Microsoft presents Corinne Sharp with diversity is good for business

Microsoft presents Corinne Sharp with diversity is good for business


Hi, I’m Corinne Sharp. Thank you very much to Microsoft
Canada for having me participate in this amazing small/medium
business conversation, with so many
interesting and valuable topics. My session is on diversity
and inclusion in the workplace. Let me tell you a little bit
about myself and why this topic is important for
business success, and has become a
passion of mine. I am one of the founders
of the W.I.T. Network, Women in Technology. We are a global not-for-profit
organization who focus on supporting women of all ages,
and all stages of their career, in the tech sector. We also support organizations
who are striving for a more diverse talent pool
within their teams and are looking for guidance
and support in this area. And we have an amazing
SHEnovator Junior Board Program so that we can foster that
interest in S.T.E.M. education for high school-aged
girls who are still so often discouraged in pursuing science,
math, and engineering futures. Or they just believe it is all
about sitting behind a computer coding all day, when in reality,
technology companies hire all sorts of roles, and every
organization has technology at the heart of
their operations. The W.I.T. Network
has over 3,000 members globally and have local communities
in over 30 countries. So let’s talk about why business
leaders today are building D&I, diversity and inclusion,
into their business strategies. Whether you are a large
company like Microsoft, who has masterfully
shifted their people strategy, or a small 15-person
organization who wants a more
diverse employee base and is struggling
with how to get there, it has been proven:
diversity and inclusion is good for business. There can be little
argument against the value of a diverse workplace. Some would say it is imperative
to driving innovation, increasing creativity,
and securing market share, but diversity also makes growth
and recruitment more manageable, and helps to limit the word
all employers want to avoid: “turnover.” Glassdoor did a survey recently
and two-thirds of respondents said the level of
diversity was important when evaluating job offers. Hiring employees with differing
backgrounds in religion, age, sexual orientation,
political affiliation, personality, and education
can become invaluable to your organization. Less than 5% of
C.E.O.s in Canada are women. Greater than 50% of companies
have no female executives. In 2018, a comprehensive study
of women’s status in corporate North America was sponsored
by Lean In and McKinsey. They found that women continue
to be underrepresented at every level. Women are less likely to be
hired for entry-level jobs, less likely to be hired
into manager-level jobs, and far less
likely to be promoted. And while I may
emphasize the gender imbalance, there are challenges
across the board. 22% of people aged 15 years
and over have a disability, which represents 6.2
million Canadians. The average hourly wage rate
in the employed population 15 and over: men
are paid $28.77. Women are paid $25.03. What’s wrong with that? Yet we are still not seeing
diversity at the top or even middle layers within companies
with a diverse representation. Does that mean it
is not important, or some may even say that
companies are not walking the talk if they are stating
they have a D&I strategy yet there are no women,
or people of colour, or someone who
identifies as LGBTQ2? Does this encourage people to
apply to your organization? I heard recently of a company that hosted a
women’s at meeting. They were so proud of their
first meeting to focus on women and inclusivity
in their company. Until a young women in her early
twenties stepped up to the mic to address the group
onstage during the Q&A section. She boldly said, while
the event was fabulous, all she saw on stage
were all old white dudes. And how could she aspire to
be a manager in a company that didn’t have any
women in management? The very discussion of diversity
can be hard for some groups. Many companies focus on
specific diversity initiatives. However, true inclusivity must
also address the needs of all workers, including
the effects of ageism, disabilities, and
immigrant workers, as I mentioned earlier about
Canada being one of the most multicultural countries
in the world. And for the first time
ever, many companies have five generations of
employees they are supporting. But a diversity strategy isn’t
just about hiring more women, or people with
different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation,
or disabilities. It’s about creating the kind of
organization that all people will want to join and where
they’ll want to remain because they know it will give
them the opportunity to grow, contribute, and
eventually lead and govern. Here’s a positive story
about a company leader who was so respectful of an
employee’s religious beliefs. Some religions do
not drink alcohol and are so
committed to their faith, they are not comfortable being
around others who do. They don’t pass judgment, it’s just part of their
religious beliefs. How would you handle
this at company events? Well, this C.E.O.
first asked the employee, because it was important to have
their opinion, and the C.E.O. wanted all employees
and often their spouses to be welcomed at
company events. They agreed that for
the first two hours, company events would be
completely alcohol free. Everyone understood,
everyone felt valued, and I believe this is a
leader who respects and leads an inclusive organization. So how should a small/medium
business organization think about diversity
and inclusion? We hear about the large
companies in the news doing fantastic work and
leading the charge with the D&I conversation. How they are working with
their employees with different abilities to
shape product design. How their focus on
acceptance and working together, independent of your
