- David van Tonder – VP Operations Shared Service, TD
- Nadia de Villa – VP Head of Digital Transformation & Business Development, Manulife
- Laura Finneran – SVP North American Training, FDM Group
Before the question period began, the panellists stressed the importance of understanding what diversity truly means. Being diverse isn’t just about ethnicity, it’s about gender, age and any other qualities or characteristics that distinguish us from one another. Everyone deserves equal treatment and equal opportunity.
To start the event, we asked our speakers, “what can you do to create an inclusive environment if you’re not in a management position?” David stressed the importance of not assuming another person’s situation, he stated, “you can be a leader in anything you do, not just as a manager.” You never know what someone is going through. If a fellow employee seems to be disengaged from their work all of a sudden, it is best to ask them about it before jumping to conclusions. Laura also mentioned that by making others feel comfortable, you can be a leader in any environment. If someone is new to your organisation, ask them out to lunch, or invite them to a social event. Laura stressed that by maintaining a positive attitude, and by helping people fit in, we can ensure that everyone feels included.
Another big aspect of diversity is bringing your authentic self to work as many people feel the need to hide who they truly are in a work setting. We asked our panellists, “tell us about a time when you have found it difficult to bring your authentic self to work. How did you overcome it and what resources helped you?" Nadia spoke about her first experience in a leadership role and how she was naturally shy and had trouble vocalising her opinions. She became a better leader over time by understanding that it is important for leaders to demonstrate the skills and characteristics that they expect of others to encourage others to develop those same qualities. David wrapped up this question perfectly by saying, “being your authentic self at work isn’t just good for you, but for people around you as well.” The positive vibe that you exude shows others that they shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.
As a leader, there are a few things you can do on a daily basis to embrace diversity and inclusion at work. For example, Laura spoke about holding weekly team meetings to discuss diversity-related issues, challenges and opportunities. Nadia, on the other hand, goes on coffee chats with her employees to help answer any questions and address any concerns that they may have. She also makes sure to avoid any potential unconscious bias by ensuring that she doesn’t just hire candidates who possess qualities similar to herself. David also made an interesting statement, “we can’t be diverse if we ourselves aren’t diverse”. It is important to ensure that a team is made up of diverse perspectives and ensure that differences within a team are valued and respected. David also mentioned that it is your responsibility to speak up if you hear jokes being made about gender, sexuality, or ethnicity in order to avoid normalising stereotypes. Nadia also pointed out, that as a leader, you can be someone else’s voice. Some individuals have trouble speaking up but still, want to make a difference. As a leader, you can provide support and help them voice their concerns. Laura ended off this topic with a powerful statement. “If you witness a problem that you can fix, and you don’t try to, then you’re part of the problem.”
Overall, diverse teams have been shown to perform better. FDM held this event to inform and remind other companies in the tech industry of its importance in developing a functional team. With 80+ nationalities working together and 11 centres worldwide, FDM is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels.
If you are interested in joining one of our diverse teams, apply to one of our careers programs today!