Diversity and Inclusion is a recurring theme in companies that wish to go beyond thinking exclusively about finances, but rather shift their focus on aspects like the wellbeing of their employees, motivation, productivity and so on. The subject of gender equality is usually a big part of the diversity discussion and issues such as the gender pay gap and workplace discrimination feature prominently in this kind of approach.
In mondora we discovered there was a slight gender pay gap last year when we shared our salary information internally, and the issue was righted immediately. Other than that we never really considered addressing topics of Diversity and Inclusion.
A few things happened recently that made us think again: the inclusion of mondora into a much larger parent company, and our experience at the yearly company conference in which out of two thousand employees the number of women speaking on stage was….zero. Perhaps it was time to look at the bigger picture and not only at what was happening inside of mondora.
This is when we came up with the idea of Inspiring Women, a focus group that would meet once a quarter to discuss various topics of interest and propose solutions to the issues we were suddenly faced with as part of the two thousand employee company.
From Inspiring Women….
Our first Inspiring Women meeting was organised in the meditation room of our office, where we sat on the wooden floor with piles of cushions around us. We invited the women from the TeamSystem office in Jesi, who we are often in contact with, and also a philosopher who has experience in facilitating diversity meetings and conferences.
We talked for about two hours and shared both personal stories and stories of women who inspire us. We also tried to come up with some next steps and actions that would help us gain something valuable from these meetings and collected lots of interesting input from everyone.
The meeting had a very positive outcome and was especially important for the Jesi team, who felt that such issues were never even considered normally in the workplace.
We also noticed that there was a big difference in the quantity and type of issues raised between mondora and Jesi women. Whereas the Jesi team raised concerns about work flexibility and maternity leave which made having a family a complex process, the only real joint issue shared by everyone was that of being ignored in meetings and other workplace situations where there are mostly (or only) men present – both inside the company and also with customers. Despite the differences, we all felt the meeting was useful and inspiring, and we will start planning our next joint event soon.
…to Inspiring People
One thing that didn’t feel quite right for the :m team women was the fact of having a separate group where we discussed issues that could be useful to our male colleagues as well, but without them. After sharing thoughts with everyone we decided that in our case it was actually counterproductive to have a specific group for the women of the company, and it created separation rather than inclusion.
We all felt that there are no situations in mondora where we feel intimidated, silenced or discriminated in any way by our male colleagues, so there wasn’t much point in having our own “special” group within the company. So internally, we all voted to keep Inspiring Women for larger joint events with TeamSystem, and create a new group, Inspiring People, for the :m team. We thought it would be far more productive for us to shift attention from Diversity, which always seems to get the spotlight position, to Inclusion.
Inspiring Women will now be an event that we share with the women of the TeamSystem teams we work with, in which we can get together and discuss larger scale issues and topics. For the nine women inside mondora, we wish to be included in the overall :m team and not isolate ourselves in a distinct group.
It is important to note that this was a common decision made by all of us, and that it works for our company but would not necessarily be the optimal solution for everyone. It takes a high degree of collaboration and teamwork to reach a point in which everyone in the company, regardless of gender or other differences, feels at ease enough to discuss sensitive topics together.
In our case, Inspiring People will be the place to discuss problems we face when dealing with customers or other companies, and work together towards improvements and solutions to these problems. It will be the place to ask for help on work related topics we are struggling with, such as side projects, and to discover what others are working on. Ultimately, we hope it will be a recurring opportunity for us to get together and keep growing as a team, so that when issues do arise, we are all in a position to help each other out and work towards solutions.
One final consideration is that we don’t have an HR office, so there is no one to go to formally if a difficult people situation arises. This is why Inspiring People is such an important initiative that encourages collaboration, respect, dialogue and problem solving within a team that is constantly growing and becoming more diverse over time.