I got Diversity… but what was Inclusion again?
Being part of the Ericsson family for over eight years, there are many things I am proud of what this company has created. For over 140 years Ericsson has been a pioneer in technology and especially in bringing this technology to everyday life.
What impresses me as much as this is Ericsson’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Program. Being part of the program for many years it has changed my perspective at work and in my personal life. Seeing this topic become more visible around the world, and being lucky enough to be part of some of these discussions, it gave me yet another perspective to compare our D&I approach versus others.
Ericsson has always focused on “all types of diversity” and “inclusion”. I must admit that when I was first exposed to D&I, I understood very little about it, much less understanding all the difference it creates at work place. “Diversity” part was easier to understand and as time passed, I started realizing how diverse we were. Not only in gender, nation, or generations, but in many other ways like diversity of our living styles, our cultures, our personalities, our approach to work, even diversity of engineering education all over the world. At the beginning, the “inclusion” part always remained a bit of a mystery to me. However, I remember the continuous effort to keep diversity and inclusion side by side. In Ericsson, you would never hear anyone mentioning diversity without the inclusion part. You would often hear “Diversity is the mix, and inclusion is making the mix work!”
In different opportunities I got to see what other companies do around D&I. I realized there was a lot of focus on diversity, even more focus on gender diversity and often inclusion was not mentioned at all. I am very excited when there is a movement around D&I in the city I live. I make an effort to be part of these discussions. There have been several times that I joined the first meetings of such movements. People would directly start talking about difficulties of being a woman at work and the programs they have put in place to address this, under the name of their D&I programs. The best ones, those not limiting diversity only to gender, would proudly refer to their “diversity programs” without any reference to inclusion.
OK, but what do we really mean by “inclusion”? How do you make the mix work? What happens if we have diversity and no inclusion? How can we create an inclusive work environment? After giving thought about many examples in my work and personal life, my conclusion is that “inclusion” comes with the respect we feel to each other and the value we see in one another. “Inclusion” is our true willingness to create space for the different and our willingness to give time to listen to people not thinking like us. The more diverse the people in a room or team, the more different ideas come up. Sometimes it is really difficult to embrace the different opinions. Having a trust zone of “inclusion” in place, in other words knowing that people would listen to your idea no matter how orthogonal it is and knowing they will respect and value you regardless, creates the environment for many more ideas to be expressed and hopefully the opportunity to find a solution beyond expected.
In Ericsson, for several years in a row now, we have been celebrating October as Diversity Awareness Month and I realized this year the theme is “inclusion”. How well chosen I thought about it when I first saw it. Seeing what other companies do around D&I, I believe we have a very strong stand point with valuing diversity and inclusion equally. What do you think about inclusion?