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Diversity and inclusion are a necessity, not a nicety

Diversity is multifaceted in my view. It includes gender, age, cultural background, knowledge and skillset. Diversity is about having different ideas, perspectives and approaches. However, diversity is only the first step and will not on its own provide results. Inclusion is where the magic starts to happen.

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Behdad Banian 

Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

Category, topic & hashtags

Diversity and inclusion are important to me. It is on a personal and professional level.

I am a father of three kids, two girls and a boy. I want them to grow up in a world and society where there is not only equal opportunity regardless of background or gender, but that diversity is valued and strived for. I was born in Iran and raised in Sweden. For many years I struggled in Sweden with my identity and to try to fit in. I tried to be like everyone else. Over time I have come to appreciate the perspective that my original culture has given me. Being born in one country, raised in another, and travelling the world has allowed me to understand the importance of perspectives — the more diverse, the better.

From a professional view, I have the privilege to work in a truly global company. Ericsson, with 95 000 employees, is present in more than 160 countries around the world. I have personally had the chance to visit and work in more than 50 of our markets.

I am fortunate to lead a diverse team with roots from 11 different countries and cultures. Some have recently started their professional careers, while some have been in the tech industry for 30 years. All these factors translate into a stronger, better, and more productive team with a rich and wide variety of perspectives brought to the table.

Diversity is multifaceted in my view. It includes gender, age, cultural background, knowledge and skillset. Diversity is about having different ideas, perspectives and approaches. However, diversity is only the first step and will not on its own provide results. Inclusion is where the magic starts to happen. We need to create inclusive cultures where everyone is recognized for their contributions and feel like they belong. When we truly feel that our perspectives and ideas are listened to and valued.

And diversity makes business sense. It’s not just a metric to strive for; it can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. We want our teams to think, challenge, innovate, and explore. To come up with novel ideas and solutions. The key is diverse perspectives and approaches.

One study by the Boston Consulting Group looked at 1700 companies across eight different countries and industries. It showed that diversity increases the bottom line by 19% due to innovation. In another research report by Lu Hong and Scott Page, it shows that groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of the best performing problem solvers. Simply because the latter group’s greater ability is more than offset by their lack of problem-solving diversity.

The archrival of diversity and inclusion is bias. We need to be aware that our biases constantly influence our actions. I want to encourage us to inform and challenge ourselves on our biases continuously. Our biases are deeply rooted in us and can lead to major errors in decision making as we stereotype to take shortcuts in processing information.

One person I admire for her work is Lori Nishiura Mackenzie; she leads the research center at Stanford University on diversity and inclusion. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend her class. As she shared her latest findings, it became apparent how quickly, and often unconsciously, our biases divert our decisions. Decisions that are not perhaps what we want when we take a second look. Her advice to us is to be aware of our biases because they are ON at all times. By being aware, we can pause and prompt ourselves when facing and making decisions.

My humble advice to myself (and all of you) on how to avoid making the wrong decisions is: build diverse teams, and make sure to build a culture where everyone’s voice is heard and valued! By having a diversity of minds and perspectives, you will increase your chances by tenfold that you are indeed expanding your views and taking the right decisions.

And best of it all, you get to learn and grow from those around you.

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