You can also listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
This episode was originally recorded at the Global Inclusion Online Forum and features a conversation about measuring gender equality. Discover the common miscalculations and best measurement practices that ensure progressive growth and prosperity of the corporate workforce as well as the most common gender equality metrics used in global corporations. You’ll also hear about how to use the combination of measurements to create a thriving work environment for all.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
Measuring inclusion while not very easy is doable. And so when you think about your engagement surveys, including questions around, am I valued, am I heard? Including questions around, do I feel like I have a voice at the table? Including questions around how my leader, my manager, my direct manager supports me I think are important questions to have. And then do I work for an organization that values diversity? The other thing I think is important organizations have to understand that if I’m going to ask questions, I have to be prepared to do something about it.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate, committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore, more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now, onto the episode.
Hello and welcome back to the Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded at the Global Inclusion Online Forum and features a conversation between Jennifer and a panel of experts on measuring gender equality. Joining the conversation are Sandra Quince, CEO at Paradigm for Parity, Michelle Charles, global diversity and inclusion lead, customer success at SAP, and Silke Heinrichs, global diversity and inclusion partner at Roche. And the panel discusses the most common gender equality metrics used in global corporations, ways to measure and influence female empowerment and job satisfaction, as well as how to use the combination of measurements to create a thriving work environment for all. All this and more. And now onto the conversation.
Please welcome Jennifer Brown. Third time in a row she’s attending our Global Inclusion Online Forum.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you so much. Third time. Oh my goodness. Time flies. I always enjoy this event so much and today is going to be no exception. This conversation and these leaders have so much to share with all of you on this topic of gender equity and metrics and measurement, which we all know is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. And we know what gets measured gets done. So these are leading companies you’re going to hear from about their best practices. And we really need to listen closely to how these incredible brands are navigating this landscape and really making it real, making progress real. And you will hear honest assessments as well about where we are with our progress, right? Because we’re all working on the future and building the future, but we are hitting roadblocks along the way of all kinds.
And that’s always an important part of the metrics conversation is how to structure measuring progress. How do we make sure we’re holding ourselves and our institutions accountable and our leaders accountable? But at the same time, supporting the understanding of the problem, the understanding of the opportunity, the understanding of the missed opportunity when we don’t drive gender equity throughout our organization. So I’m going to actually ask each of my guests today to introduce themselves, tell us a little bit about their role, and give us sort of an opening thought on this topic maybe from a personal standpoint on what this work really means and why it’s so important. And then we’re going to delve into these organizational strategies that you’re going to get so much out of I know. So let me start with Michelle Charles. Michelle, I would love to start with you if that’s all right. Tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re dialing in from and give us some context for the work that you’re doing and the industry and the company that you’re doing it for.
MICHELLE CHARLES: Okay, great. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’m so happy to be here. And I must say I’m a huge fan, so I’m highly intimidated but really excited to be able to be on the same stage with you, Jennifer. And of course, with the rest of the panelists. So I’m head of diversity and inclusion for SAP’s customer success organization. It’s a global role and it’s basically our sales and our consulting organization. So it’s around, the last time I counted, around 41,000 people strong across many different locations and regions across the globe. I am South African. A lot of people say, oh my God, I know you’re South African because they recognize the accent. I always think, I’ve been out of South Africa since 2005 but the good thing is I have maintained the accent. I’ve worked in China. Predominantly, my background is in the consulting space, SAP consulting. And that’s been my, I would say, 20 years out of my 28 year career.
And then I did a little stint in operations and I’ve been doing the diversity role now for the last six years and based out of Singapore. SAP has been working on this topic for many years. We’ve got a very robust DNI strategy, but I think we struggle with some of the struggles to many organizations, right? In terms of addressing the KPIs, which we’re going to be talking about. But with a huge organization like ours, 107,000 strong, I think the numbers is one issue. But more importantly for me is how do we address the culture and the environment to ensure that we sustain that diversity and that diversity thrives? And so that is a huge focus for us moving forward, not only for women, but for everyone. So be really looking at how are we inclusive of everyone in the organization.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you, Michelle. Feeling is mutual of admiration. These folks are leading the tough efforts internally that are very complex, as I know we’ll all talk about. It is not for the faint of heart to lead this discussion and put these things in place and then figure out how do we encourage/require folks to change and align with the vision for where we know we need to go? And so it’s a complex and amazing field to be in and to share with all of you. Thank you, Michelle. So Sandra, Sandra Quince. Hello. Would you like to introduce yourself?
SANDRA QUINCE: Hi, Jennifer. It’s such a pleasure to be here with all of you today. And so thank you so much for the invitation. So yes, Sandra Quince. I sit in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And for those that may not know where Tulsa is, we’re in the center of the United States and we are home to Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre. So you may have heard of that. And so I am the CEO of Paradigm for Parity. I come by way of Bank of America’s Leader on Loan program. I bring well over 15 years of experience in HR, diversity equity and inclusion, and formally at Bank of America was helping to lead the global strategy, manage our global diversity and inclusion council, which is led by the CEO Brian Moynihan. But my work now really is around leading Paradigm for Parity, which is a coalition organization that partners with companies and organizations to help them achieve gender parity with the lens on racial equity.
We understand as all of you do the important work of driving diversity, equity, and inclusion, but you have to lead with data and follow with passion. And I’m so excited today that we’re going to talk about that. Our organization has helped companies to really be thoughtful around their strategic direction. So not only do we talk about the challenges around the data and where we are today, but we also provide real solutions and strategies through our five point action plan, as well as our key tactics and our office shelf resources. We’re also challenging our organizations to really set bold and audacious goals and to achieve gender parity within 15 years of joining the organization, but in the near term to be really thoughtful around at least 30% representation at every level in their organizations. So I’m excited to be part of this conversation here today with the rest of you and look forward to the conversation.
