Diversity & Inclusion Lightbulb Moments

lightbulb moments

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

As we approach the height of summer, we look back over the past six months.  Voice At The Table has been busier than ever, working with many incredible people to shift the needle on diversity and inclusion in their respective companies.

Here’s a taster of the type of clients we have worked with and the kinds of things they have been focusing on:

In the video games sector, we have worked on embedding inclusive behaviours, discovering and articulating company values and helping leadership focus on the most impactful D&I initiatives for their studio.

With one of our Life Sciences clients, we worked on building momentum towards greater diversity and inclusion for the entire company as well as enabling team managers to see and address common biases in the workplace.

With another Life Sciences client, we have been working on inclusive leadership within their European leadership team, to help them get the most from the diverse experiences of their senior leaders.

One of our clients – a global members’ organisation – needed us to bring awareness and tools on how to address diversity and inclusion into each level of the organisation, starting at the very top with its leadership team, through to its staff and the wider global membership.  In this case we used many different tools, including workshops on common biases, training on inclusive behaviours, the development of an inclusive behaviours framework that shows how to live the organisation’s values, and short video modules that bring diversity and inclusion to the minds of their members everywhere.

On an extended engagement with a global energy company, we have been working closely with its senior leaders – both at its HQ and in its biggest regions – to facilitate an understanding of how they can achieve their global and local D&I targets, and how to motivate and create company-wide enthusiasm for this transformation.

In all of these engagements, we have noticed that people are generally positive about D&I.  They understand the need for being more inclusive and the benefits that diversity brings.  What stands in the way is knowing how to make it happen – and that’s where we come in.

Throughout these engagements, we observed some wonderful breakthroughs in people’s thinking and I’d like to share with you a few lightbulb moments from their journeys:

  • A senior woman: My boss told me that my next hire should be a woman. I told him that for me it’s all about the best credentials for the role. Now that I have been to your workshop I realise it’s both; a woman who has the requisite skills will also offer a more diverse approach and perspective to a mostly male team.  I see now that this is an additional skill that I hadn’t appreciated before.  So now I will be looking out for a woman to join our male-dominated team.
  • A woman of Indian background: I have now realised that in my circles, diversity is seen quite narrowly and that, in most circumstances, I was ‘it’.  I now know that diversity is much broader than an ethnic background; it’s also about gender, age, educational background and so on.  I see now that others who may not seem ‘diverse’ might very well feel they too are from an underrepresented group.  So I will now put more effort into better understanding others and being more inclusive.
  • A male board member: We had this tension about whether to have more diversity on the board, with wide ranging views of what that might look like. The conversation was about representation, as our membership is 80% male and 90% white, some of us thought we were already representative. Now we realise that, in order for us to take good decisions for all our members it’s not just about representing them proportionally but about bringing in diverse thinking, bringing in people with a range of experiences and backgrounds, not just people with finance or legal background, like all of us currently have.
  • An HR Leader: We thought our progression processes had a clear, transparent structure, but now we see that was the case at the junior levels only.  At more senior levels the process is much more discretionary. Considering the biases we human beings have – and that we have just realised we have all experienced – that means it’s not as fair and objective as it could be. We are not the meritocracy we always thought we are.  It’s no wonder our gender pay gap isn’t reducing.  We need to have a meeting to get all those actions in place!
  • A senior male manager of a mainly male engineering project team:  I like working with women and I do try to hire them into our teams, but I was convinced that our specific roles are not attractive to women.  They are demanding and require quite a sacrifice – and that’s difficult when you’re responsible for your children as a mother.  So naturally I understood that women didn’t want to apply.  But what I realised in your workshop is that my assumption about women was no longer current or true.  Lots of women and men share responsibilities for their children and lots of women do want to work on our demanding projects, with the travel requirements and longer days.  We now realise that the reason they aren’t applying is not that they don’t want to, it’s that we are not doing enough to attract them.  This has changed my view on what I need to do next.
These are but a few of the wonderful shifts that we have been privileged to observe during our work.  Our work continues to open minds, challenge assumptions and improve work culture for more people, all the while making use of the opportunities that existed in plain sight and yet were not acknowledged or seen.  This is challenging and highly rewarding work and we thank you, our clients and supporters, for going on these journeys with us.

I hope you bear in mind that, if we haven’t worked together yet, we can help your colleagues break through some of these invisible walls, too.  All you need to do is reach out and tell us what you see at work.  We will be happy to give you our thoughts on how you might be able to do address it.

For now, though, we take a little breather from our work so we can begin with refreshed vigour in September. We hope you do too.