Milestones of my D&I Journey

Fatma Ozdemir presenting at an event about D&I
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Unexpected invitation to a conference in Sweden

In May 2014, I attended the Ericsson Global Gender Conference together with two colleagues from my region, as part of 60 delegates representing the entire Ericsson organization. The agenda included debates, brainstorms, and workshops related to how Ericsson should go about creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. To my surprise, our then CEO, had opened the conference expressing the importance of D&I in such plain words: “We must all look at ourselves and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. We need diverse skills and experiences to continue being creative and innovative”.

Over the course of the two days, it slowly started becoming clear to me that having a diverse working environment stimulates diverse ideas, brings in better solutions, better products, better working environments thus attracting different and new people and eventually, creating better financial results for the company.

Picture 2 How Diversity and Inclusion effects business

Picture 2: How Diversity and Inclusion effects business

I also learned that Ericsson, being in 180 countries, is quite diverse in many dimensions like language, color, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and more. But when it came to gender diversity, there was a big imbalance. We had only 22% women in the overall workforce. So, Ericsson decided to monitor and report on several diversity figures, and as you see from the table below, it takes years to start moving the needle!

Table 1: Gender Diversity - Female representation percentage

Table 1: Gender Diversity - Female representation percentage

Representing my country in Middle East and Africa D&I council

During the conference, I learned that Ericsson had built a Global D&I Council comprising of senior business leaders across the company; reviewing, approving and monitoring diversity and inclusion activities. And shortly after that, I learned that Ericsson Middle East and Africa had decided to build a regional D&I Council. I was selected to represent Turkey in the D&I Council together with another colleague. It was a very enthusiastic group of people trying to understand D&I and adapt it to regional realities. Our strategy was four-fold: Creating awareness by running local events for International Women’s Day, HeForShe, World Culture Day, etc., providing training like “Recognizing Unconscious Bias”, developing internal talent by reviewing talent pools, providing mentoring to young female talent, and attracting external talent by reaching out to schools with GirlsinICT events, as well as targeted social media campaigns. I was learning so much and had so many opportunities to talk about it that by the end of 2014, I was already invited to three Ericsson offices in different cities in Turkey to speak on D&I; and now, I am continuously invited to seminars at universities, not missing any opportunity to bring up D&I on the table.

Becoming a mentor

One of the many activities in our Middle East and Africa D&I strategy was, and still is, to run mentoring circles for female talent, which later also evolved into including Gen Y employees across genders. The purpose is to identify key talent and empower them during their career journey. We are doing this by building circles of 7-8 mentees and a mentor. At the beginning of this process, we were looking for leaders to volunteer and be trained as mentors. I volunteered and started one of the most wonderful journeys of my life. It truly transformed me, helping me understand the deep realities that lead to such unbalanced diversity at work. It has been such a rewarding journey for me that I have even written a separate blog post about it.

Leading the regional D&I council

The first Middle East and North Africa D&I Council was established in 2014. One surprise waiting for me in 2016 was to have the opportunity to lead it! As much as I was excited to continue the journey, I was also anxious about leading the way. Then, I did not know yet that later Region Middle East would merge with Ericsson Sub Saharan Africa Region, becoming Ericsson Middle East and Africa including 65+ countries and that I would be leading the MEA D&I Council. This gave me the opportunity to be part of an even more diverse and colorful group; and the opportunity to work with colleagues I would normally not have an opportunity to work with. To this day, I remain grateful for this opportunity.

Diversity as part of my personal life

I have always loved indulging in different things in life. I have studied engineering and loved working in the international hi-tech industry for more than 20 years. I have been practicing yoga since 2001 and I am a trained yoga teacher since 2009. This has helped me a great deal to balance my life, as well as create opportunities to meet people very different than the engineering community.  Since 2013, I am part of doula community in Turkey, again a totally different way of looking at life. I love cooking and what else… I started studying Ayurveda in 2017 and look forward to continuing the advanced studies in 2020. I believe there is so much to learn from different people, different philosophies in the world. In 2017, I started my personal blog, where I share my experiences on these diverse areas.

How about you? Is your life diverse? Tell us about diversity in your life!

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