June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City and the LGBT+ fight for rights in the US and worldwide. The Pride Month reminds us all that true inclusion is only possible when legislative protection meets daily actions. An inclusive approach means considering everyone’s unique standpoints when approaching a concept or a problem. It’s a constant call to action: ask and be prepared to listen. The Pride Month is also simply about celebrating pluralism. The last days of June seem to be the perfect time for exploring the importance of equality and diversity in a modern workplace. intive is talking to the company’s CEO 2012-2019, Ludovic Gaudé about his views on the matter.
Equality is not debatable. We’re all born equal. Where are we, globally, in terms of equality?
We are all born equal, however, our starting points are not the same. We benefit greatly from being born mentally and physically healthy and our lives are much easier when we grow up in a safe and loving environment and have the opportunity to get good education, explore our creativity and grow professionally. My perspective is that of a professional responsible for protecting equality and diversity in a workplace: proper anti-discrimination policies within organizations such as companies and institutions are vital. Our Western position on social equality and diversity is rather well-established and shared across the European Union and on the other side of the Atlantic. Yet, from a broader perspective, there’s still a lot to be done.
Building a culture of equality and diversity is a task for the society as a whole. How can organizations such as intive contribute?
The most important thing we can do is to make sure that people’s individual professional qualifications are the only basis for the evaluation of their performance. Basically, we should always look at how people work and how they cooperate with others. That, in my opinion and experience, is the essence. At work it should never matter where you come from, what you believe in, how you look or spend your time outside the office as long as you act respectfully and in line with internal regulations. Companies are responsible for creating an inclusive and anti-discriminatory culture for all employees and this means implementing procedures and acting on them, when necessary. I don’t like the thought of favoring people who represent minorities for the sake of boosting diversity in a work environment. I’m not a big fan of quotas of any kind.
The tech world is dynamically reshaping our reality. Do you think there’s some extra pressure on the industry that’s so robust and impactful when it comes to supporting and promoting equality?
We have the means to shape a more equal and inclusive environment in terms of tech accessibility. Our designers have a lot of power to create user-friendly products and services that don’t leave anyone out. It’s a significant challenge and a huge responsibility. The recently raised issue of facial recognition’s racial bias clearly shows that when we design services and products we need to be more aware and make sure we include everyone in the process. The tech world is seen by people as an open one and there are good reasons for that. We’re collaborating internationally on a massive scale and cultural barriers don’t stop us from working and thinking together. In modern companies it’s all about your skills. When a person coming from a socially disadvantaged environment lands within our company structure, we need to be certain that he or she feels equal to everyone there. I’ll say it again: in the workplace we care about how you work on your own and with others and that’s all that should matter to recruiters, mangers and work colleagues.
In the previous interview, we’ve already touched on the importance of diversity for innovative companies. Let’s dive deeper into that. Companies strive to be politically correct but that’s not merely the goal here, is it? What are the tangible benefits of having a diverse workforce?
Diversity stimulates creativity and broadens the perspective. In a sense, we’re all different, have different backgrounds and unique stories. This abundance of experiences and perspectives on things has a great impact on the results of our work. Whether it’s design, management, marketing or development – when different people meet, the discussion gets interesting. If diversity is backed with true equality, then amazing things can happen. People listen to each other, share and everyone benefits.
Your own career has been an international journey. You’ve experienced a couple of different work environments. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What were the best practices for inclusion you’ve come across?
There’s no guide here. Respect is key, whatever you do. Majorities must respect minorities and the other way around. What I’ve learned is that when people are balanced, satisfied with their income, fulfilled professionally and as individuals, they’re more likely to overcome any kind of conflict that might arise in a workplace and less likely to provoke one. Frustration of any kind doesn’t go hand in hand with respect and openness. Managing diversity is a challenge. It’s a challenge to societies and to organizations. It would be naive to expect from everyone to easily adapt to a truly diverse workplace since we all come from very different backgrounds. To some, it’s going to be harder than to others, but that’s natural. What’s important, is that we recognize the difference between being reserved and hostile. Discrimination in the form of offensive language, inappropriate jokes or exclusion from dialogue is unacceptable.
Mutual respect is the basis of equality. How should we confront discrimination in the workplace when it does sneak in?
We should react. We should follow the internal procedures and make sure that both sides are heard. Employees need to feel safe to speak up. When something alarming takes place, it must be addressed both quickly and with consideration. Unintentional discrimination is something very difficult to manage but at the same time it shouldn’t pass unnoticed. I believe in dialogue and empathy. We can reach an understanding, no matter where we come from.