Hephzi Pemberton is an entrepreneur, advisor, author and angel investor. Hephzi founded Equality Group, the tech-enabled Equality, Diversity and Inclusion consultancy that helps companies diversify their teams, build more inclusive cultures and develop data-led equality across industries. In 2021, she published the Amazon bestseller The Diversity Playbook, which is a practical guide to embedding inclusion and diversity across a business for long-term value creation.
My earliest entrepreneurial experiences came from observing the remarkable women of DRC (Zaire) where I spent part of my childhood. My parents were running community projects and we were surrounded by women trading food, fuel and homemade goods, whilst raising, educating and feeding their families.
This continued into my early work experience between stable yards, serving in restaurants and assisting with a growing online dating company in the school holidays. All of these experiences gave me direct exposure to business owners and a wide range of offline and online businesses. By the time I reached university, I was actively interested in running a business of my own one day.
One of my mentors advised that I apply for a graduate training programme with formal financial training, which is why I began in Investment Banking at Lehman Brothers. It was a shorter training programme then I anticipated, when the bank filed for bankruptcy and I moved to New York to work for an executive search firm. This was a serendipitous move, as I met my co-founder for my first business there. In 2009, I co-founded Kea Consultants, a financial headhunting firm that specialises in investment and high-growth organisations, which quickly grew into a profitable and sustainable business.
I have been angel investing since 2010 and have invested in technology start-ups across AI, Logistics, Health and Beauty, E-Commerce and Education. I also have advised a number of businesses on their hiring practices, board composition, compensation structure, strategic and fundraising plans.
Alongside my commercial experience, I have founded a social enterprise called Kiteka, empowering female micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda to access digital opportunities through mobile technology. I have also sat on the board of trustees for three other charities focused on youth employment, homelessness and community development.
I started Equality Group in 2018 with a strong sense that equality, inclusion, diversity and social sustainability were increasingly on businesses’ agendas. I wanted Equality Group to be the investment industry’s expert partner in driving this movement forward.
We combine the best of academic data-driven research with the business best practice to equip businesses with the tools they need to become leaders in EDI.
In the future, we want to drive EDI impact across multiple sectors and partner with the leaders to inspire others to follow. We know that there is EDI progress to be made in every industry.
Younger employees in Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) have a greater interest in human rights, race and ethnicity issues, LGBTQ+ equality, and feminism than any of their predecessors. This generation is also more ethnically diverse than other generations. Almost half of all Gen Z people belong to a minority group and it’s only natural that they want to see that diversity reflected in the employers they work for and the brands they support.
Honordex allows us the insight to measure and monitor companies across sectors according to their EDI maturity. Greater levels of transparency and accountability are desperately needed in the EDI space. There is currently far too much diversity washing and not enough meaningful action – this is what we care about. With Honordex companies will be able to see their score and make decisions accordingly to improve their EDI performance.
EDI visibility, transparency and accountability is the future and we want to be at the heart of it.
The Diversity Playbook is a practical guide to embedding inclusion and diversity across a business for long-term benefits. It is an empowering and uplifting guide that uses proven expertise, factual examples and practical tools to help you transform your business and leadership approach. Building on relevant case studies and the latest research demonstrates the many tangible benefits for those who embrace and embed inclusion and diversity into their businesses: they will innovate and adapt more rapidly, their workplace cultures will attract the latest talent and they will reach a wider set of customers and clients who feel valued and understood.
My success is in large part linked to the many wonderful people I have had the pleasure to share life with and work with. I fully believe that no person is an island and that we thrive most when we have healthy and positive relationships around us. Building and nurturing effective teams has been a strength of mine from an early age. I am the eldest of five children and growing up in a large family closely linked to the community teaches you a huge amount of what it means to be interconnected and interdependent with others. In addition, the team sports I played and the team I captained growing up, from hockey at school to rowing at university, developed my leadership skills ahead of my business career. Businesses are only as good as their people. Teams are the best expression of the saying the sum is greater than its parts.
One of the biggest lessons of my business career has been to follow your passion and play to your strengths. I have done this more and more in recent years and it is leading to greater levels of fulfilment and success. It is easier to say than to do, because fear, doubt and anxiety will naturally
raise their ugly heads and make you doubt what you want or what you are dreaming of. I find my healthy routines of running, walking the dog, journaling, long baths, create the headspace and heartspace I need to be able to pursue what I really want and to dream bigger. This is an essential practice for anyone seeking to create and build new things.
I would definitely say know your strengths and then play to them as much as you can. Build a team around you, of peers, advisors, mentors and employees who will help to complement and challenge you to be better and build better. It is worth asking for and encouraging active participation and disagreement with you. When you are the founder or leader of a team, you often don’t get as much feedback or pushback and this can mean that you stop growing and developing. If you want that growth, then you need to seek out and ask for other perspectives.
I admire several entrepreneurs who I am honoured to call friends. From Shamadean Reid building The Stack World to Laura Storm leading the way on Regenerative Leadership with Regenerators. I am constantly inspired by founders of my generation seeking to build a more sustainable and connected world.