As part of the class of #LeadershipAtlanta2015 (Best Class Ever), I was introduced to Diversity + Inclusion training, and it changed me as a person. Since that time, I’ve vowed to bring it in some form to every workplace I lead. But when I started talking about Diversity + Inclusion at BrightHouse, people raised an eyebrow saying, “BrightHouse is already very diverse, why are you, of all companies, prioritizing this training?”
The answer is simple – because Diversity without Inclusion isn’t enough if all of our Thinkers don’t feel respected, with their unique voices heard. And we all have perspectives to gain and skills to learn when it comes to inclusion, no matter the stage in our development.
That’s why BrightHouse decided to make a commitment to invest in Diversity + Inclusion training. We held the session at Emory University’s Miller-Ward Alumni House and flew in Thinkers from around the country and from our Berlin office. We brought in an excellent third-party agency, Language and Culture Worldwide (LCW), to lead our first conversation and provide tools to mitigate our inherent unconscious bias and encourage an inclusive working environment.
At BrightHouse, we place supreme value on holistic thinking and diversity of thought, so varied perspective and insight are paramount to our and our clients’ success. Our premise is backed by many studies, such as this one, that suggest a wider range of educational and work backgrounds leads to more innovative outcomes. BrightHouse provides creative thought leadership so that the organizations we work with are inspired to light the way. That requires diverse viewpoints, and a culture that respects and cultivates them.
From a performance perspective, the research is also clear: diverse teams perform better. From one angle, a study of 20,000 firms in 91 countries in 2016 found that companies with more female executives were more profitable. With a workforce that is 70% female, and a gender balanced leadership team, the need to be inclusive of women’s voices penetrates every level of BrightHouse. Another 2009 study of 506 companies found that racial and gender diversity increased the number of customers, sales revenue, and of course, the ultimate profit of the firms. BrightHouse is fairly racially diverse as well. At least 30% of our Thinkers self ID as racially and ethnically diverse.
Diversity is something to be proud of, but without inclusion, which encourages and supports a safe environment for thought and action, much of the nuance and value offered by efforts to be diverse can be lost. Silent diversity does little good. In practice, being diverse but not inclusive can be harmful versus insightful.
Knowing that this type of training is often intense, we asked everyone to be ready to question their internal biases and challenge themselves to be self-aware. By its nature this is hard, but self-questioning also helps us grow as humans and as a culture. Our Thinkers felt were assured that though the conversation may be difficult at times, we would navigate it together.
This training is only the start of BrightHouse’s journey on this topic. We’re committed to making change on a cultural level by keeping the conversation going and creating programs that have been inspired by our training. I consistently tell our Thinkers that my door is open for honest opinions and conversations – but this policy only benefits us if our Thinkers believe the door is open to all.