Monday, December 18, 2017

"Embracing diversity is uncomfortable- and that's good"

Aug. 26, 2017 "Embracing diversity is uncomfortable- and that's good": Today I found this article by Larissa Holmes in the Globe and Mail:

Does the tech sector have a diversity and inclusion problem? A quick scan of the news suggests it does.

Thirty-one Canadian technology companies were recently asked if they collected data on the diversity of their employees. Only two companies, OTTO and Wealthsimple, shared numbers. Other startups volunteered data, including Borrowell.

It’s encouraging we’re talking about pursuing diversity. But we fail to mention what happens when we get there.

Embracing diversity is uncomfortable. It requires constant, ruthless, self-assessment and correction. It requires a fundamental change in what we do, say and think. And that’s a good thing. In the end, it’s more than worth it. In fact, being uncomfortable is the whole point of pursuing diversity in the first place, because diversity makes good business sense.

Research by McKinsey shows that ethnically diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to financially outperform their industry medians. Likewise, companies with more female board directors achieve above-average financial performance, according to Catalyst.

Here are four specific principles that we live by at Borrowell to help turn diversity from a mere people policy into “the way we do things.” These can apply to any company, from a tiny startup to a market leader.

Embrace discomfort

The point of diversity is to surround ourselves with people who think and act differently than we do. The business value of diversity lies in having our views challenged. This is uncomfortable – and it’s exactly the point.

As leaders, we must surround ourselves with people who aren’t like us. We try constantly to be in the same room with people who challenge not only our day-to-day thinking, but the way we view the world.

We put the right people in places and expect them to challenge our dearly held beliefs. This gets uncomfortable at times. But we’re not going to generate new ideas with homogeneous thinking. Create “exponential pull” We have a commitment to gender parity at Borrowell.

Currently, 40 per cent of our team is made up of women and 60 per cent of our CEO direct reports are women. Qualified women are out there.

Don’t blame a lack of candidates for your lack of diversity. Just because they aren’t applying, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Fintech is at the nexus of two traditional and conservative industries. If we waited for our ideal candidates to come to us, we might be waiting for a long time.

We go into these communities to actively pull people into our organizations.

Once these people are in, we empower them to be ambassadors in their communities and pull more people in. We formally do it at Borrowell with our ambassador program. We encourage employees to attend as many community events while wearing a Borrowell T-shirt as they would like, and we’ll pay the ticket cost.

Communities tend to gravitate to companies where there are other members of their community.

Welcome to the power of “exponential pull.” Challenge your conventions It’s human nature to be wary of the unknown. In talking to other business leaders about making accommodations, we hear the same excuses: It’ll be too expensive, too disruptive or too difficult.

In reality, setting up a business and workspace for a diverse employee population to thrive isn’t necessarily rocket science.

As a lesbian, a new parent and a woman with a broken ankle, I was somewhat a textbook diversity hire.

I vividly remember a conversation with our CEO and COO in the interview process. They said, “We realize you’re in a unique point in your life. Let’s find a start date that we’re comfortable with. We’re open to start you part-time. And by the way, if you need a fridge and room for breastfeeding, we can make it happen.”

The total benefit to a new mom such as myself compared with the total cost of a small bar fridge was monumental. Diversity is accomplished through multiple small accommodations such as these.

Committing to diversity might mean holding a position open for longer than you expected. It might mean alternative working hours, locations or technologies.

My own conventions of mobility were disrupted when I broke my ankle a few weeks before starting at Borrowell. Only then did I notice that our headquarters were accessible.

We all have a responsibility to challenge our biases. As a “diverse” employee myself, I was blind to other forms of diversity until it impacted me.

In short, diversity by definition requires challenging our own conventions. Discomfort is a clue we know we’re headed in the right direction. Ask (the right) questions I was recently asked why tech is singled out for its diversity problems.

As tech trends to a younger work force, there’s an assumption that we’d be better at it. This criticism, though uncomfortable, is a compliment. We don’t have all the answers. We’re trying to ask the right questions.

There’s a reason diversity is getting serious attention from the media, business and non-profits alike: because people care. There’s an appetite for ideas and a market for solutions.
Borrowell believes in people and has been proven right time and time again that our belief was well-founded.