JENNIFER BROWN: Excellent, Sandra. Wonderful. We’ve known each other for a while and have shared many conversations and panels over the last couple of years, Sandra. I applaud your leadership and Paradigm for Parity. So lucky to have you on loan. That’s lovely. And I love the model of that too. So finally, Silke Heinrichs. Hello?
SILKE HEINRICHS: Hello.
JENNIFER BROWN: Introduce yourself.
SILKE HEINRICHS: Thanks for having me on this panel, it’s very exciting. Yes. I’m dialing it from Germany, which means we have a good representation around the globe. And I’m here for Roche. And you probably know Roche because of the COVID test. So we’re a healthcare company based out of Switzerland in Basel. And yeah, approximately 100,000 employees. And we lead the global diversity and inclusion topic as a self-organized team to fully embrace agile structure. So there are six of us global DNI partners. And for Roche, the topic of diversity and then inclusion is really at the core of the business because we know that patients are diverse and unique across the globe.
And it’s part of everything we do that we want to serve all communities, all patients with all the diversity and uniqueness. And so, we’re a data driven organization because we’re full of scientists. So people really want to understand what’s going on and they want to measure progress and they want to see the root causes of things. So not just the progress, but also why is there such a problem and what can the data tell us to actually be able to target our actions? So I’m very happy to be here today to contribute to this.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you, Silke. Well, let’s just dive right in. Sandra, let me start with you. Does every effective gender strategy start and need to start with metrics and how do we ground the need for change? And then the skill set that is needed to change and the accountability, how do we ground that correctly so that everything is aligned to incentivize behavior change and systems change. And what are some of those key metrics we actually start with? And I’m curious what you’ve seen really work and what you’ve seen perhaps not work so well.
SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah, no, Jennifer, that’s a great question. So really when you think about it, we have diversity and inclusion. And I think sometimes what people do is they make the mistake of putting that into one word, diversity and inclusion. And so yes, absolutely. You have to start with data in order to be effective in your strategy. So I want you to picture this. You’re working for a business and you are selling products and you are building a business strategy and plan, but you have no data. So how do you build that strategy and that plan? How do you execute it and implement it? And so if we know that we would never have a business strategy without data and analytics to tell us where we need to market our product, how we need to form our product, who we need to sell that product to, how much of that product are we selling, why would we then create a diversity and inclusion strategy without measurements and clear data?
So that’s number one. So yes, you have to lead with data and then follow with your strategy and your plan and your passion around creating it. So that’s the first thing. And the other thing I think you also need to be thoughtful about is how do you measure the inclusion piece? And I think one of our speakers, it may have been Michelle that talked about the culture and the environment. Because besides just measuring who you see every day that shows up and who works for you and what they look like and where they sit, so I’ll talk a little bit about that, you also have to measure the culture, the environment, what environment really creates an opportunity for that employee base and especially women, because we’re talking about gender today, thrive? And so you also have to think about how do I measure inclusion?
So yes, you have to lead with data. That is the first point in building your strategy. The second thing is how do you integrate that into your current business strategy? So you talked about holding your leaders accountable. And when the highest levels in your organization, starting with your CEO, sits down with here’s or her direct reports and they talk about that business strategy, they should also be talking about diversity, equity and inclusion. And they should also have bold and audacious goals that they have set or targets, right? That they’re trying to reach in order to ensure that they are holding themselves accountable. There are really three levers that you pull in this space, Jennifer, that really make progress. So you have to think about how am I hiring? What are your goals around that? How am I developing and promoting my talent? What are your goals around that?
And how am I retaining my talent and what are your goals around that? And so what you quite simply must do to make progress is to say, where are we today? And how do we continue to measure I need to be at or above that in all three of those areas in order to sustain and then make progress year over year? So that’s where you really should be measuring and putting clear processes to inspect each of those areas around. The other thing that you have to do I talked about is who works for you and at what level? So you should be measuring not only women, but you should be looking at women by ethnicity. And so Hispanic, Latina. You should be looking at women by Asian and you should be looking at women by black, African American, by every ethnicity in your organization. You should be looking at where you bring them into the organization. You should be looking at the promotional rates, so where they sit in the organization. You should be looking at levels, how far are they from the CEO or the C-suite in your organization? You should be measuring that. And managers. You should be measuring your manager population. So there are many different ways that you can really look at and measure to ensure that we are making progress at every level in the organization. And last but not least, Jennifer, I’ll talk about the accountability piece. When you think about upskilling, you really should look at your manager population. Who is managing your people and what is that percentage? I will tell you one of the things that Bank of America did a few years ago was to say, how much of our employee base are our managers leading?
What we found is that our manager population was managing over 80% of our employee base. So you talk about a company that’s over 200,000 people that sits around the globe in more than 30 countries and you have these select few managers that are managing 80 plus percent of that population. So what I say is start there as well as with your C-suite, right? Because you always have to start at the top. Leadership drives everything. But what are you doing to upscale your managers, to ensure that they’re inclusive, that they understand your D, E, and I strategy and they can execute on that strategy. How are you supporting them and upskilling and reskilling them to be the player coaches and inclusive leaders that you need them to be?
