Founder and CEO of DIAL Global, Leila McKenzie-Delis is a passionate thought leader, business owner and entrepreneur, committed to moving the dial on diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity (DIBE) in business. She is an experienced business leader, public speaker, presenter, chair, author and podcast host.
Leila was passionate about diversity and inclusion before even knowing what it was. The adopted daughter of two white British parents, Leila is Chinese, dyslexic, a millennial female leader, and a proud working mum. She has a strong understanding of intersectionality and what it means to be different. Her vision is one in which all are welcome to the boardroom in business and beyond, in a world that harnesses the power of intersectionality and difference.
Leila is committed to driving inclusion in business and wider society. Through her leadership, DIAL Global now produces regular global hybrid summits, DIAL Global Lounges and webinars, DIAL Academy learning and development, as well as an online member community hub, quarterly magazine and a flourishing research division.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role
I am the founder and CEO of DIAL Global, a diversity accelerator and global community for Diverse, Inclusive, and Aspirational Leaders. DIAL Global specialises in driving and amplifying diversity both internally and externally. It’s within organisations and across wider society. It does this by focusing on diverse audiences globally and fostering engagement within organisations internally. I work with a range of CEOs at businesses across the UK.
My passion and commitment to diversity and inclusion were inspired by my upbringing. I was originally born in Hong Kong and adopted as a baby by white British parents. They brought me up in Harrogate, Yorkshire, where I was one of the relatively few non-white people in my school and local area. This sparked my interest in the nature of identity, race and professional ambition.
I now speak at many events alongside hosting high-profile quarterly events, including the DIAL Global Summit which brings together inspirational thought leaders from various industries to accelerate positive change.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I had always struggled to find the right career path for me. Particularly because diversity had always felt like an issue. As mentioned, having grown up as a Chinese woman with British parents in a predominately white area, I found it challenging and was always trying to find a way to fit in and not stand out from the others around me. There was a constant barrier in any role for me to progress, which is what inspired me to do more to more for this cause and ultimately, where DIAL Global was born.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Aside from the challenges stated above, the initial launch of DIAL Global was tough. It took some time to really grow and for us to see significant change. However, it is now gaining much momentum with many high-profile leaders from various companies getting involved. We also recently held an event attended by politicians. This highlighted the role that DIBE can play in commercial success, which shows how far we have come.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
In business, the launch of DIAL Global and our current CEO Activist Pledge. We have come together to use our influence, experience and respective public platforms to create an industry-wide pledge to ‘Move the DIAL on Diversity’ in UK businesses. We received many signatories and I am proud of how far this has come, but we still hope this list will grow. The launch of our third annual report from DIAL Global is later this year, which provides a comprehensive review of workplace diversity and inclusion in UK businesses. In my personal life, becoming a mother to my baby boy has also been one of my biggest achievements.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My determination and resilience have played a major factor. I have kept my eye on the goal and will continue to do so. I also suffer from Dyslexia but I would never let that hold me back. This is something I’m also very proud of! I call my dyslexia my ‘superpower’ and I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my dyslexia. Neurodiversity should be celebrated. We need people who have different thinking styles and who can offer a unique perspective and foster innovation.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
The level of reporting and that what gets measured, gets done! The benefits of gender equity are huge. Not just when viewed through a social lens, simply knowing this is not enough. Individuals and organisations need to step up, take action and deliver on key initiatives to narrow the gender gap. We not only need to look at this but also at the full spectrum. This includes the 10 facets of workplace diversity and inclusion: Race and ethnicity, gender, age and generation, nationality, mental health and wellbeing, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability & neurodiversity, religion or belief, and parenthood & caring. Each of these facets needs to be addressed and prioritised by employers.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Currently, we are looking to obtain national attention by working more closely with government departments to make policy changes. As previously mentioned, we recently held an event that saw politicians, CEOs and leaders across 27 businesses. The likes of KPMG, Britvic and IPSOS, came together to offer insight and commit to ‘moving the DIAL on diversity’ in their own companies. We also highlighted the role that DIBE can play in commercial success, as well as the role the government can play in driving better DIBE in UK businesses.
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