Visa highlights the values of universal acceptance for everyone, everywhere through the employees who practice them every day. Meet Terrance Hill, vice president, Global Client Testing, Ibukun “IBK” Okediji, marketing director, CyberSource Solutions, and Kirstyn Scott, manager, Data Products.
What does inclusion mean to each of you and why do you believe it is so important?
Terrance: When I think about inclusion, it’s not all about ethnicity or race, but more about including different thought processes and backgrounds. We don’t all think or act the same and as leaders we should recognize the differences and learn from the experience of others around us.
IBK: Inclusion, to me, means looking at the "whole versus the individual." People unconsciously come with a filter and point of view of what the world is and how things should be. By “being blind to self,” we can become more aware of what’s around us and think more about others. When we are open and curious, thinking of others first, it provides an opportunity to see things in a different way so that we have conversations and dialogue that bring inclusion and acceptance.
Kirstyn: Inclusion can be soft, but it is also a hard, bottom-line imperative for any company. It’s a strategic win for everyone to make sure that we have diverse thoughts being expressed at the table when coming up with solutions for our varied set of clients and consumers. Research has proven for quite some time that diverse businesses make more money but being diverse only works if we include one another in the decision making.
Have any of you experienced times when you felt excluded? How did you handle or overcome those moments?
IBK: I immigrated from West Africa to the United States in 2006 while I was still working with another company. I had come from a predominantly black nation to Dallas, Texas. It was a bit of a culture shock in the sense that I was never conscious before I came to the U.S. that I spoke differently and had a different world perspective from my new co-workers.
People were curious about my accent, the way I approached things, and the way I dealt with issues. But the curiosity wasn’t always authentic, and sometimes it felt questioning. This led to instances where I began to question who I was and how I fit in with the people I was working with. It was very challenging at first, but over time, I worked hard to build relationships with my new colleagues. I opened up and started talking about my culture, my experiences, and my perspective and in turn, people reciprocated, and started opening up about themselves.
Terrance: I would say yes, I believe everyone has felt excluded at one time or another. I’ve always tried to do my best to educate people, taking a “yes, I am different, and here’s why” approach.
Kirstyn: Exclusion is not exclusive to a race or gender group. I’ve felt excluded during my life for those reasons, but also because my work background wasn’t what someone else thought was valuable. I have no doubt colleagues have felt ostracized for other reasons. There are times where you should fight for a seat at the table, but you should also know when to get up from the table and find another way to participate. There are people who want your brilliance, you just need to find each other.
What about times when you experienced intentional inclusion?
Terrance: This is a tricky one because there have been times when the room wasn’t diverse at all. At Visa, I’ve been fortunate to have leaders who have respected me and my abilities and who have made creating an inclusive environment a priority. I think Visa is making good progress on inclusion; but like most companies there is more work to be done.
If you believe Visa does a good job creating an inclusive environment, tell us what that looks and feels like for you and how you (or others you know) may have benefited from that?
Kirstyn: I made the choice to come to Visa almost two years ago because social responsibility is in our DNA. Our success is interwoven with that of our partners and society.
Visa undoubtedly values an inclusive environment, but your cultural experience is always shaped by your managers and your team. It’s clear when managers are doing this well: various people get promoted, people feel more comfortable to take stretch roles, they speak more cross-functionally with colleagues, and make decisions with other groups in mind because they are rewarded for our overall success. People who feel included stay at Visa because they want to be here.
Any final thoughts on ways we can create more diversity and inclusion?
IBK: I think within the context of minorities, gender, race and culture, we have an opportunity to learn from each other and build a community. We must help each other succeed. We get so busy with work and everyday life that we don’t make the time to reach out and make and maintain those connections. For me, I’m working on making the effort to reach out to people of different backgrounds and perspectives and be part of their community. It’s how we are going to push things forward.