Qandor Founder Speaks Out On Twitterstorm That Gripped Industry

Qandor Club Founder Matthew Siddell was at the centre of a Twitterstorm last month after a senior Legal & General executive posted images of a recent Qandor event alongside a caption accusing the club of a lack of diversity.

Twitter users exchanged the facepalm emoji in their droves, but a number of individuals were quick to defend the club, with Qandor founder Matthew Siddell garnering hundreds of likes for response posts on Linkedin.

DealMakerz waited until the dust settled and asked Siddell if the online furore had prompted him to enact any changes.

The tweet in question, from Legal & General executive Pete Gladwell

In your own words, why has Qandor been under the spotlight recently?

Qandor has launched a forum for partners and directors of businesses at the larger end of the scale; turnover, workforce or the size of the projects they are involved with.

Having someone make a deeply insulting value-based judgement about us on Twitter hit us quite hard if we’re honest

Matthew Siddell, Founder – Qandor

To mark the launch we’re hosting a series of three events – the first event was sold out and extremely successful. It was pointed out to us on Twitter that the event appeared to lack diversity. That means we are missing out on valuable inputs from a broader group and of course not everyone is sharing in the opportunities we feel the club offers.

Having someone make a deeply insulting value-based judgement about us on Twitter, especially one based purely on our appearance, hit us quite hard if we’re honest. Our initial reaction was to defend the wonderfully diverse and successful membership we already have and are truly proud of. The next step was to challenge ourselves to do more, to ask some difficult questions and learn from the experience.

What kind of difficult questions?

Is this a presentation issue? Should we adjust our media at events to reflect the diversity of background, ethnicity and gender across our membership. Or is this deeper – do we need to reassess our membership to include more diverse views, skills, abilities and experiences.

What decisions have been made?

I went through the full list of our members and decided that I am both incredibly proud of how much we have achieved and I’m ready to do more.

I analysed the guestlist for the event and could see right away that far less than 50% of those who had RSVP’ed were female

Matthew Siddell, Founder – Qandor

I analysed the guestlist for the event and could see right away that far less than 50% of those who had RSVP’ed were female, a lot less if I’m honest, and the percentage of female “no-shows” was far higher than that of men which depletes the percentage of female guests further.

Naturally I wondered whether diversity is even an issue with drop-out rates. Aren’t we all more likely to attend a place where we expect everyone to be more like us?

How are you looking to fix this?

There are lots of options and they all present opportunities as well as challenges.

The only real answer though is serious action! Action to attract more people to the opportunities we offer. This will benefit our existing members with more views and more skills. We can’t fix this overnight but with care we can get out there and work harder on attracting the most diverse mix of members we can find.

Nothing changes – we are looking to work with the best people – but everything improves if we broaden the net and work harder to attract a diversity of new members and of course keep them.

How is this working out for you?

Unlike large organisations we can move very quickly. We repositioned our imagery, social media comms and put out some very clear messages.

Essentially we highlighted the diversity of the membership and existing events. We don’t want to run a club full of men and it’s not just because politically it’s the right thing to do. Diversity is the future and I don’t know why any organisation would want to get left behind.

We don’t want to run a club full of men and it’s not just because politically it’s the right thing to do

Matthew Siddell, Founder – Qandor

The second event of the series was oversubscribed, and the numbers were very balanced.

Why do you think diversity is the future?

The most obvious opportunity is that we get better outcomes if our decision makers bring a diversity of skills, experiences and viewpoints. Our members are decision makers, they are making things happen and we want them to be making the best decisions that they possibly can for their businesses.

Modern methods of communication, use of social media, technology that builds communities and engagement, remote and flexible working hours – all these things are making it easier than ever to break down barriers and one of the biggest barriers when it comes to tackling diversity and inequality is access to information.

As more business leaders realise that there’s a huge pool of suppressed feedback and talent within their existing workforces and client-bases, more leaders will be keen to tap into this valuable potential. Once they wake up and realise that actually this can inspire more customers to buy from them, even the most cynical of leaders will have to admit that diversity is good for business.

Diversity is not just a pressing sales or even a social issue, it’s a global economic issue. If half the world’s population is female and they are not realising their true potential, then we’re all losing out.

Let me put it like this – if one organisation can implement ways of women reaching their potential, then not only will they inspire their workforce, they will inspire their customers and outperform other businesses within their sector.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from this experience?

Previously I believed that Qandor could be gender and race blind – if we didn’t discriminate negatively, why should we discriminate positively?

But I’ve learned three important lessons:

  1. The next great idea can come from anywhere and the best teams are diverse. Diverse teams solve problems quicker and I’m lucky to be working with a very diverse team at Qandor.
  2. There are opportunities out there to be discovered if we stop and learn from criticism, whatever we might think of the critic and their motives.
  3. Since we repositioned our messaging, I’ve realised there might not be many women in the boardrooms of major construction firms but there are tonnes of great women in this industry and we’d really like to support them, and the men too!

Matthew Siddell is the Founder of Qandor Club. For more information on their events and how to join, click here.

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