How did we get here? I’m in a job which didn’t exist when I graduated 20 years ago, and which I certainly hope doesn’t exist when I retire in another 20. It’s not that I don’t love what I do – every day I’m warmed by the sheer brilliance of humanity, and I’m forever motivated to meet that human need we all have to feel we belong.

But how did we manage to build the world of work without that most basic of needs being met? And how do we now rectify that so that workplaces work for absolutely everyone and not just a select few? I believe this is the biggest social change project of our time, but once we get the behaviours we need embedded, I hope the work of all diversity and inclusion professionals is forever complete.

My name is Karen Blanc, and I’m the Director of Inclusion & Belonging for global energy engineering projects business, Kent. We’re a new organisation so it’s no surprise that my role is also a new one, created as we asked ourselves what was important to us, and how we wanted to do things. Before taking on this role, I travelled the global oil circuit as a process engineer, and eventually led the UK arm of our consulting business. I’ve had a brilliant and enjoyable career, peppered with its fair share of moments of not belonging. I’m motivated by my experience – the good and the bad – to make the global energy industry the place I know it can be – welcoming, rewarding, people-focussed.

In 2023, good leadership is inclusive leadership. To accelerate this social change project, here’s what I believe leaders can do.

Make sure there is no bias in your recruitment processes. Train hiring managers to look out for hidden bias, and don’t try to fast-track progress by tokenising groups you have underrepresented, or setting targets or quotas. Don’t forget that your interview works two ways – make sure you have the right people interviewing, and use diverse panels to help overcome bias.

Ensure opportunities and routes to progression are open and transparent. Don’t make assumptions about who might like, or not like, to do what – even if you believe you make these judgements from a place of kindness. Be open, and be open-minded, people will surprise you!

On a similar note, use pay scales, and be as transparent as possible, paying by role not by person. We all think our pay systems are meritocratic, but I’m here to tell you that meritocracy is a myth!

Think about the tone you set. Do people feel psychologically safe, and included? Language matters (this conversation is so much wider than gender but do please join me in banishing the word manhours from engineering forever!), but I believe culture and working environment are the foundation for great inclusion.

And finally- be curious, be kind, and don’t make assumptions. Humans are fascinating, and the more we challenge our deep instinct to categorise and sort them, the more interesting and diverse our worlds will become.

Karen Blanc is Director of Inclusion & Belonging at Kent