By Lucy Spain, Senior Manager, Customer Support, Xandr
To say we are a progressive industry would be an understatement. Digital technology drives significant changes across all aspects of humanity. Shouldn’t that inherently make ours the most inclusive companies to work for?
The loss of George Floyd, disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of colour, rise in anti-Asian hate, and the loss of Sarah Everard, have sent a current of grief across the globe. We know grief is complex and cannot be turned off like a light switch. The status-quo belief that work can exist in a vacuum separate from issues surrounding gender, race, and identity politics is misguided, biased, and antiquated. In sitting down at our desks, we do not have the option to remove our identity and sling it over the back of a chair with our branded hoodies.
Collaboration at work
Topics that were once viewed as too radical for the workplace, are now openly discussed. As a result, there’s been a surge in allyship across the technology industry. To be a successful ally is to listen, educate oneself, and publicly advocate for those who face discrimination. This is done at an individual level, and collectively at a company-wide level, like Yorkshire and PG Tips did with #Solidaritea last year.
Many employees find these public statements to be a good first step, but they want something more personalised, an assurance they are seen and valued as individuals. While the C-Suite formerly sent company-wide emails out in the wake of tragedy, they now realise being reactive isn’t enough.
Much like allyship must not be reactionary, inclusion must not be an afterthought. By engaging in conversation, including via company-wide Slack channels or LinkedIn, we have the opportunity to call people in instead of calling them out. Far too often we focus on making decisions for marginalised groups, instead of listening. In enabling them to share first-hand experiences and perspective, employees take ownership of their stance without fear, while encouraging their colleagues to show up, listen, engage and learn in company conversations.
As these conversations become more mainstream, we begin to collectively understand the intersectionality of our colleague’s identities. This has driven the change from E for ‘equality’ to ‘equity’. Inclusion is not about a group, it’s about the individual.
Impact over intent
In listening and raising our voices, we must recognise that intent does not equal impact. Power lies in actions, and how they impact our colleagues and our consumers. Moreover, we must be realistic in understanding that tying DE&I to the bottom line is critical in proving its value to the business. Femtech is a prime example of driving efficiency by listening to voices that have previously gone unheard. In her book Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez uses data to demonstrate how decisions are made on a “one-size-fits-men” approach. Femtech is collecting and using women’s health data to close the gap and develop products that women actually need.
How can allies start taking small steps forward to ensure we are building inclusive company cultures?
Like all things, we must start with the seed – recruiting. Equity means making access to job opportunities easier for people from historically marginalised groups and being transparent when there is a significant disparity in applications from these groups. The same must be said for job architecture and promoting talent.
At a company level, one idea is to have members of your company’s ERG/BRGs review them to identify any potential barriers to success. At the individual level, insisting on reviewing a diverse pool of candidates and undertaking thoughtful actions to ensure you’re reaching and interviewing a diverse pool of candidates is also critical.
Another area is awareness and reflection. What do your clients’ advertising campaigns look like? According to the The Black Pound Report Black, Asian, and minority ethnic UK spending power is £300 billion a year. Are you working with diverse creator networks to capture this? Some companies have started segmenting women and minority-owned businesses so they can be more easily identified and promoted. IPG Mediabrands recently announced they will work with brands to invest a minimum of 5% in black-owned media by 2023.
We all want to be part of a greater cause and work a job that is aligned with today’s fast-evolving world and its values. This is often apparent through company culture, but leadership must continue to build transparency around how this specifically works in your organisations. There is never a shortage of grassroots initiatives, but the grass can only grow so high. When leadership takes the time to nurture these efforts, we find ourselves growing to unprecedented heights.
*Xandr is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, the owner of NDA.