When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), Et Halstead, chief commercial officer at JCW Group is in an interesting position. As you can see from his picture below, he’s both white and male and consequently hasn’t experienced discrimination on a personal level.
He is however incredibly passionate about making a difference, through his role at JWC Group – “which is politely referred to as a talent conglomerate now” – because of his deeply held belief in fairness and equality.
Et opened episode 13, season two of Inside Your Brand (IYB) by describing himself as a bit of “a soldier of fortune.” He explained: “At JWC, I run the commercial operations but I also work all over from handling top tier clients to DE&I training programmes and keeping everyone in line.”
The Boston-based South Bank University alumnus – “I went there to play rugby and fell into industrial and product design which I really enjoyed but has nothing to do with what I do now, of course – joined JWC in 2010 as a junior associate in their London office.
“I had some success and then moved to New York in 2012 to found the US offices of JCW. Sending a 25-year old to set up a business is a terrible idea but we persevered and got there,” laughed Et.
Of his big move across the pond, Et said: “Everyone thinks the UK and America are the same but they aren’t. They could not be more different. America itself is not one country – it is 50 different countries. They have all been plastered together and all have different cultures, philosophies, and hiring mechanisms so you have to work in a variety of different ways and manners.
Et elaborated: “The most astounding difference is between the east coast and west coast where attitudes and lives could not be more different. We have had to be very flexible and adaptable and, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we have obviously been on the journey that a lot of companies have been on and realised we need to change.”
Inside Your Brand’s host and founder of Get-Optimal, Daniel Fellows, wanted to know how a DE&I policy had manifested pointing out that “a lot of people I speak to are struggling to start.”
Et replied: “The most important thing is to set a level – no one really knows what they are doing here. DE&I is a new topic for a lot of the workforce. As Chief Commercial Officer, it fell to my desk to create a plan of action to go about level-setting for our diversity and inclusion.
He continued: “I am fortunate to be married to a scholar who is studying the history of race at Brown University so I have a good platform to grow my knowledge base. It’s about establishing the issues in the first place.
“It’s far too easy to say ‘no we have a good culture and we don’t discriminate but that’s not enough. If you’re looking around the board room and there is a lack of minorities, then there is something wrong because that’s not the way the world works.
“And we [JWC] do fall into that category. We self identify as that so we started by sitting down at the most senior level and asking what we need to do. That involved education, podcasts, reading selected materials, speaking to experts in the area – there is no one simple path to get there. The most important thing is that we start.”
Want to get hold of Et to discuss your organisation’s DE&I strategies and more? Drop him an email. “We preach a clean inbox system for all of our consultants which means everything gets read – so if you email me it will get reviewed. Or there’s my cell phone – it’s available and I am always happy to take a call.”
Dan concurred: “I love getting calls. It’s so nice and cleansing!”
Catch episode 13 of season two of Inside your Brand over on Get-Optimal’s YouTube channel.