Minorities Included

6 April 2006 James Smith

It is a sound principle that there should be equality of opportunity in recruitment and in the workplace. Moreover, getting diversity and inclusiveness right can be a potent source of competitive advantage. The combination of principle and enlightened self-interest is a powerful one, says Shell UK chairman James Smith.

There are three sources of advantage that diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) offers. Firstly, you become a more attractive employer making yourself more interesting to a much broader pool of potential recruits. This covers all the dimensions of diversity, including gender, race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation.

Secondly, in the workplace, a positive culture of inclusiveness leads to more energy, teamwork and creativity.

And thirdly, what could be more diverse than a company's customer base? We operate in 140 countries and approximately 20 million customers cross our doorstep every day.

What, therefore, could be more important than having a diverse organisation capable of understanding and responding to diverse customer needs?


Shell has a written D&I commitment. This commitment says that D&I must be managed as a business-critical activity. It recognises the advantage of valuing differences. It requires equal opportunity and it states the company's determination to make continuous improvement based on best practice.

Underlying the commitment is a set of actions to ensure delivery. These include 'tone at the top', career management, setting up an infrastructure of targets and accountabilities and embedding D&I in the recruitment and performance management processes.


There are over 20 nationalities represented in the top 200 jobs around the world in Shell. We strive for even greater diversity among our leadership. We see this not just in response to our business growth in developing countries, but also in terms of responding to global demographic change.

At board level, Shell ranks number ten in the Female FTSE 100 Index, with 20% of the board being women. We have the world's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) business, which is headed by a woman, who is also a main board member. The global head of our refining business, one of the world's largest with 50 refineries, is also a woman. Our heads of exploration in the US and the Middle East are women, as is the head of our most significant oil and gas field in the North Sea.

We believe it is particularly important that we get the message across to women that there are exciting and rewarding technical careers in the oil industry and that we have a competitive offer that is second to none.

It might not have been expected that Shell's oil and gas operations in Aberdeen would incorporate a highly diverse workforce. However, Aberdeen is part of a Europe-wide oil and gas division, which, in turn is part of our global upstream business. Parts of our global technical support activities are located in Aberdeen and provide project support for developments in Africa and the Middle East. In Aberdeen, we have 44 nationalities and 49 languages represented in our workforce.

"In Aberdeen, we have 44 nationalities and 49 languages represented in our workforce."

In the oil industry, having a significant expatriate population in the workforce is important to supporting global operations. We have over 100 nationalities in our expatriate workforce, including over 300 people from African countries.


To help with the development of ethnic minorities in the workforce, a career development programme has been piloted. The aim is to help the participants realise their full potential.

The programme helps participants assess their competences and plan the development of their careers. It also examines cultural and other differences and gives confidence to individuals that they can be themselves and be valued.


It is important that the leadership of the company demonstrates through action that D&I is a key business goal. This starts with 'tone at the top' – what the most senior leaders say, the processes they put in place and the inclusive behaviour they themselves exhibit in their interactions with people throughout the company.

Shell has a 'leadership model', which it uses to assess and develop its senior talent. This model has components ranging from strategy to customer service, to delivering results. The model also has a component called 'valuing differences'. Leaders are assessed and developed on valuing differences as much as on any of the other components of the leadership model.

Target-setting and annual performance appraisal for leaders also incorporate the requirement to pursue D&I goals.


In the UK, the Shell Women's Network has about 750 members. There is also a Shell African Network and a Shell Muslim Network. These networks span our different UK locations, support each other and have some common membership.

They also have links with networks, particularly in the US, from where we have learned so much about D&I. senior leaders have enthusiastically volunteered to be mentors to network members. There are also mentoring circles that are becoming international.


While we have made progress, we recognise much more needs to be done. We have a target of making material annual progress towards having 20% of senior positions held by women. We want to have more than 50% of the senior jobs held by local nationals in all the countries around the world where we operate, and in individual countries we address ethnicity according to the needs of those countries.

"We have made solid progress to embed D&I into group businesses, but much more needs to be done."

Of course, we have not made nearly enough progress. For example, in most countries, including the UK and the US, we strive to grow our representation of ethnic minorities, consistent with their representation in the population. Although our ethnic minority statistics broadly match those of the country as a whole, there is a significant mismatch in London that we need to address. Additionally, while we are gaining more of what we see as our market share of female technical graduates, our proportions of women in technical jobs is still lower than we want.

And while we have put a lot of effort into awareness and education about inclusiveness, 'micro-inequities' and removal of unintended bias, this is still relatively early days and much progress is still needed.


We have made solid progress to embed D&I into group businesses, but much more needs to be done. We need to put D&I at the very heart of our business processes with greater accountability for results at business, country and individual level. By integrating D&I into the mainstream of the business, we can translate our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people into action and improve our global performance.