Advancing the D&I agenda from diversity to true inclusion

The DE&I journey has taken Bloomberg from diversity to inclusion, writes Alisha Fernando, Head of Diversity and Inclusion APAC, Bloomberg.
By: | August 15, 2023

The past few years have witnessed companies stepping up on D&I initiatives. This positive shift has resulted in a plethora of new programmes in recognition that the D&I landscape is always evolving and there is always more that can be done.

At Bloomberg, D&I is top of mind for us every day, because we are at our best as a company when our employees bring their best selves to work. Our approach has been to focus on a few things and do them well, in lieu of spreading ourselves too thin and potentially compromising on impact. The encouraging thing about D&I is that while firms may compete with one another for business, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we are all in it together because progress is charted for the collective.

Our journey has been one of collaboration. There have been instances where we have led the market and others where we have learned from our peers, both humbling in our commitment to advancing the D&I agenda for the industry and talent by and large.

One of the first-to-market initiatives we led in APAC was the This is Me Asia (TiMA) campaign. Originally created in the UK, TiMA focuses on sharing personal stories from persons with disability or mental health conditions to help normalise conversations about these topics in the workplace. We proactively approached Community Business, a leading non-profit committed to promoting DE&I across APAC, and volunteered to be their strategic partner in bringing the campaign to the region. We invested dollars to expand the programme and in partnership with Community Business, convened a steering group, which produced an Employer Guide made available at no cost to any firm interested in getting on board. Now in its second year, we have seen a 50% uptick in participation, totalling around 60 organisations across all industries. Through storytelling, TiMA has moved the dial in destigmatizing mental health. It has empowered employees to be comfortable in being their true selves at work and fostered a more supportive culture.

At Bloomberg, we know that equity looks different for everyone, so we created a Wellness Plan to ensure we were best supporting the personal needs of new joiners. The Wellness Plan gives employees the opportunity to disclose any accessibility related needs to perform their roles effectively. With the support of the D&I team, our leaders sit down with employees to map out how Bloomberg’s workspace, tools and teams can support them to thrive. Its impact has been felt on both sides, providing our talent an avenue to openly seek support and our leaders an opportunity to have proactive and supportive conversations with their direct reports. As one of the first firms to pioneer this approach, we have received inquiries from other firms about our process, and have openly shared our learnings, best practices and experience with them.

We are committed to making strides in D&I but we are also cognisant we do not always have all the answers. Learning from our peers has enabled us to build on our knowledge, such as that around disability hiring. We were inspired by Credit Suisse’s robust programme around accessibility and disability hiring and employee support. We adopted and tailored a few of their project frameworks when we looked at our own approach to accessibility and disability employment this year. There is so much to be gained from firms putting their heads together and we are grateful to be partnering with others to improve our initiatives.

“Moving towards “inclusion” allows us to look less at what makes us different and instead invest energy in creating an environment where everyone feels included.” – Alisha Fernando, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, APAC, Bloomberg

The running thread in all these programmes is our intentional move towards true inclusion and equity. We are proud of moving our D&I conversation from one focused on “diversity” towards one centred on “inclusion”. Although the difference may seem subtle, the impact is compelling. Reframing away from “diversity” reduces emphasis on our “differences,” which for a region as vast and culturally diverse as APAC, is sometimes a sensitive nuance. Moving towards “inclusion” allows us to look less at what makes us different and instead invest energy in creating an environment where everyone feels included.

The industry and workplace are currently going through a significant shift, particularly in how firms define D&I and engage with talent. And while no one has answers to all that we are solving for, as long as we are adamant with the why and flexible with the how, together we can continue to build inclusive work cultures that ensure employees feel seen, heard, supported and valued.

About the author: Alisha Fernando is Head of Diversity and Inclusion APAC, Bloomberg. Join her at HR Tech Fest Connect 2023, where she and Robert Gee, Asia-Pacific Head of Sell-Side Trading Solutions Sales, will share more on how Bloomberg is ensuring employee wellbeing is integrated into all facets of the employee lifecycle.