The Importance of Visibility and Representation in Business

As part of our #BeInBusiness blog series, Suha Yassin, Pearson’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead, considers the importance of diversity and inclusion, and how schools can increase their visibility of minority backgrounds, to better communicate the message that EVERYONE has the potential to be successful in entrepreneurship and business.

Visibility of diversity and inclusion key to breaking down stereotypes

The value of visibility in diversity and inclusion, and its long-term impact on learners, cannot be understated. When students can see themselves represented in business, they realise they belong.
Robin Babbage, Head of the Business Studies Faculty at Hamstead Hall Academy, has witnessed the impact of visibility first-hand. For many students at his school, the idea of owning a business is not something they think is achievable— and as a school, they work hard to break down the barriers and stereotypes for all pupils, whatever their background, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or experience.

“A lot of our students think that business is going to be too expensive. They can't afford to get into a career in business. They can't afford to go down that route, so they don't even look at it as an option.”

The academy has tackled that misconception head on by showcasing entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and humble beginnings, so that their pupils see that to start a successful business, you don’t need to have lots of money or come from a particular background.

Challenging stereotypes with real-life stories

According to Babbage, the key to encouraging more students to take up business studies is making the course content accessible and relevant to everyone. “To encourage students of a more diverse background, you've got to make the subject engaging and make students realise that business is not just for one group of students, it should be accessible to all, and it should be inclusive.”

As well as advocating for teachers to use diverse businesses and entrepreneurs as case studies, Babbage recommends using real-life examples from the local community to help engage all students more effectively. These relatable role models show how people in their own community have had success in business — a success that students are more likely to aspire to.

Kai, an A-Level student at Hamstead Hall Academy, explains how this approach has influenced his own view of the business world, thanks to the inspiration of diverse role models: “I think a lot of people in business nowadays are starting to represent me and where I come from a little bit more,” he says.

“I think you see a lot of examples of people from less privileged backgrounds that have kind of made something of themselves and built up a business, for example, without as much help. So, I think it kind of lets people know that anyone can do what they want, and they can be successful no matter where you come from.”

From the classroom to the boardroom

“Access to education” is a topic on which Jacky Wright, Microsoft’s Chief Digital Officer — and the UK’s most influential Black person according to Powerlist 2022 — has been vocal. Quoted in The Guardian, she emphasises that showcasing role models is everyone’s responsibility, enabling future generations to envision who and what they can be. 

She’s not alone in seeking change — and approaches around representation in business appear to be shifting in companies around the UK. 

The Parker Review Committee’s March 2021 survey showed that 81 FTSE 100 companies had ethnic minority representation on their company boards; a rise from just 52 in January 2020. This promising statistic suggests that “visibility” and “representation” are beginning to be better reflected in the business world today but there is definitely more to be done. 

Dr Florida Starks, Pearson’s Chief Diversity Officer said: ‘It is a business imperative to have an inclusive work environment. Employees, consumers, and investors are all demanding that companies do more to show a commitment to diversity. At Pearson, our belief is that diverse teams make better decisions, and as a result, better products. We are headed in the right direction on our inclusive journey to ensure our workforce, and importantly our leadership, reflects the identities of consumers so that we meet the evolving demands of diverse markets.’

Powerful changes can start at an even earlier stage, however: in classrooms, before board rooms; impacting every student, however they interact with the business world. That positive journey begins as soon as we work together to make it happen. 

To find out more about Pearson’s #BeInBusiness campaign and their commitment to diversity and inclusion in business and education, as well as free resources, please visit: go.pearson.com/beinbusiness and follow @PearsonSchools and #BeInBusiness