How many of us have scanned the room during a meeting in search of a face like ours? Whether it’s a person who shares our race, gender, age or other defining trait, it’s reassuring to feel like there is somebody else in attendance who may be able to understand our perspective and point of view. Today, people regularly find themselves in meetings where they might be the only person who identifies with a particular group. This is both a testament to the successful efforts we have made in increasing diversity in recent years and a challenge that reminds us how far we still have to go.
It is also an opportunity to explore what we really mean when we speak about diversity and inclusion. I recently moderated an enlightening discussion on the topic for Black History Month with influential black leaders in the Bay Area as well as a fireside chat about the opportunities for women to lead in the workplace. We will be hosting events throughout the month in celebration of International Women’s Day this March.
While diversity is a complex, multi-faceted concept, a central component is bringing together individuals that exhibit a wide range of attributes. Some—like ethnicity or gender—do not change. But there is also a second dimension of diversity based on life experiences, like where you went to school, the languages you have learned over time and the skills you have gained over your career. Capturing both dimensions brings a rich combination of backgrounds and perspectives that ultimately foster a dynamic and innovative work environment.
The power that comes from assembling that varied mix of people evaporates without a sense of inclusion—and that goes beyond simply accepting our differences. It is about escaping the confinements of your comfort zone to welcome and value insights contributed by people from different parts of an organization, with different levels of authority and, of course, different backgrounds.
Real inclusion invites everyone to feel comfortable and confident that they belong at a workplace—and that won’t happen unless individuals can proudly display their differences. Why? Because then they can fully contribute to the mission of the organization. After all, diverse perspectives are wasted if they are never voiced or heard.
Fortunately, inclusion is a competency that can be learned. It can be broken down into a set of behaviors that you can teach people, and you can get better at it with time and training. It’s a mindset and an intentionality that people need to bring to their everyday interactions. Human nature often causes us to make snap judgments about people in order to quickly make sense of our world. And that’s when we allow biases to creep in, conscious or not. Leaders who tap into conscious behavior and actively bring in the broadest range of voices aren’t necessarily born; they’re made. That’s why at Visa we’ve integrated the principles of inclusion into how we evaluate talent within our organization.
We provide leaders with feedback from various sources, including employee surveys, about how successful they are at creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their unique perspectives. Inclusion is part of the blueprint we follow to build a strong foundation for our organization.
When leaders focus on creating a team that values different points of view, the true potential of diversity unfolds. Everyone has a voice in the conversation and a significant role to play. That doesn’t mean we will necessarily stop scanning the room, looking for a face like ours. But it does mean we see all the faces around the table as partners who have the potential to make valuable contributions. Ultimately, a company only becomes stronger by reflecting this nuanced attitude—and it helps us move forward.
For more about Visa’s employee culture, visit our Life at Visa Instagram: www.instagram.com/lifeatvisa
For more about Diversity & Inclusion at Visa, visit https://visa.com/diversity