from left to right - Dan Robertson, Mahari Hay, the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli

Power Of Inclusion – Accent Bias

Sadly, I sound the same in any language as I did when I was about seven, so I truly sympathise with people who are pigeonholed by their accent – [In the photo above, Dan Robertson, Mahari Hay, and I struggle towards mutual comprehension (!)]

Remarks to: Power Of Inclusion Breakfast, 14 March 2024, at Howden.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

For those who don’t know me, I’m Michael Mainelli, the 695th Lord Mayor of London…the world’s oldest democratic workers’ and residents’ cooperative. It is my pleasure to join you today to open the first Power of Inclusion workshop of 2024.

Thank you to our wonderful panellists and to Howden for hosting us this morning. I know many of you have attended one of these workshops in the past. Thank you for your continued participation. For those who’re new here, welcome!

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s Power of Inclusion initiative aims to create a City that is inclusive and open to everyone regardless of background, and one area that the panel is going to focus on today is accent bias.

As the first American-born Lord Mayor, I get a fair bit of grief about my pronunciation – data, duty, schedule, era/e-ra, Worcestershire sauce (oops, got that one right!). But, when it comes to social mobility, accent-shaming is a serious issue.

Indeed, a 2022 report from The Sutton Trust found that nearly a third of senior managers from working-class families have been mocked for their accent at work…and 41% of university students from the North of England are worried their accent may affect their future success.

In this workshop, we’ll address how we can “Break Down Bias” in our workplaces to create a City where everyone feels they belong and can bring their authentic selves to work – something that’s essential for the Square Mile’s success.

You’ll all be familiar with the rags-to-riches tale of three-times Lord Mayor Dick Whittington and his cat…which is the emblem of Broad Street Ward, which I represent as Alderman. It’s part of London folklore, but it’s also not entirely true. As the son of gentry, Whittington was never very poor…and there’s also no evidence he kept a cat!

Conversely, the challenges facing Londoners today are all too real and we must all do our bit to ensure everyone has a chance to reach their full potential and contribute to a thriving, global City. 

Hopefully, everyone will leave this workshop with a clear action in mind for how to bring learnings back to their organisation. Do stay in touch with the team at The Lord Mayor’s Appeal to share your progress. Thank you.”