background or orientation, is driving such a
fundamental shift in the culture of the business. I am sure it is part of what is
driving the incredible success of this company. What can we learn as smaller
businesses from the larger ones? We don’t have a chief
diversity officer or V.P. of belonging
and inclusivity. In many small companies, there isn’t even
an H.R. person. It is left up to the C.E.O. and
his or her management team to come up with the policies,
set the hiring tone and the diversity within
their organization. Here is a top 10 list of
ideas to kick-start your D&I initiatives. Number one: change
your hiring practices with diversity in mind. Building diversity into the
hiring process is important, but what does that mean? Obviously, adhering to federal
employment equity standards is a good start. Here are a few quick tips. Encourage diverse
employees to recruit friends and acquaintances. Meet with cultural organizations
for potential applications. They will applaud your
efforts with support. If there is a hiring test, see that managers are
adhering to it. “Harvard Business Review”
articles noted that even when hiring tests were in place,
they were used selectively and that the results
were ignored. And a recent S.M.B. survey
stated that employees with disabilities are being
considered for roles. S.A.P. and Microsoft
have both started programs to recruit employees
on the autism spectrum, whose special skills are often a
great fit with technology work. Number two: create an
employee resource group that focuses on inclusion,
culture, and diversity of ideas. You may not have a large
enough employee base to create individual E.R.G.s
such as an LGBTQ2, African Canadian,
women, indigenous, or people with
various abilities. You could create one
employee-led resource group that focuses on how people
will work together, collaborate, and
support an inclusive culture. Number three:
acknowledge holidays, religious and
otherwise, in your office. It’s not about
abandoning the word “Christmas.” It can be all about
acknowledging all holidays that your employee
base observes. Let’s be children again
and be curious about each other’s backgrounds. Instead of avoid, seek to
understand and embrace. Number four:
establish diversity policies. Company policies may refer to a
wide range of diversity themes, including gender,
sexual harassment, disabilities,
race, and religion. While the goal is
overall acceptance, inclusiveness, and equal
opportunity for everyone, managers who have assessed
their current D&I state will be better equipped to
adjust those policies going forward. Number five: just because a
diversity policy is developed and written doesn’t mean it
has been clearly communicated, understood, or will be followed. Training is a good way to
communicate the policies and the expected behaviour,
with examples and sometimes role-playing. It also explains how to
communicate concerns to management when
someone may feel attacked, discriminated against,
or even unsafe. And that leads us to education. Training on unconscious bias has
been popular and quite frankly really insightful, as we all
have to look at our own bias that we didn’t even
realize we had or that we inflict on our
children, employees, and others. But one training course does
not make a D&I strategy and an action plan. An effective strategy
incorporates training, awareness, and
employee-led groups to support your
corporate vision. Number seven: hold
people accountable. As business leaders, we all
know what this one means. As soon as there are cracks in
your diversity and inclusion success, at any level,
they need to be dealt with. Glassdoor bad reviews and poor
past employee references can really hurt your
future hiring success. I have seen it in the
online in the social circles, even if you as a manager do not. The chatter is loud out
there for bad companies with bad behaviours. Don’t let that be
your organization. Number eight: offer mentoring
programs and buddy systems. Implementing mentoring offers
a casual relationship between employees, especially someone
new to your organization. The increase of diversity in
the workplace represents an inclusivity opportunity,
especially for your diverse employee number one. It is up to you as the leader
to ensure they are welcomed and accepted. If you hire your first female
employee into a company that may have a strong bro
culture, you need to change, not the female employee. If you hire an employee with
different religious needs, disabilities, or
cultural requirements, just ask and
respond with respect. And mentoring programs can
support these initiatives. Number nine: be intentional. Be intentional in
your hiring practices if you want a diverse workforce. It’s okay to state and
ask in today’s climate. The conversation is happening,
so leverage it to be the best business and
employer you can be. Be intentional with your
management team to hire with diversity when
it is time to replace or hire new management,
board members, or advisors. And be intentional with
your leadership style to create a truly
inclusive environment. And if that means
gender-neutral bathrooms, rip down those
male/female signs! And finally number 10: evaluate
your diversity progress. Many companies use surveys to
measure the effectiveness of the organization. Evaluations commonly measure
employee job satisfaction, turnover, and satisfaction
with the work environment. And some organizations
include this evaluations as part of their strategic
planning process. If you are doing
this, or maybe should be, just keep your D&I focus in mind
for question development and how you will respond
to both favourable and unfavourable results. As Brene Brown, the
author of “Dare to Lead”, said: “Employees want to
be safe, seen, heard, respected, and cared for.” Don’t we all? Thank you for being part of
this very important conversation about diversity and
inclusion in business.

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