How Diversity and Inclusion Drives Innovation and Growth

diversity and inclusion panel


Last month the SheCanCode team attended Retail Week’s Tech. Festival, a two day digital commerce event exploring and showcasing new retail ecosystems and the technology driving them.

One of the sessions that stood out most for me was the “How Diversity and Inclusion drives Innovation and Growth” panel with Google Cloud and John Lewis and Partners.

Businesses across all industries strive to have diversity at the heart of what they do, but how do these businesses create that mindset across their organisation and empower their employees to own their own culture? Listening to Ian Pattison, Head of Engineering for Retail, UK & Ireland at Google Cloud,  Karolina Lewandowska, Head of Change, Transformation and Culture at Google Cloud, and Yulia O’Mahony, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Well-being at John Lewis and Partners highlighted some important insights into how companies at all levels can and should advocate for change.

From the Inside Out:

Diversity and Inclusion all start in the way we work with each other. At Google Cloud, Pattison emphasized the significance of representation and culture going hand-in-hand in the workplace, and that it is these values and cultures of the company that must be reflected in each interaction with customers.

Overcoming confirmation bias, favoring information that confirms your previously existing beliefs, is a challenge at the crux of diversity enterprises. A company that lacks a varied workforce more often than not struggles to solve problems dealing with the needs and demands of a diverse customer base. When it comes to finding solutions and looking at the ‘bigger picture’, the more varied the voices and perspectives at the table, the better.

“Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusivity is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to change the music.” – Yulia O’Mahony

Attracting diverse talent:

At the organisational level, a primary issue highlighted for both Google Cloud and John Lewis and Partners was gender diversity in hiring. It is not uncommon that when asked to refer a potential candidate, employees often refer someone similar to themselves.

So, what are the solutions to issues relating to diverse hiring schemes?

  1. To broaden the talent pool, initiatives to partner and engage with organisations that represent minorities, for example, women in tech and companies like SheCanCode, are a priority to companies such as these.
  2. John Lewis and Partners are gathering behavioural insights to uncover what elements are driving employment ratios in hopes of targeting the problems at their source.
  3. A focus on creating job profiles that aim to attract all types of potential candidates, by actively removing bias and thus, feelings of imposter syndrome.
  4. The concept of ‘ally-ship’ is pivotal – the power to train employees internally to influence the unconscious bias and its impact on hiring.

How can we make progress in diversity and inclusion on a daily basis?

Does Diversity and Inclusion drives Innovation and GrowthPattison stated that all employees, especially those in leadership positions need to be authentic in supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace every day.

It was agreed that it is a grassroots movement. A strong message from the top, and action forging from the bottom. Focusing on topics that unite individuals rather than divide. To start the conversations and create the space for these discussions to happen. There is not an easy or quick fix to increase diversity in our workforce, it is an ongoing and important process that requires review, modification and prioritisation.

Five key foundations for effective change in diversity and inclusion:

The following factors are key influences in diversity and inclusion initiatives that all organisations can aim to effectively implement:

  1. Align diversity with your business strategy; use it to support business priorities.
  2. Drive accountability from the top.
  3. Set realistic objectives and strategies to achieve them.
  4. Use data; to measure progress, ROI, and pinpoint problem areas for intervention.
  5. Clear and honest communication; show your commitment to D&I across all aspects of your business.

Supporting and promoting a workplace where open conversations. Curiosity and understanding allow every voice to be heard. Even if it’s not the loudest, will create an inspiring, innovative, and happy environment to work in. The shared values of companies like Google Cloud and John Lewis are continually shown through their employee’s ability to identify and live those values in their everyday lives inside and outside of work.