The Business Case for Diversity

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November13PanelistsFountainBlue’s November 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of the Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around leadership, innovation and diversity. But they had much in common:

  • they were all exposed to people from many cultures, languages and backgrounds and recognized the importance of having diverse viewpoints and accepting people for their differences;
  • they recognized and appreciated that they themselves are different, largely because their mothers helped them be confident in being original and respecting the differences in others;
  • they embraced diversity as a business advantage; and
  • they generously share their perspectives with their teams, with their company, with their community.

Collectively, our shared the following pearls of wisdom:

  • Do accept and respect that others have expectations about where you should fit and what you should do, but be your own person despite what they expect of you.
  • Respect that we are all different but equal, and all have something to share. These differences add more varied and diverse elements to work and life.
  • Find your talent, find your voice and speak your mind, while encouraging and supporting others to do the same. This takes self-awareness, patience, reflection and is part of an ongoing inner journey.
  • Know what you’re good at, accept who you are, and be passionate about what you do. With that said, STRETCH all of the above, don’t just complacently go through the motions.
    • As one panelist puts it, if you are a tiger, be that mover and shaker, if you are an elephant, be that reliable beasts of burden who get the job done but don’t be a hippo who swaddle in mud and occasionally raises his head.
  • Be strong, especially when it’s not easy to be different and un-accepted because of the differences. You are not just making a stand for yourself, but for others who are also different.
  • Develop and curate your own moral compass so that you can strike that balance between who you are, who you want to become, how you are responding to others, how others are influencing you, what you think is the right thing to do, and how to achieve the best-for-all-results. An integral part of achieving this goal is to embrace the thinking and perspectives of people not-like-you.
  • Take charge and reach for what you want to achieve in life and work, overcoming restrictions and barriers, collaborating and working with others.
  • In order to take charge, you need to curate the influence and support of those in charge. See what motivates them, show them why embracing your perspective and that of others who are different would provide a business advantage. Speak in a language they understand and respect to earn your credibility.
    • Consider that being overly-emotional might make some people uncomfortable and impact the message you would like to deliver, and how you are viewed. Manage your communication accordingly.
    • Consider that many people might be influenced by what you wear. For example, wearing skirts and jewelry might limit how others perceive you and take that into account. You could overcome these perceptions with your results and your words, but understanding how you will be perceived and making the other party comfortable and open might make it easier for you to get your message across and focus on the results, rather than gender.
  • Be patient with those who are judging you, restricting you, or trying to get you to conform. Understand the influences that have brought them to this state and work with them to embrace the value of thinking and doing things differently.

Below is advice for facilitating diversity within your organization.

  • Communicate the importance of diversity and its impact on products, team and solutions.
  • Help teams understand that they are on the same side, but may just perceive and respond differently.
  • Show management the data behind the diversity initiatives implemented.
  • Put the actions behind your words – encourage out-of-the-box thinking, hire diverse people on to your team, reward different perspectives, listen to those who see things differently, encourage people from different teams to participate, etc.,

In the end, we hope that the panelists and the event encourage all to better embrace diversity as an opportunity for you to rise and shine and find a better, deeper, more complete version of yourself and others around you.

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TI and our panelists for FountainBlue’s When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series, on the topic of the Business Case for Diversity:

​Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching
Panelist Monica S Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager, NetApp
Panelist April Greene, HR Director, Juniper
Panelist SK Lau, Product Line Engineering Operations, Texas Instruments
Panelist Shobhana Viswanathan, Product Marketing, VMWare

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