Prudence Tai is a lawyer with a practice focus on corporate legal advisory and commercial litigation. She has a strong interest in corporate governance, sustainable economy and geopolitics. Prudence is currently the Managing Counsel at Bupa Global APAC Region looking after its legal function in Asia and managing the business partnerships in the region.
What does D&I mean to you?
Diversity and inclusion are very different things. As per Vernā Myer’s analogy, where diversity involves inviting different types of people to a party, inclusion is getting them actually dancing with each other. D&I is important for every kind of organisation, firstly because it's simply the right thing to do – everyone should have a voice and the right to participate and be heard. Secondly, it helps avoid group thinking, which comes about when everyone is from the same background and decisions are made by and predominantly for those same types of people. From a business sense, you need to appeal to everyone, so you need diversity internally to be able to reach that wider audience. Diversity is easier to achieve than inclusion because it's about being aware of things like race, background, and age when you're hiring. Including different types of people to work and make decisions together is harder. One of the main issues that companies are facing now is managing people from various backgrounds, and if your organisation is only focused on the interest of one group of people, then the rest will not feel engaged and eventually disconnect.
On a personal level, D&I means growth and expanding my scope of knowledge and views. I am a very curious person and I've always been interested in different cultures and in understanding how people see things depending on where they are from or what they have done. Even for things that we all experience worldwide, like climate change, we will have different views on it, based on our experiences of where we live and how it affects us. Understanding other people's perspectives helps me grow and be more compassionate, which I think is something that is lacking in society these days.
When did you first notice D&I around you?
The first time I really noticed D&I was when I had my first job in Stockholm, right after I graduated from law school. Diversity and inclusion there is a normal part of day-to-day life. There were people of different races, ages, backgrounds, and gender recruited from all over the world. When I had my interview with the Swedish company, they asked me what would be the one thing that could have stopped me from coming to Sweden. I said the weather because it can get seriously cold there, which ultimately turned out to be one of the reasons I was hired. They wanted me to immerse myself in the culture and experience it properly, and the winter plays a big part in life there. Working there, in such a diverse culture, was my first D&I experience.
Can you give us any examples of what companies are doing in D&I?
The companies I've worked for have been good at D&I, because they talk about it often and support it by action. We have an almost equal split at Bupa Board and Executive Team in terms of gender, which is important because we need that female perspective in our decision-making to be a truly customer-centric insurance company. For management teams, we have lots of training that help us create a diverse environment at work. I have recently attended one which taught us how to lead with curiosity which means that as leaders we should take an interest in our team members’ lives and see things from their perspective. In the training, we have also covered self-awareness, being authentic, how to voice your opinions and stand by your beliefs, but also accepting and discussing other people's points of view. Small things like “Coffee Roulette”, where you have random chats with other people in the organisation are great for improving inclusion and understanding what other people do in the company.
What is the biggest benefit to an organisation of improving D&I?
You get a workforce that is more willing to work with each other. People feel that they won't be judged because of their background, so are more confident about voicing their opinion or making mistakes, and that's how you get creativity and innovation, which are so important in business. You also get the diversity of solutions, because without that groupthink situation of everyone voicing the same opinion, you can solve problems in different ways, which increases the agility and flexibility as a team or organisation.
How do you see your role and contribution at Bupa in terms of D&I?
I'm part of the diversity and inclusion group in the Bupa Global legal team and have recently joined a programme hosted by Leeds Beckett University where I mentor young people from BAME backgrounds. I am now mentoring a finance graduate and we are talking a lot about financial independence for women and how it affects one’s well being and the society at large.
In addition, Bupa Global’s legal team is also trying to encourage the law firms that we work with to put in place D&I policies in their recruitment and management system. Within Bupa, we are also trying to put D&I elements into our recruitment process and legal outcomes, such as using masked CVs during recruitment interviews, so hopefully the company will be having a more inclusive culture in the future.
Do you think Bupa could do more in D&I?
I think Bupa is doing well in terms of gender diversity, but we can always do more to improve the diversity of mindset and background within our workplace and train leaders that are knowledgeable enough to manage a culturally diverse environment. Traditionally, leaders are strong in their own specialist fields, but now we need to grow leaders that have awareness and skills in various subjects including ESG and D&I. Leaders can also do more to empower their teams to embrace D&I and to promote the culture together.
Have you ever felt your own career has been hindered in terms of gender or race?
I don't think any companies that I worked in have tried to stop me from achieving certain goals because I'm a woman or Asian, but I think my own mindset used to. I think it's important to fight against the traditional mindset of believing that there are limits to what you can achieve as a woman. It's a matter of changing your mindset and understanding that success is achievable.
How do you think D&I has benefitted you in your career?
Working in D&I suits my character and what I believe in, so there is a definite sense of fulfilment for me. As I've always been interested in society and people, it's perfect for me and has really helped with my personal growth. That in turn has helped my career because even when I am analysing legal issues, for example, I am drawing on the perspectives and insights of other people that I have learned from along the way, rather than just giving a text book answer. D&I has helped me understand the needs of people, and that's very important for lawyers and consultants.
What advice would you give to young people for achieving their career goals?
Firstly, it is the mindset issue I mentioned. Think about the bigger picture, the long-term goals, and set your positive mindset that these are achievable, regardless of your background or gender. Avoid self-reject mentality. Secondly, use the tools at your disposal to improve yourself. The internet is amazing: online courses, TED Talks, networking are all there and aid your social mobility. I learned an entirely new culture in Sweden by watching TV programmes and clips on YouTube and immersing myself in their culture, all to help my career and my personal growth. Lastly, be yourself, don't conform to any stereotype that society wants to place on you. It's so important to have your own views, articulate them and remain true to yourself.Posted 9 months ago