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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a sensitive subject and one that businesses rightly approach with reverence and care. At Tech Data UK and Ireland, we started to be proactive on the issue more than two years ago when we launched Elevate, the first of our business resource groups (BRGs) in the UK and Ireland.
Elevate is dedicated to empowering women to thrive in their careers. Last year, we introduced a second group that supports LGBTQ+ co-workers, called Spectrum, and we are about to launch a further BRG that will support other colleagues.
The importance of humility
I have produced here some short thoughts on the subject of DEI. But it is important to state up-front that I do this with humility. We are a large company, headquartered in the US, and we have a lot of support on this subject. We have a large employee base, which most companies do not, so getting representation is easier.
And the main reason for humility is that we are just at the start of our journey. We have started, though, which is important, but we have so much to do.
Bringing people together
Our resource groups bring together people who are either directly involved or impacted by issues of equity and inclusion, as well as allies who care about the issues and care about their colleagues. Anyone can go along to the meetings (they have all been virtual up to now, of course). You don’t have to be a woman to get involved in Elevate, and you don’t have to identify as LGBTQ+ to attend Spectrum gatherings – the aim is to get as wide an audience as possible.
Each BRG meets regularly to discuss current issues and explore ways in which people can be made to feel more involved, engaged and encouraged. They are hugely positive discussions. I have come away from the ones I have attended educated, challenged and enthused.
Tips from what we have learned so far
Our experience has been that the resource groups need to be run by passionate colleagues, not by the business. This is quite a commitment for them but, of course, people rise to the challenge and will ask for support where needed. My colleagues who join the sessions have all sorts of experiences and knowledge of the issues.
The best sessions I have attended assume no prior knowledge and gradually introduce new concepts. In our Spectrum group, lots of new language and concepts have been introduced, which for some will have been challenging. Taking these concepts on takes time, and repetition is key.
Education is important if you want to be an ally
As well as giving people a collective voice that can be heard, education is an important function of the groups. The BRGs help to raise awareness and to challenge traditional thinking. They create energy and debate.
“Allyship” was a new word to me, defined on dictionary.com as “the status of being an advocate for the inclusion of a marginalised group of which the advocate is not a member”. I had lazy assumptions and over-rated my knowledge on the topics.
To be an ally in these groups, I have had to be challenged in my own views and assumptions. This has been the experience of the colleagues who have been joining sessions run by these groups – keep an open mind and listen.
Why DEI matters
Why does DEI matter? Well, first and most importantly, because it’s just the right thing to do. When they come to work, everyone should feel they are coming into a positive, accepting environment where they will be treated fairly. We want people to be comfortable in their skin at work, and we want to recruit from all the talents of the UK and Ireland.
Second, because it matters to the technology community and our joint customers. Just as every business is having to demonstrate that it is taking positive action on sustainability, I believe the same should, and will, happen with respect to DEI. You will need to be able to show that your workplace is one in which everyone feels welcome and is allowed to be themselves.
Every business will need to engage with DEI in different ways, according to the size of the organisation and the passion of its employees and management team. The important thing is to start – to do something and learn and embrace the differences your friends and colleagues bring to your workplace.