Shekhar Karia, Cambridge EMBA 2019 alumnus, uses his Individual Project as a drive for inclusivity in the financial sector where the workforce is less than diverse.
When think of ‘the trading floor’ we picture lots of screens with flashing numbers denoting market movements with exasperated traders shouting and waving at each other in some ritualistic display of medieval capitalism with its own incomprehensible language. However, when you see videos, pictures, or films about ‘the trading floor’, do you ever stop and question how inclusive this sector really is? Would it surprise you that 64% of people from an ethnic background have reported experiencing discrimination in 2021? (Source: reboot and Opinium) Shekhar Karia, Managing Director at TP ICAP and Cambridge Executive MBA (Cambridge EMBA) alumnus is driving change to bring diversity to the trading floor.
Using education to make real world changes
When we spoke to Shekhar, we asked him why he chose to use his Individual Project on his Cambridge EMBA to investigate the inclusivity of his own industry, inter dealer broking. The idea for his individual project came about when he spoke to Kamal Munir, Professor of Strategy and Policy at Cambridge Judge Business School, Shekhar wanted to do something meaningful that would have a social impact; Kamal helped him narrow his focus and from there his project was formed.
“I went in not knowing specifically what I wanted to write but for it to highlight the issues around diversity in my industry and indeed in financial services. Kamal, my supervisor, encouraged me to pursue and narrow my focus on this area.”
After conducting surveys and interviews, Shekhar discovered that although the industry has improved, there is still limited access to all ethnicities as people climb the ladder. This confirmed his belief that more should be done to bring diversity onto the trading floor. Shekhar is co-chair of the TP ICAP multicultural network, and he uses his position and his back story to change the status quo.
Developing inclusivity through great story telling
He believes that great story telling can help change mindsets and increased awareness will inspire change and diversity in the financial sector. Shekhar explains, bringing in people of different ethnicities, nationalities and gender creates diversity of thought, to allow people to bring fresh ideas, innovative solutions and to create a positive and productive working environment.
“It is on senior leadership to call out discriminatory behaviour whether it is to do with gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything that would make anyone feel uncomfortable. As part of the senior management team, it is my responsibility to make the working environment safe for all.”
Shekhar explains that he has always been under immense pressure to perform and despite being a senior leader, coming from an ethnic minority has meant that he has often felt like an imposter in his career. “It was always a question of ‘do I fit in’ or ‘can I be myself here.’” However, despite this feeling, Shekhar has always remained true to who he is, so he can change the status quo.
“Be authentic to who you are. I do this in all settings, and I hope it affects my peers, allowing them to be authentic to themselves as well. We should all be true to who we are.
“The important thing is not to overthink every detail on the journey. Start making changes, even small ones; thinking about change can be the catalyst. You can learn, evolve and eventually you can make a difference.”
How the Cambridge EMBA emphasises the importance for positive change
Shekhar also cites how the Cambridge EMBA emphasised the importance of social impact, to be connected to charity and to develop a sense of community with others in industry to incite positive change. It is crucial to all industries to provide a conversational space around diversity. Being an ambassador for Reboot and a Trustee for the Young Urban Arts Foundation (YUAF) has given Shekhar a broader perspective on society and has highlighted how much more work needs to be done to provide access to all.
Reboot is a network of senior professionals working together to maintain the dialogue on race and racial inequality in the UK workplace. Their aim is to increase diversity in financial services. The YUAF gives back and impacts young people’s lives, helping to reduce child exploitation.
The YUAF’s mission is to empower the lives of young people by strengthening well-being and building opportunities, through creativity and culture, ensuring that they are seen, heard, and celebrated.
Building knowledge and inclusivity through lifelong learning
Shekhar explains that the Business School’s focus on lifelong learning, which offers the opportunity to return to Cambridge Judge every year after graduation, not only allows him to reconnect with his former classmates, but also to seek advice and learn more about what he could do to improve his business. It’s also an amazing opportunity to collaborate and learn from experiences in his classmate’s organisations as well.
“Being able to return to Cambridge for electives is so rewarding. It’s hugely beneficial to foster continued education as there is always something new to learn that I can bring back to my organisation.”
Shekhar is a Managing Director for TP ICAP, trustee of the Young Urban Arts Foundation and an ambassador for Reboot and wants to drive change in financial services throughout all levels of organisations, from interns to the C-suite. In his article in Investment Week he said, “It is imperative that those at the top of institutions represent all of society to make true progress.”