I’m a woman. I’m liberal. I’m an ethnic minority. I’m an extrovert. I’m queer. I’m a Gemini. I’m a feminist. I’m an immigrant. I’m privileged.
I’m Jess. I’m diversity lead for Capco Digital and head of our Product capability.
I’m all of these things. But I’m never just one of them.
For me, this is critical to what diversity and inclusion is about: creating space for the breadth of ways in which people might define and express themselves, conscious that each of our identities is informed by a unique combination of experiences and circumstances.
I don’t think I need to repeat other people’s well-made points about the positive impact of diversity on decision making, financial returns and innovation. As Harvard Business Review summarises: ‘nonhomogenous teams are simply smarter.’
But knowing it’s what we should do doesn’t mean building diverse teams is easy to put into practice.
In the last year, I have experienced sexist language. I have had someone try to define for me what my own sexuality is. I have felt looked down upon for not being perceived as ‘technical’ enough, for not approaching problem solving in the same way as everyone else in the group. I have been called stupid. I have felt exhausted. I have cried. I have felt alone.
I’m sure I’m not the only person to have experienced these things. And I’m sure there have been times my actions have inadvertently led others to feel excluded, unappreciated or unwelcome.
Capco is a great place to work, but we haven’t got it all figured out yet – and that’s ok.
The roots of inequality and exclusion are so deeply, systemically embedded that it can feel impossible to effect any meaningful change as an individual. However, we each have the capacity to be our own unit of change.
For me, the most important thing is having conversations.
We can never truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – we can’t really know what it’s like to have the unique intersecting qualities of any other human. But we can ask. And we can listen. And if any of those conversations helps us to see one thing differently, to challenge our own biases and assumptions in one little way, then we’re in a better place than we were before. And maybe over time, those little things start to add up to something bigger.
By talking about our experiences, being open, sharing our stories, being curious, we have an amazing opportunity not only to find out what makes us different, but also what makes us the same. An opportunity to uncover unexpected common ground, forming stronger teams by seeing the web of what is shared alongside the expanses of where our differences could stretch our thinking.
Every conversation is an opportunity for insight. An opportunity to learn. That’s my perspective.
Got a different one? Let’s chat.