JENNIFER BROWN: So much in that. Oh goodness. I hope everybody was taking notes. So you mentioned intersectionality so important, everybody, to look deeper at the diversity within the diversity. So when we say gender, we need to cut that data and understand that data, yes, by country, by region, by level. Also, by overlapping identities, right? So white women’s experience different than black women’s experience, different than LGBTQ plus women. And when we say women, Silke, I’m going to invite you in here too because we had such a wonderful conversation about gender identity as well as sort of this cutting edge piece around we’ve been having a binary conversation about gender in terms of what we measure, right? But I know at Roche, you’ve been trying to go beyond the binary as well, which is really important too for us to get our heads around. And it’s hard because sometimes our HRIS systems don’t support tracking things. And sometimes we also don’t want to go so fast with an organization that we lose people’s understanding in their buy-in. So calibrating to what are cultures ready for and also parts of the world that may or may not be ready for certain conversations too, vis-à-vis the conversation we might be having in the US, just to give one example. So Silke, tell us about your landscape, and feel free to react to what Sandra shared and also, tell me how you try to capture intersectionality on different levels, and get beyond the binary in terms of how you collect data.
SILKE HEINRICHS: Yeah. And I think here, we need to differentiate what we collect on a global basis, and it’s very clear that the general understanding is yet gender is not binary. But what can you collect overall across the world? And at least there is the option to say it doesn’t apply, or do not want to disclose. We have a small percentage that does not go into either or. But of course, we have to protect our employees wherever they work. So we’re not going to ask them please disclose something that is illegal in your local country. And we’re thinking globally here. So that’s important. But when we run surveys and not HRIS system questions, we are able to go beyond that and really ask what is your sexual orientation? What is your sexual identity would? Is there anything else you would like to share? Are you part of the LBGT community as an ally? So all these different options are there.
And when it comes to intersectionality, we also observe differences across the globe. So many parts of the world, we cannot capture race and ethnicity as you were mentioning, Sandra. And then there are other parts of the world where the identities that cross over differ, for example. In Continental Europe, the question of parenting is super important to leveling the playing field and being visible, and being able to thrive, and getting the cool projects. So there’s more emphasis here on that. Now, but of course, in North America and in the UK, question of race and ethnicity, and these intersectional questions are very important. But here, again, we have to find a global umbrella approach, and then a customized local approach where it fits. So measuring progress globally, still relatively binary, or very binary, but then digging deeper into different functions in different countries, we can ask questions, voluntary [inaudible 00:19:34] questions that go much deeper and beyond that. And that helps us understand the situation and target our measures.
JENNIFER BROWN: Great. And could we stay with you, Silke, just really quickly. You and I had a great conversation about what is driving the need for equity, and representation, and inclusive cultures for your company. I know we talk about innovation, we talk about representing the world, and the need for the business case for that. So how would you articulate the urgency of this and identifying maybe where do we need to go to close the gap, to represent, to be representative of those that we serve? Because really, all of this comes back to that. And so I want to help our folks think about how do we speak about this in terms, to our organizational leaders, where it’s going to resonate and feel very urgent, feel very important? Because sometimes this work can be dismissed, sometimes it can be sidelined as not prioritized, but I know that that’s not true for you in your environment.
SILKE HEINRICHS: Yeah, for us, it’s not true because as I mentioned, we are doing now what patients need mixed. And patients are not of one gender, and patients are not of one skin color, and of one weight, and of one age. So we have the diversity and we have to make sure that our diagnostics and medicine support and help each individual. And we need this diversity that is outside in the world inside the company, to be able to be successful. So that’s very, very simple and straightforward, and everyone understands. And then of course, we have the innovation side, the creative thinking side, and we know that we need diversity of thought for that, but we also of course need inclusion.
Without inclusion, without psychological safety, that doesn’t happen and doesn’t work. But it’s also about who are we as a company? What’s the world we want to shape? What’s the contribution? So that goes more already to society at large. What is it? And yeah, the rising tide lifts all boats, so we are really thriving for a more equitable working environment where everyone can thrive. And I think that’s what’s very motivating for everyone to contribute. So it’s the clear business case, it’s very rational because of diversity of thinking, and it’s the right thing to do. And that’s a good combination.
JENNIFER BROWN: That is an unstoppable combination, absolutely. So Michelle, we’re coming to you, tell me about your approach to measuring and accountability. And curious again, sometimes what we measure incentivize right and wrong behaviors. And we learn this over time and through experimentation because every culture’s different, and every part of the world is different in terms of what people will resonate with, and really not just be willing to do, but also able to do in terms of moving things along. So what would you say? I think a lot about what gets measured gets done. And I think there’s a little bit of a caution in that at the same time. Measurements are powerful. So how do we wield them? How do we put them in place? What are the ones that work, in your opinion, to the optimal outcome? And what have you learned about the science and the art of measurement? Oh, you’re on mute. There you go.
MICHELLE CHARLES: Yeah, so thanks for the question. And absolutely, I definitely agree that what gets measured gets done, to a certain extent of course. And it can be both a good and a bad thing, but mostly good if it drives the right behavior. And so at the base level, if you measure something, it gives you the information you need in order to make sure you are actually achieving what you set out to do. And it helps in two ways. The first way is in terms of motivation. The simple act of measurement is going to increase people’s motivation to act and to perform. But in our organization, interestingly enough, measurement also creates a very interesting sense of rivalry between teams. So we are finding, we’re very much a sales culture. And so when we have different KPIs and we share the KPIs across board areas and regions, there’s definitely an element of the teams wanting to compete with each other, and who does best on the metrics, so that’s helpful.
