Why championing diversity is every business leader’s responsibility

How business leaders can help foster a creative and collaborative culture to inspire equality both inside and outside the organisation.

John Lombard, CEO, Dimension Data Asia-Pacific, talks about embracing diversity to create a positive and productive work environment. 

We celebrated International Women’s’ Day earlier last month, a landmark occasion in the celebration of diversity and equality in our world and in our workplaces. Yet, do we ask ourselves the question of what’s next in our efforts to making this a way of life within our organisations?

Diversity ought to be an ongoing conversation and one that should be the responsibility of every business leader, for a productive work environment, to foster a creative and collaborative culture and to inspire this same equality outside our organisation.


Nurturing diversity and inclusion for a productive and innovative work environment 

John Lombard, CEO, Dimension Data, Asia-Pacific

Diversity and inclusion are not just important traits, but a culture that business leaders need to develop in nurturing their organisation. Beyond attracting talent, it ensures retention of existing employees, which is crucial to the overall success of the company. This helps create an environment where diverse viewpoints and skillsets are constantly leveraged to surmount challenges of today’s unpredictable world.

This will only be possible when employees feel that they and their opinions matter. When people feel valued within the team, they will then be able to engage and contribute better.

There are, of course, challenges that must be addressed.

For example, ensuring that female employees do not feel defined by stereotypes constructed by culture, and even society, tainting their confidence and perception of their capabilities in the workplace.

At Dimension Data Asia Pacific, we strongly believe in this, and are proud partners of Lean In Singapore, a non-profit organisation and community that is focused on empowering women to do just that. In particular, we are actively involved in HeforShe, a sub-chapter of Lean In that focuses on how we can create an environment that enables men to acknowledge and eliminate unconscious - and conscious - bias in the workplace and beyond. By bringing men and women together to discuss this important issue, we hope to make a difference in the workplace to encourage and empower women to realise their passions and success in their careers.


To foster a collaborative culture

Embracing diversity to create a positive and productive work environment facilitates the success of day-to-day operations, when employees feel motivated to perform to the best of their abilities. More importantly, it builds a strong culture of collaboration, ultimately resulting in the growth of employee commitment to the organisation.

As a technology solutions provider, we too harness the power of data within our organisation, to gain insight through analytics into our organisation’s talent make-up and chart the way forward in terms of building and developing talent in the future.

Our global Diversity & Inclusion program was introduced, to create an environment where our employees feel that they are valued, respected and supported. Through our global “Inclusion @ Work” campaigns, we aim to focus on the needs of every individual and put in place the right conditions for them to achieve their full potential, catalysing a productive culture where everyone helps each other to achieve the same within the organisation.


For headway to be made beyond our organisation

As organisations, we have a part to play in not only taking care of the employees within, but also to contribute to the communities that we are a part of. Our starting point is sharing our know-how and expertise. Following that, we should look to encourage similar headway in our local communities in support of diversity.

We are very passionate about championing gender diversity, especially in other male-dominated industries and sectors.

Closer to home, Singapore’s women’s rugby scene has been on the rise in the last few years, with the Women’s 7s team being the 2nd best team in the region and agonisingly close in their bid to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games. We recently partnered with the Singapore Rugby Union, sponsoring the women’s rugby team to raise their profile in the local scene and to groom young rugby talent who aspire to represent Singapore in the sport one day. It is our hope that this amplifies a positive message beyond the sporting scene, that women can truly thrive in any endeavour that they are passionate about, and that their talent and hard work is supported and recognised by the wider community.

Business leaders need to set the tone within their respective organisations and to take a stand on matters that affect business and talent. Diversity, and the way we manage diversity, eventually will define the organisational environment and culture. In the world that we currently live in, it is imperative for us to have an open mindset and ensure that different people from different backgrounds – whether age, race, gender, religion, culture, etc., feel that they are included, heard and valued in the organisation. Many research papers have time and again proved that having a diverse workforce has positive effects to the business. According to Harvard Business Review, “Employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market”.


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