“The most powerful messages of inclusion come from those not part of the group they champion.” Daniel Danso

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? That’s the question many organisations are asking themselves as they strive to accelerate workplace diversity and inclusion. And, who better to help answer that question than Global Diversity Manager at Linklaters, Daniel Danso?  That’s why we recently hosted an intimate breakfast between Mission INCLUDE’s programme partners and Daniel - who has worked globally to take Linklater’s inclusion and diversity further and faster.

“Think about diversity and inclusion as a lens which you can apply to look at your processes like recruitment, global mobility, work or project allocation, appraisals and so on, for how people experience them,” urged Daniel.  “Diversity and inclusion isn’t a function like IT or finance. It’s not a bolt on project, rather, it informs how those functions should work.”  He described it more like a ‘red thread’ that runs through everything and is central to brand.  “The challenges we’re facing to make our organisations more diverse and inclusive lie in how we think and talk about that.” 

Sharing his own inspirational story, Daniel covered the highs and lows he has personally faced in his life and what diversity means to him.  He touched on his experiences with religion, homelessness and depression following injury, his education in Women’s studies, being black and being gay in America and in Britain. 

Daniel told the audience about a particular experience he had with stereotype and bias while studying at UCLA.  “It was because I was black that someone felt comfortable asking me if I was one of those kids to get into college through affirmative action.  It didn’t matter that I had stellar grades and entry tests scores, I was a poor, black, gay man living in America. I was the minority of the minority.”

Gender and race are part of a historic hierarchy of importance.  Gender and racial politics were visible and prominent and are the strands most of us go to when we think about diversity and inclusion. “This is part of the problem,” says Daniel. “People in various ‘majority’ groups focused on the obviousness of race and gender and tended not to get involved in other areas of diversity or to do the work to recognise the issues in other areas.” 

To move forward, Daniel suggests we must embrace all diversities and look at each situation through multiple lenses. He shared how Linklaters are constantly asking the question ‘what does talent look like today and in the future?’ He said, “We’re constantly working throughout the entire organisation to help people make the connection between the culture they can create and all aspects of diversity and inclusion.  It was important that we got everyone to understand how they ‘fit’ into this area of work so that they could see how they are affected by it and, so they see the opportunities they have to champion equality for people different to them in a variety of ways.  For example, I hope that I am supported because of the things I’d encounter due to my race or sexual orientation, and as a man, I can support women in the gender space.”

While there’s no doubt Daniel has made impressive strides in supporting others to embrace diversity and inclusion, he’s the first to admit there is still a long way to go.  

The open and honest way Daniel shared his experiences put everyone at ease and role-modelled the importance (and impact) of being open in how we share our stories with others. This created an inclusive environment for others to have an honest conversation about the real-life challenges and best practice stories preventing and producing inclusive workplaces.  And that’s precisely the purpose of the inaugural Mission INCLUDE programme – taking Moving Ahead’s tried and tested principles of cross-company learning and mentoring to build a worldwide movement of workplace inclusion. 

Daniel Danso’s impressive global career, stemmed from his own diversity and passion for gender equality.  Daniel was the first man in his year to major from UCLA in Women’s Studies, before coming to London to complete the LSE’s Master’s Degree in Gender and Media.  Since then, he has helped businesses become more inclusive, first at Stonewall UK where he was the Client Group Manager for Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme and is now revolutionising and diversifying the legal profession through his role as Global Diversity Manager with Linklaters.  He was speaking at a Mission INCLUDE breakfast for programme partners, organised by mentoring, diversity and inclusion specialists, Moving Ahead, in November 2018.  If your organisation would like to find out more about being part of next year’s Mission INCLUDE programme, please email Pauline@moving-ahead.org

With special thanks to Daniel Danso and Linklaters for hosting this special event.