This belief goes both ways. Just as employers believe in the power of a diverse work force, employees should believe that if they speak up, they will find solutions.

This might be an uncomfortable conversation to have.
But after all, isn’t that the point?

Sept. 20, 2017 "Evolving discussions on diversity": Today I found this article by Damien Hooper-Campbell in the Globe and Mail

As more firms realize the value of inclusiveness, it’s crucial to know there are no quick solutions

I’ll admit – I didn’t grow up with a chief diversity officer “hero” poster on my bedroom wall, and didn’t ask my college guidance counsellor about prerequisites for a CDO job.

It was entirely through my personal and professional life experiences that I decided to do this work.

Today, more and more businesses are realizing that diversity and inclusion (D&I) isn’t just a nice-to-have or a moral necessity: It’s a business imperative.

At eBay, it’s the foundation of our business model and critical to our ability to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. For us, D&I is about making sure that our current and prospective employees and millions of buyers and sellers all have a fair shot at great opportunities. Yet, just like the vast majority of businesses, our D&aI journey will be long term and iterative.

Diversity and inclusion are a strategic focus for our company, and we’ve embarked on a multiyear journey that will require the commitment of all of our people around the world. Our strategy ensures global consistency with a local fit.

For example, since joining the company, a large portion of my time has been spent visiting our offices around the world to hear directly from employees about what diversity means and what inclusiveness feels like to them, locally.

The purpose is to offer a common starting place from which all of our people can join the conversation. What D&I means in our Israel office is sure to be different than what it means in our Canadian office.

Only by giving our people opportunities to have open conversations about what D&I means to them can we get broader participation from them and, as a result, better outcomes from the programs we launch.

I don’t impose rules or judgments on how employees should think about D&I, but I do guide discussions around three areas of focus.

Our work force

Who we hire and how we hire matters, so we’re embedding D&I into our work force by focusing on our hiring practices and hiring decisions, the processes we undertake to evaluate potential employees and where we go to recruit them. For example, late last year we deliberately moved our university recruiting team to reporting to me.

As a result, we’ve broadened the set of universities, career fairs and external partnerships we recruit from to ensure D&I is an inherent part of our student recruitment strategies.

We’re also looking at technology-driven hiring solutions to help our global recruiting teams and hiring managers mitigate bias throughout the hiring process. Things such as name-blinding résumés and facilitating structured interviews can be effective process improvements.

At its core, embedding D&I in our work force is about getting access to the best pools of talent out there.

Our workplace

Once we’ve hired great people, we want to keep and develop those great people, so we’re focused on how employees feel within the walls of eBay.

Looking for ways all of our employees – those from both minority and majority communities – can feel more included in the workplace is something we spend a lot of time thinking about and working on.

For example, we started by asking all employees around the world to participate in a survey focused on D&;I so we could use the feedback to create better initiatives. We also enhanced our “Communities of Inclusion,” which are employee-led, leadersponsored groups that promote a culture of belonging at eBay.

Our communities focus on age, disability status, ethnicity, gender, religion, military status, parental status, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. With chapters all over the world, these communities provide a safe space for employees to discuss topics and participate in activities. Most important, all of our employees are welcome to join them, regardless of how they self-identify.

Our marketplace

Diversity and inclusion at eBay extends to the customers and communities we serve.

We’re being more deliberate to ensure the diverse perspectives and needs of our current customers and communities are taken into consideration. This includes, for example, designing products or creating services for niche or underserved markets, or creating our first-ever multicultural marketing lead and seller diversity program manager roles to help us include a broader set of buyers and sellers in our marketing and business initiatives.

We’re also focused on figuring out how to be inclusive of the customer groups we aspire to serve in the future.

Taking a comprehensive, global and human approach, we’ve greatly evolved the way we talk about and approach D&I at our company. That said, we haven’t cracked the code on this yet.

It’s important to realize that there are no quick fixes here.

Diversity and inclusion challenges are complex, involve a number of factors and cannot be solved overnight. But if you start with real, honest and nonjudgmental conversations with your employees about what D&I means to them, you’ll help to reposition your D&I journey from being seen as a challenge to being embraced as an invaluable opportunity to make your people, business and customers stronger.

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