In our latest Diversity Spotlight, we tap into the rich experiences and refreshing perspectives of Asif Sadiq MBE, who is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Equity and Inclusion at WarnerMedia International. Having previously held diversity and inclusion roles at leading global companies including adidas, Reebok and The Telegraph, it comes as no surprise that Asif is a celebrated leader and keynote speaker within this space.
We shoehorn half an hour into his busy schedule to find out more about his notion that diversity and inclusion should be treated as an opportunity to be harnessed rather than a problem to be solved. We also get his thoughts on how the past 18 months have impacted attitudes towards diverse creative talent, and what he believes needs to be done next to accelerate more positive change.
You view D&I as an opportunity rather than a problem – can you expand more on this perspective?
Asif: If you look at the history of diversity and inclusion, in the past, it was always seen as something that needed a policy to create a fairer system or to fix something which was broken and so on. This is not dismissing the fact that there, of course, is an important element around addressing challenges with things that are not working properly. However, what has become really evident in the last couple of years is how getting diversity and inclusion right is actually a business imperative. It makes complete business sense and it’s the right thing to do. If embraced in the right way, it’s a great opportunity for any organisation, from an internal staff perspective but also for external customer engagement and user perspective.
You’ve worked in many different roles and sectors within D&I and equality in your career so far – what are the main similarities and differences?
Asif: I think one of the most interesting things has been that nearly every organisation in every industry has similar challenges and opportunities within this space. What’s slightly different is the level of where they’re at with really embracing inclusion within the organisation. But one of the things I think companies that I’ve seen, that are shifting, are probably doing more, or doing better in the space, are the ones who are truly embracing the concept of inclusion and creating a sense of belonging across their business. Some are still at the initial stages and some are at more advanced stages, but the challenges are very, very similar, just at different levels.
Can you tell us more about your role at WarnerMedia?
Asif: I head up equity and inclusion for international, which is basically for every market outside of the US. I look after equity and inclusion across our business, both internally and externally. It’s unique in that respect because usually, you’ll find D&I roles are either focused on the workforce element of an organisation, whereas my role spans across everything that we do. This really allows me to build equity and inclusion across our business, not just internally, not just in HR, but across every single piece of what we do. This also involves working alongside our specific teams and helping them embed equity and inclusion themes into our content and programming.
What are your main focuses at WarnerMedia at the moment?
Asif: For us, at WarnerMedia, one of the biggest things is how do we really and truly embrace equity and inclusion across everything we do. We don’t want equity and inclusion to just be a policy, or a one-off initiative, we really want it to be weaved into everything we do and for it to become part and parcel of what we stand for and what we as an organisation truly embed within our business. So, a lot of our work at the moment has been focusing on that – the next element of really trying to make sure that every single individual understands what their role and responsibility is within this space and how we can champion inclusion from a truly authentic point of view.
What has been your proudest achievement so far within the D&I space
Asif: I think what has made me most proud has been where I’ve managed to really weave in D&I into different elements of a business, especially commercial elements of the business. When I look at my time in some of the other companies I’ve worked in, D&I became a key priority for those organisations. I say that is my proudest achievement because sometimes we only see the end result and we don’t get to understand or see the amount of effort and work it takes to really bring something like equity and inclusion onto the main agenda.
How, if at all, do you think the past 18 months have impacted attitudes towards diverse creative talent?
Asif: I think what the last 18 months have really showcased is that equity and inclusion is not an option. It’s something that needs to be embedded and embraced across everything we do. When you look at society at large, it’s very evident that it expects organisations to be truly diverse and inclusive. I think last 18 months have really accelerated that process. But more than anything, I think it has given organisations an opportunity to press the reset button and look at how they can improve; how they can create better systems, processes, and initiatives that truly allow diverse talent and diverse ideas to succeed within organisations.
What do you believe needs to be done next to accelerate more positive change and overcoming challenge within the D&I space?
Asif: I think one of the key things going into the future will be how we ensure that we recreate environments that allow individuals to bring their authentic self to work, to what they know and what they create. That will require us to start valuing unique identities that individuals have, which means we must create truly inclusive spaces that capture the whole spectrum of diversity and intersectionality. It’s not just one element of diversity that we look at, it’s the whole self that we allow individuals to bring. I think that will be critical going into the future.
Also, how do we ensure that when we talk about equity and inclusion within organisations, or within what we do, that it’s truly lived and breathed? What I mean by that is that when we have diverse talent, that diverse talent is allowed the opportunity to really bring their experiences, knowledge, and lived experiences in a way that can support businesses. So, it’s not just about having the talent, but it’s really about creating an environment and a culture – a culture where equity, inclusion and diversity are celebrated and allowed to flourish.