Whether it’s the rise in global activism or the disproportionate impact the global pandemic has had on women in the workforce, a renewed focus has been placed on the importance of corporate diversity and inclusion programs over the past 18 months. We sat down with Professor Sally Eaves, CEO, Aspirational Futures, and Bethany Saint Clair, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, OpenText™ to discuss the shifting diversity and inclusion landscape.
Q: How have you seen the diversity and inclusion landscape shift over the past year?
SE: Diversity and inclusion are becoming an embedded conversation—an everyday conversation—not something that’s a special topic or on the periphery. It’s central, it’s front and center, and that’s something that’s been fantastic to see. And Millennials and Generation Z are starting to push organizations to do more. I recently saw a piece of research that said up to 75 percent of Gen Z consumers would go as far as boycotting organizations that were shown to be discriminatory across advertising campaigns and other areas.
BSC: I see two major shifts in diversity and inclusion, one is that companies are setting serious goals that are much more ambitious than in years past and the second is that people are talking about diversity and inclusion at work. When I entered the workforce in the late ’90s, it was in employee handbooks that you were not allowed to talk about race, ethnicity at work; now, people are encouraged to share themselves and to discuss these issues at work.
Q: What challenges has the pandemic posed to diversity and inclusion initiatives?
SE: It’s made some gaps bigger, unfortunately, in certain areas—particularly for underrepresented groups in the technology sector. We’ve seen a bigger difference around pay disparity, as one example, and we are also seeing women being disproportionately affected by the pandemic as well in terms of job loss. Research shows that women were 1.6x as likely to have been laid off during the pandemic compared to men, and we’ve also seen higher numbers of people leaving jobs due to greater responsibilities around childcare or caregiving duties.
BSC: Any challenge for the entire population is a challenge many degrees of magnitude larger for the underrepresented populations. I’ve found if diversity and inclusion initiatives properly address the most marginalized populations, then they will be robust enough to be helpful in a challenge like the pandemic. For even the strongest D&I programs, the pandemic can expose gaps that might not have been obvious in healthy times. Any iterative and thoughtful D&I program should be able to take the learnings from the pandemic and use them to mindfully fill gaps found. When OpenText finds a gap, we figure out how to address it to give the best outcomes for our employees; that’s why we vaccinated our employees and their families in India.
Q: How can corporations adapt their diversity and inclusion programs to address the changing landscape?
SE: Change always starts with listening. With anything that an organization is trying to do, you need to make sure that every voice in your organization is heard, at every different level, so an active listening approach is important. In addition, making sure you have education for new entrants, for people who want to upskill or reskill, and for everyone from middle management up to senior leadership will open opportunities for everyone.
BSC: Listen, be open, be flexible and be iterative. Diversity and Inclusion are not a one-time action that fixes everything, D&I changes as we change and it’s an ongoing process to be the most equitable one can possibly be.
Q: Instagram and LinkedIn recently added pronoun sections to their user profiles. Will we continue to see this trend towards inclusive tech?
SE: I think the trend to inclusive tech is incredibly welcome and I think it’s here to stay. We currently have such momentum around inclusive tech and it’s affecting so many people on a global scale, particularly around some of the movements we’ve witnessed in the past year. Language matters. The stories we tell—whether it’s through data or conversations—are really important.
BSC: Definitely we will see more and more usage of pronouns in signatures and profiles; it helps people come together in a global environment and helps cross language barriers, in addition to being supportive of non-conforming gender identities.
Q: What can organizations do to embed diversity and inclusion into their culture?
SE: Narrative and tone are hugely important. So, if you have messaging on diversity and inclusion coming out from the top of your organization, that’s hugely significant. There are also several items organizations need to do as the bread and butter of a D&I program: things like unconscious bias training, or making sure you audit and review recruitment processes—and AI can help with that.
BSC: Embed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in all you do. Organizations need to put the ED&I lens on every aspect of business, governance, brand and communications. Obvious support from leadership is incredibly important. Especially when we consider how drastically the conversations on diversity have changed over the last 20 years, employees will look to leadership for cues on inclusion and culture.
Learn more about OpenText’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.