Diversity, Inclusion...

...and dance like no one is watching!

When I get asked about D+I, I sometimes surprise people, with the answer, that - one - for me, diversity starts with the diversity of the individual, of one person. And two - that though I see company networks as valuable to make different facets that are present visible, the ultimate goal is to unite all those different facets to create a creative and resilient organisation.

The ways you can look at diversity are as diverse as the topic that it is about. Often, what companies start out with, is catching up their backlog on gender equality or minorities representation in their organization by creating networks and / or setting quotas. Gender equality in the workplace - in today's day and age - should be common sense, not a project for a newly created department.

«Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging is dancing like no one's watching.»

Verna Myers et al.

Diversity of the individual and diversity of the organisation, as I mention them in the lead, are actually very similar. We all are the sum of the experiences over our lifetime. Every success and every failure makes us who we are. Because of my transition, I often get the question, if my career would have looked the same, if I would grown up female. The intention behind the question being: would your employer have given you the same opportunities? My answer is no, but for a different reason. The fact that I am transgender, felt ashamed and afraid to be discoverd, made me work hard, to suppress the thoughts that haunted me, pushed me out of my comfort zone to find my path, made me discover the 'high' one gets, when you master your discomfort and how you develop and grow along the way. The person I am today is the sum of all those experiences. Had I been born female, I might still have become CEO of an insurance company but my journey to get there would have looked a lot different.

All those diverse experiences allow me to look at a question through different lenses and maybe come up with more than one answer.

The same way a person is the sum of their life experiences, an organization is the sum of the people working there. Allowing them to bring their entire and authentic selves to the workplace creates a colorful, creative and resilient organization.

Imagine...

A six-member Executive Committee with three men and three women. A mix of sexual orientation and cultural background... and they all graduated from the same business school in the last ten years. How much diversity do you think, you will find in their analysis of a situation and decision making in the professional environment? How do you activate the other facets of their personality?

Ask men to dance

In the last few years, I had the opportunity to speak at company events - most often organized by D+I of the organization - about my story. At quite often, I was introduced to a (male) member of the board or executive committee, who was presented as the sponsor of the company's D+I activities.

At first, I felt honored. Over time, I also started to see a pattern. I spoke to the women's or LGBT+ network of the company which was sponsored by someone, who did not fit the criteria to be part of these networks.

In none of the companies I visited, I found a D+I network for white, middle class, heterosexual, able bodied men.

As I wrote above: We are all the sum of our life experiences and when we are looking to create equal opportunity workplaces, where everyone can share their different views and experiences, we are missing the facets of men.

And if men see themselves only as sponsors and patrons of D+I activities but standing beside or above of what is happening, no meaningful dialogue on eye-level can exist. Men can share a thing or two as well, about fitting a type, being sidelined for wanting to share a little more time with family, etc..

Dear men, please join us on the dance floor, so we can learn from each other and change our organisations together as equal partners.

Diversify Processes

In a merit based culture, the best person for the job should always get the job.

In her book "What Works", Iris Bohnet begins with the story of how blind auditions behind a curtain for orchestras changed the composition of these orchestras towards more gender equality. Changing the way you select towards required skills and character while eliminating or reducing the aspects that might blur our neutral lenses will go a long way to a level playing field.

But I get ahead of myself. Before you can select, candidates need to apply. You already know the story of the ad with 10 requirements for a job. Men look at it, fulfil 5 out of 10 and apply ("I can always learn the rest. Fake it, 'til you make it"). Women tick the box for 9 out of 10 ("Too bad I miss that one skill, would have been a great job-opportunity") and don't apply.

Headhunters, men and women tell women: "You should be more courageous. You don't have to have 10 out of 10 to apply. Go for it! You can learn." I agree! That's what "growth happens beyond the comfort zone" is all about. But we cannot all be extraverted, self-confident go-getters. If there is only one process to get selected for a job, you only get candidates that feel comfortable or can be successful within that process. If you are committed to create a diverse, inclusive and equal opportunity work force, you also need to diversify the ways you look for candidates to fill your positions.

Diversity is Art is Diversity

In February Swiss Re Institute organized their first "The Power of We" event and with Michelle King or Prof. Dr. Gudrun Sander, who brought their expertise to a large audience of the insurance industry. Internal voices of Swiss Re shared their commitment to create a more inclusive and diverse organisation.

The last speaker of the day was not an HR or D+I expert, but an artist who, with her art, makes diversity and our uniqueness tangible, visible and she captured our hearts. Angélique Dass is a beautiful soul, grown up in Brazil and she describes her family as full of colors. Her dad, adopted by her grandparents intensely dark chocolate, her grandmother's as porcelain-toned, her grandpa a mix between vanilla and strawberry and her mother cinnamon-skinned. When you listened to her, describing other family members as toasted peanut or pancake colored, you could close your eyes to see and smell the colors.

Her colorful family heritage and her photography experience met in the "Humanae" project. "Humanae" is her photographic work in progress, an unusually direct reflection on the color of the skin, attempting to document humanity’s true colors rather than the untrue labels “white”, “red”, “black” and “yellow” associated with race. It’s a project in constant evolution seeking to demonstrate that what defines the human being is its inescapably uniqueness and, therefore, its diversity.

Currently more than 4'000 pictures exist, emphasizing that our human uniqueness does not just come from within but is also reflected in the color of our skin. A truly stunning visualization of diversity.

But she explains it much better in her TED-Talk.


Talking about vulnerability as a "superpower" at the Forbes Women's Summit 2019 in Zürich

If this topic moves you as well, then don't hesitate to contact me to find out, how we can learn and make progress together.

Photo Credit Title Picture: shutterstock.com