But there’s also that level of accountability, which we all spoke about. Obviously, when we set goals and measures, and we perform against those goals and measures, we have the ability to not only hold ourselves accountable, but also to hold others accountable for the success and the results of those, of that attainment. On the flip side though, what we need to be really careful about is where the measurement really leads to the right outcomes. And this is where we sometimes find it can be challenging. So I’ll give you an example. Just because you’re tracking women in leadership, let’s use that as an example, if you’re tracking women in leadership on a quarterly basis, it doesn’t actually help you increase women in leadership as a metric. And that’s the danger, in that tracking doesn’t necessarily result in the right outcomes. So you really need to look at it. When we look at measures, we look at it from two perspectives.
And what we call the lagging indicators, so let’s say, women in leadership is 23%, this is the result, and it can’t be changed. But what is important that you also need to address the leading indicators, which drive the outcome of that measure. And by this, I’m looking at things like, for example, the number of promotions you’ve had, the number of leadership roles you have available, et cetera, that’s going to impact that outcome. So that’s also very important. So another area we also look at is making sure that we are measuring the right things in the right way. We alluded to this as well earlier in the discussion, that it needs to be directly linked to what you want to achieve as an organization. It needs to be linked to your business strategy, and that is how you’re going to get buy-in. And it’s not just about throwing numbers on a page or having an Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of rows and columns with data. You need to be able to understand what the data is telling you, you need to be able to have a story to tell with the data.
Where are the challenges that you’re seeing? What is the data reflecting in terms of the opportunities that are out there? So a simple example, if you look at your female metrics, they might look really good at an overall level, but if you start digging deeper, and at a granular level, you might see issues coming up in that area. For example, you might see that actually, yes, overall, we’ve got great numbers, but it’s predominantly at junior levels and not at senior levels, which we need to really pay attention to. Other areas I found in terms of metrics is that we are seeing a bit of big backlash. So if we have KPIs specifically around gender, we have male colleagues saying, “Well, what about us? Why don’t we have KPIs against for our demographic? We are not being promoted.” So it’s very important to be transparent and to communicate the reason as to why it’s important to have targets and metrics in these specific demographics, because unfortunately, these areas are not being addressed.
And so we have to have goals so that to ensure that we are opening up the pool, and we are attracting more diverse candidates, and we are hiring more diversely because obviously our bias does come in the way.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, let’s stay on that for a moment. One of my favorite topics, something I get asked about all the time, the backlash, the resistance, the questioning, the questioning of the validity and the need for this work, which is I know all of us and many that are probably listening think, ” What do you mean? Is that even in question?” Because we all know the world is diversifying our patients, our customers, our clients, our talent pool. This is an expectation of inclusion and inclusive cultures from our younger generation of talent coming in as well. So we are lagging behind, particularly in the upper levels, when we talk about gender representation, let alone inclusion, which is that piece, if you can get them in the door, can you keep them? Can you grow them? Will they grow all the way to the C-suite? That’s the inclusion question.
So Sandra, I’m sure you have some thoughts on what your response is to the resistance, and how it shows up to this effort. And how do you optimize the way that we position this so that we get people right on board, we generate buy-in and we objectively manage the questioning of the need for this, and also incentivize people to not only not resist, but actually participate because they see something that is in it for the organization, the benefits, et cetera. I think we need to move from resistance to buy in and enthusiasm. But this is a really hard pendulum to swing, I have found.
SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah. So, no, you’re spot on there. And so I’ll say a couple of things, so I’ll start with the elephant in the room. A lot of times, when I speak about this and I talk about directly to white men, and I say to them, “Diversity and inclusion is not a replacement strategy.” And that’s the first thing that I think we have to realize. And so when I hire someone who is Black or who is a woman, or who is Hispanic, or Latina, or who is Asian, or who is Native American, or any other race, or anyone outside of a white male, I am not hiring them because of how they look. I’m hiring them because they are fully qualified to get that role, and they happen to be X, Y, or Z. And I think that’s the first thing that we have to do.
We have to start to disarm this notion that when we talk about setting goals, or we talk about targets, or we talk about needing to have diverse slates, that what we’re not saying is that we’re going to bring in people just because. We’re bringing in people who are fully qualified, who would not be able to get that opportunity because of bias. So you talked about bias, and I know we may go into that a little bit more, but who intentionally sometimes have roadblocks that are put up that prevent them from making it to and through the organization. And so we have to level that playing field, and we have to remove those systemic barriers so that everyone has the same opportunity to be hired, to be developed and promoted, and to be retained within the organizations.
So I think you have to start there and start to then help your organization think about unconscious bias and the ways that biases show up, especially in the moments that matter. And when we talk about the moments that matter, these are critical moments in the employee life cycle. So from attraction of talent to hiring of talent, to onboarding of talent, to who you develop, who you sponsor, then who you promote, how you pay that talent, and how you retain that talent, all those moments, we have to be able to mitigate the bias. And what I know about bias is it is not curable. So we can have unconscious bias training. Many organizations say I had unconscious bias training five years ago. If you’re not addressing bias every day, it is like that muscle that has to be maintained, it’s like working out. If I don’t continuously do it, then my muscles are not going to remember that, and they’re going to be in pain the next time I go in to work out.
And so I have to continuously work that bias muscle to ensure that I’m mitigating it in those moments that matter. The other thing that I will say is, at this point, for many organizations, they don’t talk about business case because it is just the right thing to do. But for those who need the business case, those organizations that implement diversity, equity and inclusion, put the right level of resources, do it in the right way, they are 30 to 40% times more profitable. And they’re not more profitable just because they execute, or just because they have targets or goals, it’s because they do it in the right way, because they have different voices at the table, those voices are valued and heard, and because they’re more innovative. The other thing is that their employee satisfaction rates are higher.
