Ruby McGregor Smith CBE, is Chief Executive Officer at MITIE PLC, board member of Business in the Community and was chair of Race for Opportunity between 2008 and 2011.
1. Are there specific challenges to improving race equality in the outsourcing industry?
As the only Asian female Chief Executive in the FTSE 250, and running a company that aspires to join the FTSE 100, at MITIE we recognise that diversity – in every sense of the word – is of the utmost importance. We’ve introduced a series of initiatives to improve our culture and make it more inclusive. The challenge is around creating an organisation where people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to reach their potential, and it’s one we take very seriously.
2. What does it take to be a responsible business in the current climate?
When some companies talk about sustainability (or corporate social responsibility), it can feel like a bit of an afterthought. But at MITIE, we’ve always believed that doing the right thing has created financial value for the company. Our approach links our sustainable business agenda with the strategic issues that make our business successful. Everyone expects more of companies now – higher standards of business ethics, more attention to social issues and real evidence of a commitment to tackling climate change. This is a challenge, but one that we as a business want to meet, because being a more sustainable business is better business. Sustainability isn’t just one aspect of the way we work – it is part of every decision we make.
3. What community investment programmes are you most proud of at MITIE?
I’m particularly delighted by the fact that we have doubled the number of apprenticeships in the business to over 500 in the last few years, making MITIE one of the largest employers of apprentices in the UK – I think it’s hugely important to support and offer opportunities to young people. We also established the award-winning ‘Real Apprentice’ Scheme, which works to break down barriers and help the long-term unemployed and people with a physical or mental disability back into the world of work through placements both at MITIE and with its clients. Since the start of the scheme in London in 2005, 284 people have taken part, 172 apprentices have completed the programme and 134 of those have gone onto secure employment either with us or our partners.
4. Tell us more about MITIE’s mentoring programme.
We recognise that mentoring is essential to supporting a pipeline of diverse talent. We have introduced a mentoring programme for rising female stars. I have also set up and remain involved in a mentoring circle for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. The Group Finance Director sponsors a newly developed executive mentoring programme for the finance function, which is subsequently being cascaded throughout the business.
5. What is the driver behind your passion for ensuring diversity in recruitment?
Diversity in recruitment is a very strong focus for us. For example, we have conducted a targeted recruitment campaign to encourage women into engineering apprenticeships. We also launched a graduate scheme in 2010 to attract the best talent available, accompanied by aims around diversity. We hold a twice-yearly Employee Forums which discuss diversity achievements, progress and initiatives.
6. Walking the Talk: what action have you taken personally to contribute to race equality in the workplace and what are MITIE’s key achievements?
MITIE has a dedicated diversity board, as well as an equality, diversity and inclusion policy which has developed a number of successful initiatives. In 2011 we held our inaugural Diversity Week, which included presentations from board level executives as well as a number of forums and events to raise awareness of diversity and equality issues. As part of this we appointed a diversity steering group that is externally chaired and consists of representatives from across the business. We have also made managers accountable for implementing various programmes initiated by Diversity champions across the business.
7. What have been MITIE’s biggest learnings in diversity?
At MITIE we believe that our success is a direct result of the collective experiences, talent, perspectives, cultures and unique attributes of our people. Our approach to business is underpinned by a belief that all individuals should be treated fairly and have access to equal opportunities. We also adopt similar principles of diversity and inclusion in our relationships with our suppliers and encourage them to adopt similar philosophies with their own employees and suppliers. To ensure equality at MITIE, we have had to remove barriers, eliminate discrimination and ensure equal opportunity and access for all of our stakeholders – internal and external. Diversity within MITIE means accepting each person as an individual.
Our success and competitiveness depends upon our ability to embrace diversity, we believe that everyone should feel valued for their contributions. We are always working hard to create a working culture where differences are not merely accepted, but valued; where everyone has the opportunity to develop themselves in a way that is consistent with our vision and values.