How to Build a Visionary Team
“People are actually recognising and trying to put in place environments… to elevate the diversity of their teams.” From acknowledging challenges to proposing practical solutions, these technology leaders discuss the essential elements needed for companies to genuinely commit to fostering diversity in the workplace.
Studies consistently show that teams, diversity in the workplace and success are highly intertwined. Are businesses and its leaders fully aware of this–and what does a visionary business team mean exactly?
Diversity in the workplace: meet the panellists
With Lea Sellers moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate included:
- Lauren Sager-Weinstein, CDO, TFL
- Charlotte Baldwin, CDIO, Costa Coffee
- Christina Scott, CPTO, OVO
- Sarah Needham, Executive Leadership Advisor & Coach, Unique-U Coaching
- Miriam Murphy, CEO Europe, NTT Data
Diversity and the visionary team
Kicking off the debate, moderator Lea Sellers stated that studies consistently show that for teams, diversity in the workplace and success are highly intertwined. She asked the panellists if in their experience, if this is a known fact.
“People are actually recognising and trying to put in place environments, programs, et cetera, to elevate the diversity of their teams.” However, NTT Data’s Miriam Murphy argued that in reality, unless the workplace becomes performance-measured and driven, it will not be on the “top agenda”.
After recalling the objectives of the 30 Percent Club organisation, Lea argued that more women and diversity on boards result in greater profits for the company.
Charlotte Baldwin, CDIO at Costa Coffee, commented that another consultancy produced an “impactful” report linking performance and top-line growth to the diversity of the board. She also noted how the Board within her own organisations were having their own discussions on this.
“But unfortunately, unless you've got those strong data points, there are so many priorities vying for the attention of the exec, you know, we're all focused on so many burning issues and whatever's top of the list.”
She emphasised the challenge of competing priorities – arguing that technology leaders need to link and integrate diversity in the workplace and commercial performance in order for it to drive meaningful change.
The lack of action and the difficulty in implementing diversity initiatives are what have caught the focus and attention of Unique-U Coaching’s Sarah Needham, OVO’s Christina Scott and TFL’s Lauren Sager-Weinstein.
“I think we’re not having enough honest discussions about what is really holding us back.” Sarah also wants leaders to question what systemic issues within the business are preventing women from getting through.
Promoting diversity in the workplace
Lea asked the panellists: “Why is that message not getting through?”
Charlotte explained that her organisation has “fantastic talent pipelines”, bringing women up through the ranks and encouraging diversity in the workplace by paying more attention to the recruitment processes and talent management.
Moving onto more systemic issues, Charlotte pointed out that if you are a parent with young children, chances are you are doing most of the work from home. She emphasised the need to recognise and understand the times when a woman's focus might differ or might require different opportunities due to familial responsibilities.
In response to this, Miriam commented: “I cannot tell you how many times young starters in the company come up and they say, what was it like to build a career in technology as a woman?”
To solve this problem, she wants organisations to tackle this from a grassroots level. “I do think there's something about the foundations, media, how we portray opportunities.”
TfL’s CDO, Lauren Sager-Weinstein, argued that “things are getting worse.” She outlined that some of the biggest challenges her colleagues are facing are related to childcare and nurseries.
What struck Lauren is that it has become the norm for people to view childcare as something that women need to take care of with their salary, rather than a family investment. She believes that it is important to change this narrative.
“If childcare is seen as sort of a part of a family investment rather than offsetting a woman's salary, you won't have the risk of women dropping out of the workforce at certain ages and then struggling to come back when their children are old enough.”
Sarah believes that there is a shifting level of consciousness at a global level. Given her view on this, she argued that the only reason why this change is happening is because “things have got to be fairly bad for humans to actually change.”
This is not just occurring in the younger generations—those from Sarah’s generation are changing and evolving: “I hope that is what will help drive this change by all of us taking it as our responsibility to make the change for the next generations.”
Diverse teams are good teams
Sarah raised the point about creating psychological safety for employees within diverse teams: “We each need to take our own responsibility as to how we create that and actually what that enables within the business.”
Echoing the comments made by her fellow panellists, Sarah explained that one wrong reaction can take that trust away, compromising that “bottom line” and an employee’s psychological safety.
Technology leaders, and leaders in general, need to make the time and space to recognise the meaning behind their reaction and consider how they can do better next time and what they can improve going forward.
“The commitment to really make these changes does take time, energy.” Christina explained that showcasing companies successfully implementing diversity initiatives, such as being recognised as "best places to work," can serve as positive examples and encourage others.
“I think sometimes the ideas from the outside are stronger or heard stronger and so I think it is the commitment and that's I think where a lot of companies fall down.”
This roundtable was sponsored by NTT Data.
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