Do diversity groups help or hinder inclusion?

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Managing diversity and inclusion in the global workplace is often an unmapped territory

For the fourth event in our Future Talks series, we brought together a panel to debate whether organizations need both diversity and inclusion in order to be successful

In July 2017, Deloitte announced a shift away from traditional approaches built around gender, race, or sexual orientation and instead will work to get a broader buy-in, particularly from white males. After 24 years, their women’s initiative WIN will end and the company will also phase out Globe, which supports gay employees. In their place will be ‘inclusion councils’ bringing together a variety of viewpoints.

Yet many feel there is still a need for diversity groups, a dedicated environment for individuals to come together, to share ideas, raise awareness of challenges and provide support to each other.

So, is inclusion the right step forward? Do we need to redefine diversity for the modern day?

For the fourth event in our Future Talks series, we brought a diverse panel together to debate these very questions:

Simone Davina, General Counsel, Siemens UK
Bill Mexson, Pensions and Technical Support Manager, Siemens UK
Claire Pemberton, Senior Bid Manager, Siemens UK
Nathanael Watts-Plumpkin, Project Accountant, Siemens UK

Read the highlights of the conversation below - or, watch the full discussion here.

1. With inclusion clearly being an important topic for Siemens, what are your initial thoughts on the Deloitte model?

Davina: When I joined Siemens in the UK, I was introduced to the Women in Leadership group, a great initiative that enables people to come together as a group and talk. But at the same time, I was thinking that men or other minorities might also like to be there, because it gives you the possibility to talk about your career from a wider perspective.

Mexson: It’s ironic that we talk about ‘inclusion’ as if it excludes diversity. The very concept of inclusion is to embrace diversity too and bring those diverse groups together. If equality was the first step, then inclusion seems the next.

2. Research says that younger people are more uncomfortable with demographic ‘pigeonholes’. Does this ring true?

Watts-Plumpkin: I definitely agree. I grew up in an education system where inclusion was more widespread. Perhaps naively, I came into the company thinking it would be like here. I know there are problems so I think we must address this and ensure that we have these conversations.

Davina: I think it’s sometimes not about the younger generations coming into the business but training people already working within the company, to make sure they understand that it’s a better business case to have different people.

Different views make us think differently. This leads to better products, better innovation and better ways of doing things
Simone Davina

3. With the exception of Simone Davina, the Executive Managing Board is made up of white males. Do you think our approach to diversity and inclusion allows for leadership development and gives women a voice?

Pemberton: In rail automation where I come from, women have a low representation — though that’s not true of all departments. It is difficult sometimes to get heard, so it is important that we have diversity groups, women’s groups and EDI groups so everyone can have a seat at the table.

Watts-Plumpkin: I agree. We don’t need to get rid of diversity groups yet.

Pemberton: Siemens is actually encouragingly diverse — 66% of the workforce is women and minorities. But maybe we are this diverse because we have diversity groups.

4. Is our approach to diversity and inclusion actually fully inclusive?

Davina: At Siemens, we’re still quite young and we can do more. I was the first women in 120 years in the executive board in the Netherlands. We need to ask why that is so.

Pemberton: An unconscious bias absolutely still exists. We’re actually trying to overcome this by doing unconscious bias training, which I would recommend to everybody. It is a fascinating insight.

5. Looking forward, what’s the next step for Siemens?

Mexson: We need to recognize the importance of diverse groups and now bring them together. To not judge people by labels but get to know them individually. To understand what they can achieve and what they can give. Inclusion is driving us to look at individuals and consider the person but that shouldn’t mean that we exclude diversification. We still need diversity groups but inclusion does seem the next logical step.

Davina: Yes, we need to speak up about it. We need to have a diverse organization because different views make us think differently. This leads to better products, better innovation and better ways of doing things.

Pemberton: Exactly, we will all benefit from a more inclusive workplace. Innovation and creativity increase when you have more diverse teams.

These are clearly times of change. As Simone Davina says, “Going forward we are going to have a changing world’. The way we work is evolving, and so must the questions and conversations if we are to create spaces where individuals can be themselves and, most importantly, truly add all the value they have to give.

Future Talks is a series of panel discussions held across the globe. They bring together Siemens employees across all facets of the business to share, converse and debate the topics that everyone is talking about. Check out #FutureTalks on Twitter for all the highlights.

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