May marks European Diversity Month, which celebrates efforts to build inclusive environments. I am Dagmara Perlak, CSR manager at intive, and I sat down with intive CEO Gurdeep Grewal to unpack his experience in dealing with discrimination, his perspective in integrating and leading diverse teams, and why the issue of diversity is of such great significance to his personal and professional development.
It's about acknowledging differences and encouraging openness, as well as creating a level environment for everyone, no matter color, creed, orientation, or geography.
Coming into the U.K., primarily a white country in 1968 and being a brown face was very hard. Luckily, I spoke English, but there was a lot of racism because people were not educated about why there were people from Jamaica, Africa, India, and other colonies across the world coming into Britain. The government didn't really tell people why that was happening. For us, we were British citizens by birth because we were part of the colony and came here because of education and those things. It was very hurtful to be called names. But it made you very focused to achieve something.
Education was the foundation to get over those challenges. It was recognized very quickly that Indians and other Asians were very hard working, very dedicated. But it took the UK a long time to understand that. But this is true everywhere in the world. If you don't educate yourself, you are more likely to have a bias based on hearsay or bad press.
The world has changed. Today, it's a melting pot of different worlds, different foods, different religions, different characters, and people from all over the world have sort of melted into the UK, in particular London.
Follow your dream, follow your ambition. Don't let anything hold you back. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. If you have a goal, you have an ambition, you have a passion, go for it. Because that will shine in what you do and doors will open for you as you go through that process.
And the other thing I also would suggest is always look out for mentors, or look for people that could give you advice and they can come out of all different avenues. They don't have to be your line manager or direct manager, it could be somebody that's a subordinate. It could be a peer or somebody in a different function.
Use those connections to develop yourself and your career. I've had some great mentors in my career. When something didn't go well, I'd go and talk to them, and they gave me another perspective and I would then use that perspective to be better and overcome challenges. There's always a mentor somewhere for you, you've just got to find them.
Educating, mentoring, creating friendly environment for underrepresented groups are very important: they always bring good results in a long-term perspective. Another way is through 'positive discrimination', in which you look at the global population and then set target percentages of representation in the organization, whether it's more women, more people with a different ethnic background, disabled people, or people with a sexual orientation that is different from yours.
My personal view is not to use data like this, but rather to recognize that we're operating in a global environment: When you think about our customers, we are dealing with Americans, Indians, Germans, Argentinians, Irish, Polish, British, Romanian, and more. The different qualities that come from these backgrounds are what you should think about building in teams. Especially in our design thinking business, the more variety you have – the more people from different cultures – the better viewpoints you will get.
We're a very multicultural organization, and I think people benefit from that.
If you look at the number of managers and people we have from different backgrounds in our company, right from the top, we have somebody from an Indian background, we have people from a German background, a Polish background, and an English background. We've got high levels of diversity from people coming from LATAM backgrounds, Americans, and others.
We have established LGBTQ+ ambassadors that didn't exist in the company. And even though we faced resistance, externally and internally, we pushed ahead on that, because I feel we need to give people a platform.
So I think over the years, we've integrated diversity without positive discrimination. We've embraced it naturally and by role modeling and leadership. Having a CEO that does come from an ethnic background will naturally drive that. And acceptance has been easy. So I think I've made intive a lot more diverse than it was. I think we have now, probably around 40 different nationalities, if not more. We've brought in people from Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Romania, Spain, and Pakistan.
So I think naturally, we've gravitated to being like our customers: We're just as diverse as them. If you look at all of our key customers, they all have a diversity approach to their business, and intive has one as well.
I read an article somewhere that said by 2056, there will not be any majority. There'll be a mixture of cultures, there will be people in that melting pot of different cultures, different religions to create a sort of a unified world. So that's where we are going, there's no doubt about it.
I want people to want to come and feel happy and that they're valued. And they don't have to worry about where they come from, or what language they speak. It should be the intive language and quality, the intive gold standard.
Why are we on this earth? We're on this earth to look after each other as human beings. So, hopefully, when we speak again about this, we don't have a diversity month, because celebrating diversity is part of everyday, normal life. Every month is a diversity month. We shouldn't need to have a special month to celebrate this. That's the norm I'm looking for. As with holidays, it doesn't matter whose holiday; it's everyone's. We should celebrate as good human beings.