Talent and Regulation: Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?

What are the different ways to implement diversity and inclusion in an organisation?

Talent and Regulation: Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?

Donna Kelly, Senior Vice President and Business Unit Leader for UK South & Midlands at CGI took to the stage on the second day of Elite Business on 12 March in the Talent and Regulation talk, speaking about diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace – and how to create an inclusive and harmonious environment for your employees. 

Donna spoke about her career journey, from working as a nurse in the A&E to becoming an on-site nurse at a factory. Next to her surgery was an IT suite – and curiosity soon got the better of Donna. She started spending more time with the IT department and learning the tricks of the trade. And eventually, she applied for a job in the firm’s IT department. She managed to get the job and transitioned to a career in IT. Since then, she has been involved in CGI’s Diversity and Inclusion department, taking an active role in D&I to create deeper trust among employees and help support minority groups within the organisation.

Diversity is about the representation within an organisation, and inclusion is about how well the contributions, presence and perspectives of different groups are valued and integrated within that environment. Contrary to most other organisations, Donna doesn’t believe in setting targets for D&I She explained: “The second thing that we did is we don’t set targets against diversity. I think that’s quite an important thing to do. So, is it when you get to 50 per cent of women, what happens when you get to 51? So, we don’t do that. But we do shine a spotlight on the areas of diversity, and we can see where we are, and you can tell why D&I is so important. It’s important because it’s got to be a safe place, you got to be able to come to work and bring your whole self to work. Be you. And be authentic. That’s exactly what our clients want.” 

There are several benefits to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Society is incredibly diverse, which is why having a diverse workforce can also help you to understand your customers better. A lack of workplace diversity and inclusion can lead to large groups of people not being represented due to a lack of understanding. Donna explained: “But most recently I started to recognise that actually D&I is so important because as consumers of just about every single product, you have to be able to relate to that as a consumer. So, my example of this is I recently bought a car. It is about a year old now. And my car 100 per cent has been designed by a man. I know this is the case firstly because the heated seat panel literally makes me feel like I wet myself, and all women will agree with this! And secondly, it would set your bottom like fire – it is in the worst possible place and I can never put the heated seats on…” 

Companies can also look into creating a diversity and inclusion network within their organisation by creating a platform to represent minority groups. This allows the company to build strategy, and set goals, roles and responsibilities to execute across the board with multiple employees involved. Speaking about how she chooses employees in the D&I network, Donna explained: “We have to have people that have the life experience. We wouldn’t set up a network just because we thought it was a great idea. You have to have life experience; you have to be voluntary and you have to only do the role for 18 months as a maximum. So, make sure it’s a community coming behind. Everybody is welcome to join the networks, and that includes allies as well. You don’t just have to have life experience. We have a women’s network, a disability network, we have an LGBT+ network and we have a BAME network.  

Donna spoke about the importance of recognising your own subconscious bias. More often than not, we humans will be biased towards or against a particular group – whether we recognise it or not. We need to learn to understand our bias and make sure we do not make rash decisions based on that. Donna said: “Be aware and be knowledgeable of your own bias. And don’t be ashamed to say what it is either but work on it. So now every opportunity I get I think, ‘Is that just you Donna being overly caring?’ What gives me the right to be able to do that?” 

Sometimes, people are also biased when it comes to picking mentors. An employee might pick someone similar to them because of an affinity towards that race, religion, ethnicity or gender – but the person might not be best suited to be their mentor for the goal they wish to achieve. Donna added: “I might not be the right person for that, it might be a man. Why always use that affinity bias which everybody does, you look for someone like you to use as a role model or a mentor so try to think about your own biases, because you may have an affinity bias as well.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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