Cultivating diversity in business is not just a moral responsibility, it’s a strategic imperative. Studies have shown that diversity of perspectives and backgrounds is the key to innovation and resilience in the marketplace.
Amy Corn, academic program director for Georgia Tech's FinTech education program, recently hosted a panel discussion during a virtual summit, FinTech South 2021, with key leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the technology industry. The panel featured Audra Jenkins, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Randstad North America; Crystal Williams, Chief Human Resources Officer at FleetCor; Elizabeth Hoemeke, SVP IT Strategy and Global Business Services at Elavon; and Juatise Gathings, Regional Operations Director at Discover Financial Services.
Throughout the discussion, the group explored how the FinTech industry can harness the power of inclusivity and emerge as a leader in diversity.
Here are a few highlights from their conversation:
Equality and equity are not the same thing. [3:11]
Equality means giving everyone the same opportunity. Equity means we are meeting people where they are and giving people the things that they need to succeed. There are three things that technology companies need to do to cultivate equity in their workplace: commit to leading the efforts from the C-suite level, invest in diverse talent pipelines, and identify and eliminate internal bottlenecks and barriers, such as microaggressions. The goal of diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. Money and good intent will not guarantee successful outcomes, but it’s the effort and progress that counts.
COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of the progress made in DE&I, especially for women, since the 2008 financial crisis. [6:38]
But it’s not too late to recover that progress. Organizations should refocus their efforts to encourage women to enter or re-enter the workforce, while continually studying their workforces to reveal other gaps and opportunities for growth.
To cultivate a more holistic view of DE&I, we need to foster a sense of equity and belonging within the diversity of workplaces. [10:41]
We know that diverse teams are usually more innovative and resilient than non-diverse teams, however, unless there is a sense of belonging and equity within diverse teams, they are actually more likely to fail than non-diverse teams, because there is not an environment for innovation and resilience to flourish. To create a holistic view of DE&I as a business imperative, companies must foster DE&I in the culture and employee lifecycle of the organization, measure DE&I statistics continually, and encourage a wider understanding of diversity, such as geographical diversity.
What are some additional key actions or responsibilities that organizations should consider? [25:39]
Hoemeke emphasized the value of business resource groups (BRGs) in fostering a sense of community and belonging in a diverse workforce, by providing a space for groups of employees that have commonalities to come together. Jenkins reminded us of the importance of reskilling, which is vital to ensuring equity, as it continually prepares the most vulnerable in the workforce to inevitable change. Williams and Gathings both promoted community outreach: Tech companies should improve and provide more proactive career and workforce development in schools, such as STEM support. They should also partner with local organizations that are already working in this space to amplify their efforts and support local communities.
By increasing efforts to reach out to communities and provide a better sense of belonging within diversity, companies will not only support their local communities but will also strengthen their business operations and performance. “Diversity in the workplace is no longer something to aspire to,” remarked Corn. “It is a strategic imperative.”
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