I am the founder of Token Man Consulting, an inclusion and diversity specialist which specialises in engaging senior leaders and men with inclusion and diversity.
Our overall aim is to inspire them to become agents of change, creating workplaces that are truly inclusive, equitable and diverse. We do this through coaching, consultancy, events, research, training and thought leadership.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I started late in planning my career. Leaving Utopia (the culture agency I co-founded with Nadya Powell) last year was perhaps the first opportunity I have had to slow down and work out what I really want to achieve. Before that my career has been extremely squiggly and has been driven by spotting new opportunities and heading where the energy takes me. Now I am focused on accelerating inclusion and diversity in the workplace by engaging senior leaders and men. It still amazes me how few companies have engaged men as a core part of their inclusion and diversity strategy. From my perspective, bringing the men on the journey has to be a core part of any I&D journey.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes. If you have not faced challenges, then you are probably not trying hard enough. A few years back I co-authored a book called creative superpowers and my key creative superpower is hacking. A hacker is someone who is always looking for what is broken so they can fix it. So for me, a challenge is just an opportunity to make something better. Saying that I am potentially facing the biggest challenge of my career – how do we get more men to care about inclusion and diversity?
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
It has to be the creation of Token Man which has led me to where I am today. Token Man was set up in 2014 as a platform to engage men in the gender equity discussion and inspire them to become agents of change. We have achieved so much over the last 9 years including being a co-founder of the Great British Diversity Experiment, developing the Future Leaders programme with Creative Equals which has trained over 200 female creatives, supporting initiatives such as The Good Guys Guide and of course, running our annual Masculinity in the workplace event and research. And we just launched our The Things People Say Research Report for IWD as well as a Token Man Panel series in 2023. Creating a consultancy arm was just a natural evolution which will allow me to do far more ‘for good’ work.
And of course, Utopia would only exist today because of Token Man. I am very proud of the business that Utopia has become.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” I think I have been very good at re-inventing myself in different careers and recognising the need to consistently learn, unlearn and relearn.” A good example of that is the fact that I have just trained to become a coach which has opened up a brand new set of ways in which we can work with senior leaders to become the inclusive leaders they need to be.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentoring is a key part of becoming a better leader and manager. I have learnt so much from having mentors in my life although it was never through any official programme. I did however recently become a mentor through Soho House mentorship scheme which is run by the amazing Creative Mentor Network. I absolutely loved being a mentor and learnt so much from my mentee.
What can businesses/government/allies do to help diversity and inclusion?
They need to change the system. It’s the system that is currently broken and naturally excludes historically marginalised groups and we need to break it into smaller parts and make lots and lots and lots of small (and big) changes so that the system itself is far more inclusive and allows diversity to thrive.
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
No minority in history has ever impacted change without the support of the majority. And while women clearly are not in the minority in the workplace, alas they still are in senior management and in positions of power. So it’s essential to get men involved. However, we have a long way to go. In our latest Masculinity in the Workplace research, we found that only 31% of respondents said that a majority of their men were actively engaged with I&D while 48% of our male respondents felt they had to show active engagement in I&D despite it being relevant to their career. That for me is a shocking stat and shows that I&D has got a major branding issue. First and foremost, inclusion and diversity should be for everyone. Secondly, if you think I&D is not relevant to your career, then you are probably in real trouble. Any leader that is not inclusive, is unlikely to be in a leadership position in 3-5 years’ time. The good news is that in a recent study, conducted in partnership with Potentia Talent Consultancy, 97% of the men said that leaning into I&D made them better leaders and/or human beings. That’s the headline that I hope will help us encourage more men to lean in.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Be kinder to others.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Token Man consulting is a brand new business and building that from scratch is going to be one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. But the good news is that if I get it right, I know it will have a massive positive impact on the inclusion and diversity of the industry. And I am lucky in that I have some wonderful cheerleaders and for that, I am extremely grateful.