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06 Sep 13 08:44

Yesterday I attended the launch of Advance: Empowering Women in Swiss Business. Purpose of the org is to provide a springboard for women here in Switzerland to reach the upper echelons of management. Advance has set a goal of having 20% of senior-level management positions in the country be held by women in by 2020.

The event was great. Imagine being in a room filled with hundreds of people - from both genders and from all age groups - all working toward the same goal.

Ah, there's the rub. Sometimes when I attend these events, I wonder if we're preaching to the choir. How do we get folks who aren't interested in the issue...interested?

And something else: what happens once someone from a different background (culture, gender, education, etc), which means they may bring different talents and abilities, enters a workplace? Do we accept them for who they are? Do we focus on the talents they bring?

Or do we force them to fit in with the culture?

"Yes, we hired you. But now we expect you to behave, think and speak exactly like we do."

Nothing can be more demotivating for the employee.

These are the questions swirling in my head as I come down from the high of being in such a powerful event.

What do you think?

Image: Our Nia Joynson-Romanzina (with a well-deserved halo - I love Photoshop), Head Diversity and Inclusion, receiving flowers for her work with Advance.

Promoting gender diversity in Switzerland with Advance | Swiss Re - Leading Global Reinsurer

New organisation aims to increase gender diversity at the senior level...

Category: Other

Tags: #Women, #Diversity.

Location: Zurich, Switzerland


garrelor - 6 Sep 2013, 10:49 a.m.

Regarding the Swiss and their working with diversity, IMHO, they are about 20 years behind the US. There are some areas (big cities llike Zurich) where large corporations such as Swiss Re, UBS and others may actually have diversity departments, but in the rest of Switzerland, companies are so behind and remain uninterested. For example, when you read the mottos of companies or Schools in Switzerland, you'll see that they all mention something about equality between the sexes. And it ends there... no mention of color, race, creed, native language.... And yes, the employee is forced to fit into the culture. And it's in such companies where you can tell that the company culture (as well as Management) has lots of room to mature.

Kristi Moore - 6 Sep 2013, 1:21 p.m.

I think that you're raising very poignant questions. I've asked myself similar things lately. I have been personally struggling to find answers as to why I got hired for my current role and how much fitting in I should be doing.
I'm currently reading this book to look for answers: Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie (and trying not to feel overwhelmed by it all).

Rashunda Tramble - 6 Sep 2013, 2 p.m.

I think there's also the issue of corporate culture vs the culture of the place where the corporation sits. I don't think these are separate things. If a culture is grappling with particular issues such as women in the workplace or foreigners, can it not be expected that some offices will reflect this?

Adrianne George Lind - 7 Sep 2013, 10:46 a.m.

Good question! I remember being hired by a small consultancy in Brussels because I was black, female and American. My colleagues were German, Italian, French, English and Belgian and that was the point: we were each uniquely different and those differences made us a great team able to offer a great deal to our clients. Diversity is often a buzz word in the Corporate world and I understand why some people are uncomfortable working with people with whom they feel no connection. I think that is where management, on every level, has to step up and create an environment that celebrates everyone's strengths. Perhaps that is easier said than done.

shrlzi - 9 Sep 2013, 1:46 a.m.

Excellent questions! Answers to be worked out on an individual basis by thousands (hopefully) of "minority" employees over time... good to see efforts like EWSB because organizations such as this provide venue for women to help each other figure out best responses to bigotry in the workplace... To some extent, bosses are blind to everything but work product; but Tops and Bullies look for ways they can put anyone else down, In addition to group action, passing anti-discrimination laws, etc. which provides social/legal pressure, each person must figure out where to draw the line between fitting in and not letting it edge over into mistreatment. I personally found training in Non Violent Communication to be hugely helpful in learning not to take things personally, yet be able to respond in a constructive way. Thank you Rashunda for being part of the battle!!

Randy - 16 Sep 2013, 9:57 p.m.

Great question! I have a feeling we will never fully achieve D&I. Sorry. Being the D&I Champion for the Americas, I have discussed this with a number companies who have had D&I as a key initiative for 20 years and still feel they have not arrived. I think diversity and inclusiveness is a journey not necessarily a destination. Why are we on this journey? I spoke to a group of clients a couple a couple weeks ago and one of things I talked about is why it is important for us as an industry to be be on the D&I journey. There are many reasons but a couple key reasons that I shared with them. First I think at some point in the future there will be a talent shortage and we as an industry will have to fight hard to get that top talent. My feeling is that top talent will not want to work for a company that is not diverse and inclusive. Second we will never reach our optimal result if we are not inclusive. I gave the example that if I have 10 people reporting to me who all think like I do we gain very little. It is simple math...1X1X1X1X1X1X1X1X1X1X1=1! Not much lift! Any new ideas are probably my ideas endorsed by a team of ten. However if I have 4 or 6 or 8 people who think differently the outcome is exponential 8X1=8 or an 800% increase over the previous example. We need everyone at the table with diverse thinking to get the optimal output. Welcoming differences is not easy (in fact it is hard) but clearly is what is best for the industry. It is incumbent on all of us to live the values and I think that is what will keep us on this journey. If we live the values it will be impossible as a leader not to "smash stereo types" and lead in a way that is inclusive. But again I don't think we will ever be able to say "we made it"! But it will show up in the results as we optimize on the ideas and bring the best talent into the company.

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