Joe Hudson – Encouraging diversity at every level

Joe Hudson has experienced working in many cultures around the world. This unique experience has inspired Joe to make a positive change to the modern workplace by encouraging more diversity at every level. Read more about Joe’s story below:

Tell us a little bit about you…

I grew up in Newcastle in a working-class environment. After finishing university, I followed my girlfriend (now wife of 25 years) to Kenya and stayed in East Africa for 13 years before going to North America. Since then, we have lived in 7 countries and have had 4 children.

Why is diversity important to you?

I had no real experience of diversity until I went to Kenya and I saw first hand the opportunities that being inclusive could bring. But I had to deal with allot of tribal and racist behaviour. Most of the employees in the company I worked for were women . They would work long hours and also run the household – often taking care of multiple generations at home.
We developed some great teams and some brilliant ideas but despite it being a great business, there always seemed to be a barrier and a stigma. I always felt compelled to make sure I could make a difference to that.
“Most of the employees in the company I worked for were women. They would work long hours and also run the household”

What benefits does diversity bring?

Diversity brings different experiences and cultural context which can help make better decisions or bring improved solutions and ideas. More diverse teams create better outcomes and we can open up a breadth of more talent and skills if we tap into more diverse groups.

What challenges do you face when you try to be more diverse?

There are often stereotypes and getting people to accept others who are different can make them feel nervous or sceptical. It can also be hard for more diverse people to settle into an environment which is not inclusive and often provisions have to be made to ensure they feel settled. For change to happen it requires support and enablers at many levels. For example, if we want more women, we need to consider provisions like flexible working, childcare etc.

What can we do better as an organisation/industry to be more diverse?

It starts with leadership and explaining the compelling reasons why we need to be more diverse. The leadership/board need to have this as an agenda. We need to create role models who bring positive reference points to the industry. In our business we have some good examples of diversity within the leadership level now but we need to be encouraging it more at the entry-level of our business. We are just starting but construction and manufacturing should not just be seen as a place for macho men. There is a career for women and other diverse people.

How are you trying to positively influence diversity?

We have just started but we are putting this into our policies. I am trying to be a role model and encourage more input from people of more diverse backgrounds through channels such as the women’s forum. My team now has since grown from a level of 15% diversity to 50%. Now that we have the new team, we plan to put in a roadmap for diversity and we have set this as a key area for our sustainability agenda.
“I am trying to be a role model and encourage more input from people of more diverse backgrounds through channels such as the women’s forum”

What positive females role models have you had in your career / life and how have they shaped you?

I have had two managers who were great role models. Sara Ravella who was the SVP for OD and L&D in Lafarge – now head of coms at L’Oréal. I learnt a huge amount from her around organisation and culture. Also, Sonia who was the Head of HR for the Lafarge Group and we worked together on the merger between Lafarge and Holcim 
These people were influential on me, but people who are peers or even work for you can be a role model. I see Kate as a great role model trying to balance her role as a Mum, Partner and yet still have a huge job with loads of challenges. The pace and care for her people and ambition balanced with that is a role model.
My wife is a great role model. She is wise and passionate and often sees things I would not see coming. There were some great role models in Africa who are now doing amazing things. Yetunde Williams who I mentored is now running Lagos Mums which is a great Movement, Pegu Adebajo is now Commissioner for Agriculture of Ogun State ( Both Harvard grads who I recruited).
Sister Margaret – now retired who was our company nurse but was a great counsellor for me in some difficult times in Nigeria and I don’t know where I would have been without her.
Interested in reading more male advocacy posts? Check out our piece with Gavin Slark, CEO of Grafton Group plc!

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