And when you have employees who are thriving in an organization, who are more engaged in an organization, they present a better product. And when they present a better product, then you have clients who are more engaged with your organization and give you higher satisfaction. They bring more of your business. So all of this really works hand in hand to create a more profitable organization, a more inclusive organization where employees show up, can thrive, and bring their best selves to the workplace.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hmm. Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all that. I’ll ask, Michelle or Silke, would you like to add or underscore or elaborate on anything that Sandra has laid out? Yeah, Silke.
SILKE HEINRICHS: Yeah, totally. Because I just had the question last week in Zurich. A lot of white men asking the question, “Okay, what does it mean for us?” And first, I think I understand them, and I take what they say serious, and I listen to them. And then a bit of education helps. Is it really fair that you’re being promoted because you’re tall? Is it really fair that you are being promoted because you have a very deep, strong voice? So they don’t know that, they don’t know about the tailwinds and all the privileges they have. They don’t know that. And so what we’re doing is just we’re trying to get rid of these inequalities that exist, and that’s why it’s important to take it serious. It’s important to educate around biases. And then also transport what’s in it for everyone because a de-biased or a breaking bias or a trained biased muscle helps everyone.
What about men who do not want to lead like the typical, old fashioned, big boss leader? Just because they’re men they’re expected to be like that, but that’s maybe not what they want to show up like, and that’s not our leadership style. So I think it helps to take away this notion, okay, I have no chance at all. No, we’re not promoting you this because you tall, we’re promoting you because you are competent and we believe in you. And that’s what we do when we try to remove biases from the promotion and recruiting process. And that helps.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Michelle, would you like to comment?
MICHELLE CHARLES: Yeah. If I can just add to that. At the end of the day, all we’re doing is we’re trying to level the playing field. And we are trying to give everybody, not the same, but equitable opportunity. Everyone is treated based on your starting line, and that’s important. And there’s a couple of things we do that we found is very effective. And one of the things is conversations, really opening up the conversation around what this means and allowing people to be transparent about their fears and their inadequacies and talk about where is that coming from? And through stories, you create understanding and you create empathy, and we find that that is extremely powerful.
And then the second thing to your point, Sandra, about the muscle, training that muscle, absolutely. We’ve been through this. Go on an unconscious bias workshop for a day, that’s not going to change behavior. It might get you excited for a couple of hours, but it does not change behavior. And so we developed internally a really cool, and I’m really proud of this, a really cool platform called the Inclusive Mindset Challenge. And basically what this does is it’s very short and sharp micro learnings that can be taken whenever, self-paced. And it’s basically creating awareness around what good inclusive behavior looks like. And then it allows people to actually practice those behaviors in the context of their work environment at SAP.
So it’s very relatable. So it’s not some sort of academic way of addressing the topic, it’s very relatable. And the feedback we’ve been getting is phenomenal. And we are addressing topics that are very uncomfortable, like privilege, imposter syndrome, psychological safety, race, etc., mental illness. So that’s been some of the ways in which we try to tackle the topic of bias or where we are really getting backlash from people.
JENNIFER BROWN: Excellent. I mean, I think our struggle with the measurability of inclusion, because it feels fuzzy, and I think this is that next practice of grounding it in behaviors and catching people just in time, right in time with the right resource, the right enforcement or explanation of a concept, or right before they go into a performance conversation. “Hey, here’s where bias shows up.”
So we need to catch the learner in those moments versus the training program where it’s all about, perhaps, the science. And that’s helpful, but the behavior we need to incentivize… and particularly for those middle managers. I think it was Sandra who said, or someone said that we realized the folks who were touching so much of our workforce is that middle level. And the middle level is where, I think, change efforts and D&I efforts and concepts peter out, and you lose their focus and prioritization.
And many middle managers, there’s a battle between the day-to-day and the accountabilities there and the work of inclusiveness. And they’re not quite joining them and seeing that they actually feed each other, they actually enable each other. And they actually enable manager success. We’re bringing that together, but I think we still really battle, in my opinion, with the top driving things, in the way they should, although they have challenges of their own, but it kind of getting diminished as it goes through.
And then we have this bottom-up, which is that younger, early-in-career talent that are the most diverse generation in the workforce, and also the most informed and passionate about inclusiveness and the expectation that they have when they come into roles and employers that this employer gets it. This is a place I can thrive. This is a place I see people that look like me succeeding and reaching higher levels. And we don’t want to lose any of this talent, especially now, but ever, because of what they see or don’t see or hear or don’t hear or how they feel or don’t feel a sense of belonging in organizations. Yes. So, did anybody have a comment?
MICHELLE CHARLES: I just think, if I can just comment, I think, a very important point around that about the middle management layer. Because quite often in organizations, the DNI strategy, it’s supported at a high-level, senior managers get it, everyone’s on board, let’s do it. But it’s at that middle manager level where it’s so critical that we get the buy-in because that’s where the decisions are happening. That’s where those moments that matter are being executed. And if you don’t get buy-in at that level and understanding at that level of the importance of what we are trying to achieve, you will never move the needle, and so it’s important to address.
JENNIFER BROWN: Absolutely. Silke, you and I talked about an interesting program that you launched called DEI Plus One, Commitments With Leaders, and I would love to hear more about that. And what level was it done at, and what did you ask? And I would love you to also address that you said it’s not required. It’s interesting. When we talk about metrics, we always think about things that are required. But I think metrics are also important around relative adoption of a program and participation in a program. Even if it’s not mandated, it’s also something we can hold ourselves accountable to roll out, to generate participation.
