our customers, we’re aiming to become the most accessible retailer in our stores and online. I wanted to suggest becoming the first retailer to introduce the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyards in our stores after the fantastic response we had to our Kidswear range, dedicated to adaptive dressing for physical disabilities and the AccessAble guides we published on our website for every store. We receive great feedback from our customers and local communities about the work we’ve done and it really helps to go a long way towards making shopping easier.”
Imani Jeffers, our e-commerce graduate who this week interviewed our CEO Steve Rowe about how we can make M&S more inclusive:
"Earlier in the year, I took the step of sending a blog I wrote in response to the death of George Floyd to our CEO Steve Rowe. It sparked a conversation between us and I've since been sharing film recommendations and books to help him understand how it feels to be in my shoes. I think we've both found it incredibly insightful. I'm excited and honoured to be playing a role in M&S's National Inclusion Week events this year, having had the chance to talk to Steve, who was open and honest, about what we need to do at M&S to be as inclusive as possible. That's exactly what National Inclusion Week is all about: starting conversations and connecting with one another to understand how we can be part of the change we all want to see.”