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DIAL Global Summit: Why the role of chief diversity officer is critical

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·5-min read
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DIAL Global Summit
DIAL Global Summit: A panel of chief diversity officers said companies with this critical role will be winning and outperforming their peers in 2022. Photo: Getty

Chief diversity officer Carlos Cubia of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) is joined by a panel of CDOs to discuss how companies with this critical role will be winning and outperforming their peers in 2022.

PANEL:

Carlos Cubia — Chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Magda N Yrizarry — Chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Verizon Business (VZ)

Ramcess Jean Louis — Chief diversity officer at Pfizer (PFE)

Ronda Moore — Chief inclusion & diversity officer and Head of Global Talent Development at LNRS

CARLOS:

According to Garner research, only 35% of HR leaders consider diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a priority for the next year, while 76% of employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce is important when evaluating companies and job offers.

Having a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is something that attracts, engages and grows your workforce. How do you see your role as chief diversity officer supporting your organisation’s performance?

MAGDA:

When we think about our vision of moving the world forward, we want to deploy technology in a way that's equitable and allows companies, individuals, health care, legal firms and all of us to be able to empower our employees. We want to then extend that to whatever work we do.

DEI is not a programme that sits somewhere else. Technology, development, employment and all of the pieces that drive business performance have to be a real part of the fibre of your organisation. At Verizon, we share the responsibility across all of us.

RONDA:

We ensure DEI is embedded in the organisation strategy and that’s the first thing that any effective leader in our role would do. We know it helps us grow, retain and attract talent. Having teams where people feel safe to innovate and bring their full authentic selves to work is paramount to delivering results that our customers want and deserve. Our shareholders reward us when we do the right thing and performance certainly follows when you have those things working together.

RAMCESS:

Taking things to the next level in DEI is about driving innovation and recognising it is a team sport. Diversity, equity, and inclusion will never be successful if it only lives in the DEI department or the HR department. Make sure everybody owns it.

CARLOS:

What would you say is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as a chief diversity officer? How did you overcome it (if you have)?

RONDA:

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, my CEO asked me to lead the organisation through that historic time. It was very difficult to make the decision to step into this role. There were a lot of people hurting and an organisation of people with different backgrounds who saw this in different ways.

We implemented things like psychological safety to measure inclusion in our organisation and I started talking with my colleagues, particularly women and ethnic minorities, about the personal path we can take to feel a sense of belonging.

Read more: DIAL Global Summit: CEOs pledge to move the dial on diversity

We were able to grow our ERGs hugely and put the right resources in place, making sure they had executive sponsors and budgets to do amazing work. We rolled out inclusive hiring and helped our leaders think about how they could remove bias from selection processes. I often tell my colleagues we’re not where we were a year ago. It was hard to get here, but we’re on our way.

RAMCESS:

I think there’s a consistent theme in that the chief diversity officer is being pulled in a lot of different directions. I think that we need to always make sure that we’re strategic to have maximum impact. When being pulled in all different directions, we need to remember that it’s our job to ensure the conversation of DEI is always at the forefront but also identify best practices within the organisation.

There is also the platinum rule of ‘treat people how they want to be treated’ and to do that, you need to have a conversation with them and connect with them first. That goes back to the common theme of ‘we’re all in this together’, bringing people together with safe space conversations. What is the safety net that you’re putting in place to ensure everyone has equal opportunity and express themselves through work?

MAGDA:

A big obstacle is just pausing long enough to care, listen, learn, understand and build awareness. We’re all in this moment but not experiencing it the same way. Obstacles created a lot of opportunities for us to go into spaces that we had not gone into before. We had to equip our leaders and employees to have those conversations in many ways. What was an obstacle, became a breakthrough in a different way of experiencing each other at work.

CARLOS:

What do you hope your company can accomplish in supporting diversity and inclusion throughout 2022?

RAMCESS:

95% are proud of working at Pfizer and this the most diverse our organisation has ever been. We’re trying to get to 47% gender diversity and 32% ethnic diversity by 2025, but also to go beyond that. Not just gender and ethnic diversity, but also what we’re doing for underrepresented people of colour, with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, military families and refugees.

We have a goal to hire 100 refugees before the end of this year and we’ve hired our first and are extremely proud of the progress they’re having. Most importantly, we’re looking to support this refreshed DEI strategy to remove barriers and create opportunity, equity and access for all our colleagues.

CARLOS:

There is a lot of great work going on at these organisations and chief diversity officers across the globe, making a real impact and difference. It’s a marathon, not a sprint — it will take us time to get there. We make a difference every single day, helping organisations grow and individuals achieve their goals. A quote to remember is ‘minds are like parachutes, they don’t work unless you open them’ and you need to have an open mind when doing this work.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?

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