And remember, sometimes folks don’t respond so well to something that’s required. But if we invite people into something that’s doable, that’s manageable, that they understand, that they don’t feel threatened by, that they get excited about, actually, perhaps, the change effort, happy it happens at a more deep level. And so it’s interesting too, to think about be careful around the carrot and the stick principles of change. And I loved what you shared. I think this is such a carrot example, so can you tell us a little bit more about it?
SILKE HEINRICHS: Yeah. And I really think this is very valuable because it’s the opposite of what we did in the old days. We have targets, and we’re going to control, and it’s mandatory and everything. One is going to check every quarter. And if you don’t do it, very bad boy or girl.
And so we have our corporate goals that we measure, but then we also have the DNI Plus One Commitment. And it started with our senior leaders, yes, the very top. And they were asked to come up with one commitment that resonates with them personally that is relevant to their business area or their region location. To say, “Okay, this is what I commit to do,” and it’s supposed to be actionable. “I’m going to be inclusive,” is not, I mean, it’s nice, but what are you going to do? We have to help them get there. That’s the Plus One Commitment.
We ask them to share it with their employees, to share it with the larger community. We don’t control it. We don’t monitor it, nothing. I always say, “It’s up to you, do with it whatever you like.” And now we’re bringing that down to the next level. And we don’t call it the frozen middle, it’s the magic middle because that’s where magic happens.
And so it’s very, very important that we’re not requiring anyone to do it, we’re inviting them to do it. And please select something that has maybe something to do with your personal experience, something that is close to your heart where you can authentically and also vulnerably talk about it. And then that way, I think we can have a greater impact than by putting out numbers and everyone saying, “Oh God, I have to do this.” That’s not how it worked.
JENNIFER BROWN: What a wonderful reframe. Did you notice the different energy of the magic middle versus the frozen middle? I am completely stealing that because we just, we make so many assumptions about the possibilities and the potential of people to … and we come at it really hard. Like you just said, Silke. That sort of expectations and really a kind of driving it. Instead of, perhaps, inviting it and supporting it into being, and thus involving not just the head, but the heart. I mean really where we need to get to is involving the whole human in this opportunity. And I don’t even say challenge. I like to say the opportunity word a lot too. So, notice our language in terms of how we describe these efforts really matters.
And just that quick reframe. I just wanted to say it just shifted something in me even to say the magic that needs to be unleashed in that middle matters because people leave people and managers before they leave jobs, before they leave companies. We know this. So how do we tackle that? How do we support? And how do we explain what has been unclear to people in the past? Perhaps, how do we get people out of defensiveness into adoption and even enthusiasm? How do we also acknowledge where we’re meeting people, meet people where they’re at? So where are they? What are their mindsets about this? And what have they heard in the past that we may need to revisit or redefine and talk about in a different way so that it is inviting, so that it is validating?
I think somebody said, “We listen, we listen to. We don’t invalidate and dismiss concerns and fears. We get underneath it to say, ‘What does this tell us about how people need to be supported and encouraged?'” And then what kinds of results will we get from that I think actually are more sustainable than, perhaps, the compliance stuff. But I think that the dual carrot and stick, if they’re there in the right measures, I think we can actually really move things along. But I think we overemphasize historically one over the other, and that’s what we’re trying to get good at. Absolutely. Oh, I have so many other questions for you all. Let’s talk about inclusion measurements a little further with engagement surveys. I’m just curious. I get the question a lot, “What’s the best place that we can house the questions? Where we need to get that data, and what questions are those that we incorporate into engagement surveys?” I know all of your organizations do them, and this is that one chance, I feel like, to kind of understand where our organizations are at.
But we’re always tinkering, aren’t we? We’re always developing those questions that get at that cultural piece where Maya might argue inclusion needs to be present before we bring that diversity in so that diversity can thrive. It’s the preparing of the ground for the seed. I think historically we’ve, even the name, we said DEI, we lead with the D. But I think the thinking now we understand that what’s the point? And not only that, it’s harmful to try to plant seeds on hard ground. Harmful reputationally, harmful for talent, and all that work we do to get people in. Can we keep them? Can they thrive? Are we ready? Are we preparing our organization?
So I think that those engagement survey questions are so critical, and I wonder how you all have evolved and how you are evolving, and what are the questions we’re asking in those processes? And then what do you do with that information? How do you use it to formalize your engagement, your inclusion strategy in particular? And I also, secondarily, are you all talking about belonging, and where is that showing up? I hear it a lot. I think about it a lot. I wonder how it’s measurable and whether maybe that’s not the point, but how are you all kind of hearing that term? Because I know it’s bubbling up in these conversations quite often. Anyway, so Sandra, let’s start with you. If that’s okay?
SANDRA QUINCE: Absolutely. I think this is an important topic and question because you’re absolutely right. I do think tilling the soil is so critically important, and also the diversity piece as well. Because it’s back to, I can’t be what I can’t see. And part of the reason why people join organizations is because they’re looking for leaders that look like them. And so yes, we have to till the soil, but we also have to make progress against diversity as well.
And it all has to go at the same time, Jennifer. And you’re right, it’s such a hard balance. And so measuring inclusion, while not very easy, is doable. And so when you think about your engagement surveys, including questions around, am I valued? Am I heard? Including questions around, do I feel like I have a voice at the table? Including questions around, how my leader, my manager, my direct manager supports me, I think are important questions to have.
And then do I work for an organization that values diversity? Asking those types of questions? Because I will tell you that you will be astounded and amazed, especially when it is questions like that, that people will answer. The other thing I think is important, before you, not before, but organizations have to understand that if I’m going to ask questions, I have to be prepared to do something about it.
