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What we’ve actioned to improve diversity in the last 12 months

At SIS, we have had a Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (D&I working group) for two years now. The purpose of this staff-led initiative is to challenge how we work and implement business practices that encourage diversity within our organisation and sphere of influence. It is our intention and responsibility to continue our journey towards inclusion and equality with determination, collaboration and, most importantly, action.

We know it can feel uncomfortable to shine a light on yourself and your organisation, knowing you’re not perfect – but we must do this if we’re going to take action to do better. A shift from easy excuses to actionable decisions means we can create a more inclusive and thriving future.

Our Head of Impact and Chair of the D&I working group, Lindsay Wake, was fortunate to join a 4-week ‘Culture and Ethnicity Leadership training program’ provided by the incredible Radiant and Brighter. The inspiring course encouraged us to take action and to share SIS’s journey, including where we still need to improve.

Below, we share a few of the practical steps that we’ve taken to improve diversity and inclusion at SIS and invite others to join us in taking action towards inclusion and equality, regardless of your starting point.

Regular team-wide diversity training and conversations

Understanding the importance of diversity and inclusion as well as an awareness of any unconscious biases is a crucial step towards rooting equality in our organisation. Regular training also ensures diversity remains front of mind for our team so we can act accordingly in our day-to-day.

Invitation: Start and continue the conversation about diversity and inclusion with your team.

Unbiased recruitment

At SIS, we’ve been using blind recruitment for all team and board member roles – through a social enterprise called BeApplied – for the last two years. Initial applications are assessed by a panel of reviewers who have no access to the personal information of candidates, in an effort to remove bias from the hiring process. In addition, interview panels are now gender-balanced for all roles.

Invitation: Review your hiring process to minimise unconscious bias.

Diversity of the board

The SIS Group is now governed by a gender-balanced board, with seven out of eleven board members being female. One female member is also considered a ‘young trustee’ (below the age of 30) and we are eager to welcome those from different backgrounds, and with a diversity of thought,  into future board positions.

Invitation: Build a diverse board.

Create opportunities to support diverse talent

We are delighted to be participating in the 100 Black Interns programme and look forward to welcoming a talented intern to the team later this year. We have also supported six secondary school Foundation Apprentices in the last two years. This year, three of them completed a project looking at diversity and inclusion practices within financial services and recommended further improvement actions that SIS can take.

Invitation: Create opportunities for people from underrepresented communities.

Extend the reach of our services

In partnership with the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO) and CEMVO Enterprises CIC, we’re running a pilot investment programme to improve access to social investment for BAME social entrepreneurs. You can learn more at the Accessing Social Investment Finance webinar here.

Invitation: Ensure you are reaching out to proactively serve underrepresented communities.

Influencing and supporting those around you

At SIS we invest in social enterprises, charities, mission-driven businesses and community groups. As part of our investment process, we have implemented a review of the equality and diversity of an organisation, from which we make recommendations and support actions for change, where needed.

SIS has also signed The Women in Finance Charter to formalise our commitment to gender balance and support the initiative to gain traction in the sector. The Charter, created by HM Treasury to address the gender imbalance at senior levels across the financial services industry, commits HM Treasury and signatory firms to work together to build a more balanced and fair industry. Find out more about our gender diversity targets and commitments here. 

Invitation: Encourage responsible practices and emphasise the importance of diversity and inclusion to those you interact with.

Ensure diversity in investment decision-making

It is crucial that our investment decision-making responds to diverse voices and needs, with the flow of money to investees being influenced by diverse experience. All SIS investment decisions are now made by gender diverse credit panels and our investment programme in partnership with CEMVO includes advisers from the communities which we seek to reach.

Invitation: Explore how you can bring diversity to the forefront of business decisions.

Influence external event organisers

Our team have made a public commitment not to serve on non-gender diverse panels at events – a situation that is still happening all too often. We strive to ensure diverse voices for SIS programmes and events, and we expect the same from others.

Invitation: Encourage more diverse panels in your sphere of influence.

Formalise actions through policies and procedures

We are reviewing our policies and procedures through a diversity lens – implementing changes and enhancements to policies such as maternity, paternity, family and adoption leave, complaints, investment, recruitment and creating a Dignity at Work Policy. Enhancements are communicated to the team to embed practices, standards and confidence across our organisation.

Invitation: Review your policies through a diversity lens and make enhancements where possible.

We’re listening

As our Chief Executive, Alastair Davis, said in a recent interview, “there is more work to do” when it comes to diversity and inclusion at SIS. We know we’re not perfect, but we’ve been inspired by those around us, such as Radiant and Brighter, and will continue to listen and make changes as we work towards being a more inclusive and diverse organisation.

Invitation: Be open and take advice from the communities that you’re hoping to reach.