Richard Chapman-Harris, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader for International at Marsh McLennan, spoke to myGwork about his passionate advocacy for fairness and equality. With a career spanning over seventeen years, Richard has dedicated himself to addressing bias and discrimination in all its forms. He opened up about his career, highlights at Marsh McLennan, his journey with identity, and what he believes it takes for DEI to be successful.
Richard was born and raised in Barbados before moving to the UK at 12. He fondly describes his upbringing, reflecting on how fortunate he was to have had a diverse group of friends, family, and teachers from all around the world. Family was integral to his childhood and helped him shape his worldviews. With a large family, including a Muslim stepfamily on his mum’s side, an appreciation for different beliefs was felt strongly, ultimately enabling him to challenge Islamophobia from a more informed perspective later in his adult life.
Richard’s experiences gave him access to diverse role models, who he believes are not as well represented as they could be in the UK. He also recalls encountering homophobia in school, leaving him unable to express his true self. However, moving to the UK provided a safer environment to explore his identity. “This was a part of my self-understanding journey that was suppressed until my teenage years when I was then in the relative safety of the UK,” he explains.
Discussing his journey with his identity, Richard hopes for a future where more people experience acceptance and inclusivity without the need for formal coming out processes. He emphasises the importance of creating inclusive spaces and challenging heteronormativity. Expressing his gratitude to friends and family for supporting him throughout his journey, he adds, “I was fortunate to have been on this journey – which was not always easy – but was definitely survivable. I have friends and family to thank for this.”
Richard’s work at Marsh McLennan
Now International Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader at Marsh McLennan, Richard has worked to push forward acceptance and equality for close to two decades. To him, it’s a field that is all about people and tackling unfairness in its many forms.
“I felt I was helping in my own small way,” he explains, reflecting on why he first joined the sector. “Although ideally, I wouldn’t need to do this work, and there would be no bias or discrimination to address – I am happy to keep working until this is achieved and can then happily retrain and do something else!”
Richard also emphasises the daily efforts of the incredible people he works with, praising their “can-do” approach. A recent highlight includes Black History Month celebrations and his collaboration with the Black Colleague Support Group and the MOSAIC Employee Resource Group on race and cultural inclusion, which Richard admires and respects for their many achievements. “At Marsh McLennan, we are committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace culture where everyone can thrive. Our DEI strategy provides colleagues with live and online learning, our colleague resource groups organise events, and our Candid Conversations series helps to explore a rich diversity of topics that many DEI calendars don’t always cover.” To Richard, it’s vital that everyone feels heard, listened to, and supported and that the workplace is a safe space to be authentic.
Part of the role means that Richard supports approximately 40,000 colleagues across 120 offices globally. He works closely with People and Talent Partners in each region to design and deliver DEI plans, involving policy and process developments, learning and engagement activities, and working one-to-one with business leaders and key external partners.
Community and creating inclusive societies
Richard stressed the importance of everyone’s involvement in the essential elements of DEI success. He believes that DEI is a collective effort where each individual has to recognise and celebrate their similarities and differences. Understanding that systemic inequalities exist, Richard emphasises the responsibility of those with privilege to actively combat unfairness. “Everyone needs to understand that DEI is about all of us. We all have a part to play.”
There is also an importance in maintaining a sense of community and diversity within the LGBTQ+ community that Richard is acutely aware of when embarking on this work. Drawing from his own experience as a cisgender, white, gay man, he acknowledges the privileges he holds and aims to leverage this to support others by challenging ableism, racism, and sexism across society and also within the LGBTQ+ community. Visible role models are a vital part of the jigsaw when it comes to recognising and appreciating intersectionality, highlighting that no one is one-dimensional and that it is crucial to value and celebrate diversity within and across communities, Richard explains.
Regarding the rising tide of transphobia in mainstream media and politics, Richard stresses the importance of recognising and actively combating this issue wherever possible. In particular, there is a need to call out misinformation and promote more balanced messages to ensure that marginalised groups are not misrepresented and that unfounded fears are not exploited to divide society further.
Richard ultimately underscores how transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny intersect with each other, acknowledging that these forms of discrimination require collective efforts from all members of the LGBTQ+ community and beyond to dismantle.