And that’s where the challenge is. So if you’ve been doing surveys year-over-year and nothing has changed, or you are making changes, but you’re not highlighting those changes every moment that you get, meaning you said, we heard, therefore we did type language, then you’re going to find that it’s going to be harder for people to answer those questions and answer them honestly and authentically, so that you can get that information.
So yes, an engagement survey is one way to do it. Also, just having good old fashioned conversations with your employees with their leaders. And I think it also starts, and it goes back to what you talked about when we said, how do we support our managers? How do we equip them to be inclusive? Managers have to be trustworthy. They have to be transparent. They have to create opportunities for courageous conversations and they also have to invest in their talent.
And if you are upskilling your managers to be that, then they can actually glean and get a ton of information out of their employee base because they also have opportunity to have quality conversations and can take that information and bubble it up. And then the organization can share that and understand, it’s another data point, right? It’s another way for us to assess what else should we be doing in order to meet the needs of our employees?
The other area that you should tap into are your employee resource groups. And I know you’re a fan.
SANDRA QUINCE: Employee resource groups are phenomenal around helping you develop business strategy, products and services, create corporate culture and really help you understand where some of your biggest opportunities are and how to mitigate that. And so use them as think tanks and sounding boards and leverage that as another opportunity to help you measure inclusion in an organization. But also, help you execute inclusion and diversity in an organization as well. So those are just a few areas that I would tap into.
JENNIFER BROWN: Love. I just want to highlight, you said don’t ask a question you’re not prepared to respond to, but we don’t have to respond or wait to respond until we’re done, which we all know this work is never done. It’s a work in progress, but I loved… You said we heard we’re going to… And then tell us how we’re doing. Then revisiting and saying has something shifted? Whether it’s at the six month mark or wherever on an ongoing basis. I mean, I think we’re revisiting how often we collect data on a rolling basis because we don’t have the luxury of waiting six months or a year to see change. Right? So I guess thinking about the accountability that we have, the measurements of ourselves as an organization, I think a lot of our conversation is the assumption is like, oh, we’re measuring the workforce, right? Or we’re measuring the behavior of others.
But our self measurement, and not just us leading DEI, of course. This is the leadership of the company. How do we hold ourselves accountable? What are we measuring ourselves against in terms of communication, transparency, progress, holding ourselves accountable for actions and programmatic efforts and saying what are we supporting or not. What worked, what didn’t work, and how are we communicating that out? And my wish is we didn’t assume that things are going to be perfect. My wish is that we said to our employees, we are working on this and here’s how we’re working on it. And here’s what we’re learning. And here’s what we might have done differently and what we’re going to create and what we want input around how it can be better. I mean, can you imagine hearing from your company as it grows, how encouraging that is? Especially when you don’t have the diversity of representation and that’s not encouraging. In fact, it’s discouraging. I think we get a lot of points for being transparent about our efforts and about literally like saying here’s the road we’re on. Right?
MICHELLE CHARLES: Absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: Doable, right? Yes, Michelle?
MICHELLE CHARLES: Yeah. Yeah, no, I’m just nodding my head. Hear, hear. Absolutely agree. And a lot of companies struggle with this, being transparent around the metrics, what we are measuring, how are we doing? But I strongly believe to your point, it builds trust. If you are transparent in terms of how what you’re doing, and even if you are struggling and you’re not managing to achieve the goals, it builds trust for people know, okay, at least we have a path forward. And then, to Sandra’s points, agree, the various areas you mentioned, we do the same. We’ve got an engagement survey, which we call the Unfaulted People Survey that comes out once a year and we’ve got various topics. We’ve got a business culture and health index.
We’ve got a D&I, a specific diversity inclusion index, which we have a few questions on. One of the questions we also ask in addition to some of those you mentioned was do you believe you have equal opportunities at SAP or that there are equal opportunities based on race, gender, et cetera? And in this survey, the next survey that we’ll be coming out with, we have a very new question where we are actually giving people the opportunity to self-identify at the beginning of the survey. And in this way, we’d be able to look at the data from different perspectives.
Another thing I want to mention here are the conversations. We’ve got for each of our leaders that human story, that personal story is so important. I think when it comes to the topic of inclusion, that understanding and empathy is critical. And having people just share who they are, what their backgrounds are, what their story is, how they grew up, what their experiences are, I think can be very powerful in creating a sense of belonging, because then you create relatable moments for everyone. And then of course, the employee resource groups are critical to Sandra’s point. We definitely leverage them in the same way.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wonderful. I think your point about stories particularly for older generations that were… I think are struggling generationally with honestly bringing their full self to the workplace. It’s interesting. We always think of it in terms of those of us who are underrepresented and marginalized and overcoming that, and stepping into our voice. But I think what I observe about senior leadership is this was not done. This was not appropriate for work. This was something that we were warned against even. And then to identify, hey, you have a diversity story or stories too, but to more broadly define those dimensions beyond race and gender perhaps, to abilities, to mental health, to neurodiversity, to socioeconomic or educational diversity and where they’ve experienced exclusion or have cared about someone and loved someone or supported a team member through that struggle.
The storytelling ability of executives is I think an area I’m very interested in and I’m very committed to helping people discover how do they show up and what do they show up with and is it authentic? It’s not going to be comfortable. I can’t promise that because I think it is very often uncomfortable for that… And part of that generation, I understand like we’re sort of battling against what we’ve always learned to be true and the expectation of leaders showing up as infallible and in control and having all the answers. And we’re really asking people to show up differently. And I think there’s a deep discomfort, but also lack of competency and a lack of understanding of so what is my diversity story?
