Part 1 of this post discussed the recent announcement of Microsoft’s new diversity initiative by CEO Sataya Nadella. Microsoft’s workforce demographics [Source: Business Insider] show that the company’s 100,000 employees work in 190 countries: 71% are men and 29% are women. There isn’t much of a surprise that 83% of the technical employees are men, and 83% of the leadership roles are held by men.
Nadella has pledged to change the color of its workforce. While we know what the company has said to those of us on the outside, I’m sure most of us would be more interested in knowing the types of discussions that have and are occurring on the inside.
Here’s some advice that I’d like to offer Mr. Nadella based on my own personal experiences of working as a STEM professional in small to large corporations, governments, non-profits, and small and entrepreneurial companies:
1. Don’t assume all employees are on-board: Mr. Nadella launched the new diversity initiative, therefore we assume that he is on board. What about the rest of his direct reports? other leadership team members? managers? developers, technologists, and other worker bees? Those in the C-suites may talk positively about diversity, however, too often that is about as far as it goes in many companies.
Too often when workers in the U.S. are told that they have to participate in a mandatory diversity training session, eyes roll and we know this is the last thing that they want to suffer through. How many times have I heard “oh not another 8-hours of wasted time”. “I didn’t learn anything new the last two times we did this.” And after suffering through a day of perceived wasted time and content, it’s back to business as usual (BAU) for just about everyone in the organization.
Most successful leaders and managers know that changing a culture and long-held beliefs in well-established organizations take time. Perhaps that explains why one-and-done training courses have yet to produce diversity in most organizations.
2. Expand your definition of diversity beyond race and gender: Unfortunately, because of the improper framing of the lack of diversity and how to best resolve this issue that started decades ago, when one hears the word diversity, most immediately assume this conversation is about race and gender. The fact of the matter is that diversity has always been more than about race and gender. More to the point, it transcends race and gender.
One of the most important forms of diversity that is often overlooked at business tables including that of C-level managers is diversity in thinking. Group think is an undesired characteristic for progressive work environments. It could easily threaten Microsoft’s brand and competitiveness in the market place.
I have seen more petty messes get started over a disagreement, or failure to accept that someone did not share the same opinion or view point. When the petty mess turned into character assassination, lack of support by the person that dared to disagree with another, attempts to terminate an employee, etc., the situation had mushroomed into a hot mess. Unfortunately, most of this was sanctioned by management that looked the other way, or did very little to put out the fire.
My message to the offended party(ies): Great minds do think a lot, however, they also think differently. In many cases, the offended party never attempted to understand the other person’s point of view before the mud-slinging began.
3. Leaving out inclusion is a deal breaker: Diversity and inclusion are not the same thing although many people use them interchangeably. As most of us know diversity is about differences that can range from subtle to vast in magnitude. Anything that makes us unique is a part of the diversity of human beings. One of the challenges for employees and companies is learning how to discuss these differences in a neutral tone.
Using the definition of T. Hudson Jordan, Director, Global Diversity & Talent Strategies at Pitney Bowes, Inc. [Ref A] “Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources, in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.”
So, here I am on point number three and wondering what if anything Microsoft has done in the past to address diversity? It didn’t take me long to find the answer on their website. There is a separate page dedicated to Global Diversity and Inclusion. The company goes on to state “In over 20 years of committed diversity and inclusion efforts, we’ve learned that diversity is not a finite goal; it is a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment.”
I’ll wrap this point and post up by saying developing an effective diversity and inclusion program is easier said than done. An organization of all white males, all females, or a particular religious denomination would benefit from an effective diversity and inclusion program.
Once again, great minds think alike and great minds also think differently.
A. Moving From Diversity to Inclusion, by T. Hudson Jordan, in Profiles in Diversity Journal, Nov-Dec 2014.