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Diversity and equality are words we shouldn’t have to write about; they should be a way of life. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Diversity and inclusion have received heightened attention during the last 10 years and focus recently following well-publicized and terrible incidents in the U.S. While companies have made considerable progress on issues such as gender parity, the same momentum has been limited for other groups, such as individuals with disabilities and people of color. But things are starting change.
A 2017 Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. Within the tech industry, innovation is absolutely critical; it enables a competitive advantage, so this statistic is even more crucial to companies operating in that vertical. Still, improved financial results shouldn’t be the driving force behind having a corporate culture that appreciates every person — regardless of their ethnicity, sex, religion or sexuality. When you have employees from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and cultures, you are bringing a plethora of fresh perspectives to the table — and that can only be a good thing.
Recent tragic events involving George Floyd and others have prompted discussions that wouldn’t have taken place so openly before. Now they’re top of the agenda. How can we take difficult topics that might have been taboo or uncomfortable to discuss in the past — and change them to a positive? How do we drive a call to action? How do we make sure that previously unheard — or ignored — voices are now heard?
A gradual increase of empathy is emerging. As the parent of two mixed-race children with a husband whose origin is Afro-Caribbean, I feel things are moving in the right direction. The status quo is being questioned. But engrained biases still exist — and this needs to change.
Reflecting on Black History Month, we know that changes in the past haven’t happened organically. Changes for equal rights have required actions — energized people who passionately believed in their causes to stand up and make things better.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is clearly a very public and well-known example of this. He rallied hundreds of thousands of people — Black and white — to come together to drive a change that was so badly needed. The Obamas are a great example of a married couple who know that it’s so important to provide positive role models to the Black community. They also show that, regardless of your background, you decide your own destiny.
Michelle Obama came from a very poor background. But because of an amazing amount of hard work and determined and supportive parents, she earned a scholarship to an Ivy League university. As a married couple, Michelle and Barrack have worked tirelessly to drive positive change within their local communities.
Across the world, lesser-known people are making an impact and driving us forward on this journey of empathy and equality. There are local heroes who had ideas and acted on them, they created projects, gave of their time and expertise to help others, or simply showed support for small groups of people or individuals who needed it.
Driving Change in Business
This raises the question of how companies can drive change. According to Indeed, postings for Chief Diversity Officer roles have risen 35%. That’s an encouraging statistic and a move in the right direction.
Genesys has made it clear that equality and diversity are crucially important and leadership has appointed a Chief Diversity Officer who’s responsible for driving change. The goal isn’t just to represent existing employees of color but to ensure that all company policies are fair and equitable. We want to be sure we recruit in an equitable way and that we promote employees who are the best people for the job. We want to make certain our diverse workforce reflects the diversity of the culture we live in and of the customers we serve.
Colleagues, managers, business owners, customers and teachers might not realize it, but there is a lot of unconscious bias in the world. It’s important that we change that. At Genesys, all employees have participated in an unconscious bias training to help identify biased decisions we might make — without even thinking about them.
This attitude and these actions must extend outside of business. We should be more accepting of our neighbors, our friends, our differences. We must celebrate our heritage and opinions — not criticize them. Perhaps we need to self-reflect. We need to be proactive about helping others and volunteering to be part of what can change, rather than expecting others to drive those changes. This can happen in many ways: taking a role as a parent governor in a school, creating a fundraiser to help others, volunteering to work with job seekers so they can move to the next steps, being a mentor, and supporting others so they can enjoy the advantages you might have had in life.
We can’t define our past, but we can define our future. We might not fully understand how others feel because we haven’t been in their shoes. But we can show empathy. By being empathetic to others, the environments we live and work in will change — and we will be part of the process. By taking a step forward to promote positive change, we can all be a part of this ongoing journey toward a more equitable future.
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