I might have so much privilege in a given system that I encourage leaders sometimes to speak about that, to talk about what are we doing with the privilege? How are we activating the things that we… Somebody said tailwinds earlier, when we begin to notice all the tailwinds in our life… If we can bring people out of the shame part of privilege, which is the way it’s been handled into this place of saying, here’s my commitment, Silke, to your point, why is this important to you? How does it drive the business in your world, but on a personal level. And if we can talk about privilege in terms of what am I activating every day to rebalance this organization so that it looks like the world we serve.
That involvement and that specificity is I think where we need to get these leaders to, and then that’s actionable. That’s something I can do. Tomorrow I can do that, but it requires I think welcoming people in and equipping them differently than we’ve talked to them before. And that’s the work ahead because we need the full participation in meeting these goals we’ve been talking about, but historically we’ve had a lot of people sitting on the sidelines and then we’ve had fewer kind of pushing the change, right? Those of us who are most impacted by the change are sort of pushing the boulder uphill. And so, that’s what I think about as that meaningful, deeper participation of all, especially those with power and influence in the organizational structure, because we cannot accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish without that participation. But I think we’ve got to kind of scaffold that and support that differently than we have in the past.
MICHELLE CHARLES: There’s one thing I always say to people when it comes to privilege. I say, don’t think of privilege as your guilt. Privilege is your power.
SANDRA QUINCE: One of the things that I think is so critically important is that leaders have to be brave. And I think there’s this notion around, I can’t have these conversations because I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to say it. And what we have to also do is safe space for grace. This is a work in process and we are all accountable. We are all at some level allies to this work and we are all at every level impacted by it. And I think that’s the thing that we have to understand. And the way I sometimes describe diversity and inclusion is much like compliance in a company. Everyone owns compliance, everyone. I mean, you know what to do to keep your computer safe, how to lock it up, how to keep information safe. And you know that if we don’t do compliance in the right way, it puts our organizations at risk.
And that risk can be, as you talked about Jennifer, reputational. That risk could cost us from a dollar perspective. It could hurt our brand in the market. And so when you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is very similar. We all own it. We all have to execute, but we need the opportunity to have space for grace and to know that we’re all growing and learning together, but we also have to understand that it puts our organizations at risk when we don’t execute it and when we don’t all show up and be allies to each other and help support each other through this work, it is not for the chief diversity officer. It is not the work of HR. It is really on the onus of every leader in that organization. And so I can’t hire one person. I don’t promote people from a D&I perspective, but all I can do is sit and influence and give you someone said the magic, right? To give you that opportunity to understand how to create the most incredible environment so that you can get the most from your employees and the best from your brightest.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. What leader wouldn’t want that? And if these are the keys that unlock that performance, which we all believe they are.
SANDRA QUINCE: Yeah.
JENNIFER BROWN: What leader wouldn’t want that? Yeah. It’s so important how we talk about this work. It’s so important because that makes the difference in the traction that we get and meeting people where they’re at. Sandra, that’s like my favorite quote of yours, space and grace. I always think of you when I repeat that, because that grace for meeting people where they’re at, the space to learn, the space to sort of fumble because the muscle is going to be sore when you start to work it out.
SANDRA QUINCE: That’s tight.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s just life, with any change, with any new discipline, with any new level of I’m watching for this. And I’m noticing this where I didn’t before. I’m waking up. I’m starting to notice bias. I’m starting to maybe show up differently. It’s going to be one step forward, two steps back. And what it means to me is holding the learner as we’ve all been held as learners in the past. We’ve all been there. So this is not a they don’t get it and I do. Sandra, you also said we are all allies to this work. I’m LGBTQ+. I’ve been out for 25 years and I’m female. So those are my marginalized identities, but I’m also very in tune with my privileged identities these days and my allyship. And it feels very top of mind, perhaps even more so.
And so we’re not one or the other, we are all of that. We show up and influence things around us from different places in ourselves, from different parts of our identity. So I think if we could describe it this way to folks, it might be a different paradigm and might be a more welcoming way for an aha moment to say, oh, I can relate to that. That’s me too. I have this, but I have that, but I have that. So we’re not a single story. And I think that empathy and honoring and compassion for the journey that we are all on. Each of us, we have the same opportunity and allyship goes 360 degrees. This is not just a, oh, I’m the person with the most power on the org chart.
SANDRA QUINCE: That’s right.
JENNIFER BROWN: I give, and somebody else receives. We can ally to each other. We can be in solidarity with each other at any level, from any direction. I mean, I feel like I’m an ally to the male leaders in my life who are more senior than I am, who are working on their journey. I am their ally.
Speaker 3: Many, many thanks for this incredible discussion. And I’m so proud to be a host for specifically this gender equality conversation. Last year actually, I dreamed to be a host for this specific panel and my dream came through. And thanks so much for being a part of this story, which is called the Global Inclusion Online Forum 2022. And round of applause to support our gender quality session. This is a revolutionary community platform developed to elevate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion by empowering the voice, actions, recognition, and the rewards of participants every day.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe, so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work. And discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
You’ve been listening to the Will to Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening. And we’ll be back next time with a new episode.
- MLK Day Replay: Intersectional Panel on Civil Rights including Jennifer and other L’Oréal USA DEI Advisory Board Members
- Cancel Culture to Coaching Culture: Navigating DEI Conversations with Author and Professor Kenji Yoshino
- Healing the Plus-Size Customer and Employee Journey with Author and GORGEous Agency Founder Kara Richardson Whitely
- Owning Your Power: Jennifer Joins the Beyond Barriers Podcast
- Cultivating a Purpose Mindset in Next-Gen Leaders: Social Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst Returns to the Will to Change