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The founding members of the WoC Alliance: Lukau Matuka, Nora Strickland and Mari Yamaguchi were contributing writers for this blog.
#EachforEqual is the theme for 2020 International Women’s Day. And as we globally strive to gain more for women — from equal pay to equal representation in political leadership to a seat at the boardroom table — the meaning of equality holds additional weight for women who are ethnic minorities.
Diversity and equality can look differently, depending on where you are in the world. But the feeling you get with being recognized, being heard and having the responsibility as a leader is the same.
Take a moment to recall a time when you wanted to just fit in and be accepted. Maybe it was your first day at a brand new elementary school or maybe you didn’t want to be the last one chosen for a team during middle school gym class. Whatever the situation, you might have felt afraid, ashamed or too embarrassed to raise your hand, struggling to prove your worth. You might have even felt “othered.”
Research shows that women of color — women who identify as other than white in the US — are woefully underrepresented.
Concrete ceiling, bamboo ceiling, the broken rung — whatever we want to call it, factors that prevent women of color from advancing at work are different than those that hold back even white women and men of color in the US. Microaggressions, double standards and unconscious bias are a few of the barriers. But if we can collectively raise awareness and jump over these hurdles, we will realize the benefits that women of color bring to companies and more importantly, help break theoretical ceilings for all women to achieve more.
Diversity and Inclusion as a Competitive Advantage
When we look at diversity as a competitive advantage, it seems like a no-brainer. Research shows companies in the top quarter for racial and ethnic diversity have 35% better financial performance. This means, in an increasingly global economy where business transcends regional boundaries, you should also think about your customers. Having a diverse team, both in ethnicity and gender, means you have not only diverse perspectives, but you are better representing your customers.
An inclusive company engages employees and provides an environment that fosters confidence in employee skills. This, in turn, inspires them to do more and achieve their best. And we all know the benefits of engaged and empowered employees in creating a positive customer experience.
Creatively Thinking Through Transformations
Business transformations require creative thinking. And, with creative thinking, you also have the ability to be more flexible and, more importantly, you nurture a space for innovation. When a business is undergoing through a transformation, it’s not just about the innovation in services and products, it’s also about how you bring both your employees and customers along with changes. It’s a human factor; it’s about ensuring that you make life just a little bit easier and better for others.
Empathy for All
Walk a mile is probably a cliché term these days. But the life lesson is still applicable. How can you expect someone to see things from a different lens — or even believe there is a different perspective — if your organization is homogenous?
An inclusive organization that champions diversity in thought and in the makeup of team members and leadership can better demonstrate empathy. And empathy encourages intelligent, intimate, and highly personalized interactions.
Let’s Do This as a Team
At Genesys, we have had outstanding support from our leadership toward diversity and inclusion practices — from the creation of the Genesys Women in Tech (GWIT) program and an emphasis on bringing more diverse candidates for career opportunities at Genesys. Still, we can do more.
And as a group of ethnically diverse women, we are thrilled to introduce our Women of Color initiative and program. Our mission is to showcase how organizations can become even better places to work with diverse team members, provide an additional voice in the dimension of women at work, and provide the support and tools to help more minorities reach their career goals and break through all theoretical ceilings.
For true change to happen, it takes more than a few passionate individuals. In 2015, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines when he created a gender-equal cabinet. Major brand name companies are publicly highlighting their gender equality strides and setting examples for the rest of the market. It takes allies from all backgrounds and all leadership levels. It takes a village — a village that’s empowered to have each other’s backs.
The Genesys Women of Color (WoC) Alliance was founded by four ethnically diverse women, Mari Yamaguchi, Lukau Matuka, Nora Strickland and Barbara Gonzalez, who saw the need to raise their hands to help more minority women break through all the theoretical ceilings. The WoC Alliance strives to for all WoC to be visibly hired, rewarded, recognize, represented and have proportionate leadership opportunities. They look to ensure mentorship and advocacy for WoC as standard practices through alliances across the organization and externally.
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