If there is one word that sums up successfully promoting diversity in a company – particularly one as large as State Street – it’s ‘visibility’. This became apparent to me when I attended a Stonewall dinner a few years ago. I was brought up to be tolerant of people from all walks of life; I assumed this was enough. But this dinner taught me it’s not.
To truly put diversity at the heart of your corporate culture, you need ambassadors. You need vocal spokespeople. You need momentum. You need individuals publicly promoting diversity and making the issues as visible as possible in the eyes of colleagues, clients and stakeholders.
Without strong visibility the message can fail to come across. We found that many leaders and senior executives assume people will realise they are sympathetic allies, with opportunities for real change missed or reduced.
So what does visibility look like? Our Global Pride Network is one example. Another is a series of workshops our UK business held on ‘an introduction to trans awareness’ and ‘what’s so special about bisexuality?’
Stepping outside State Street and engaging with the wider community, we have taken clients to the Gay Film Festival in London and launched a reverse mentoring programme where managers can ‘buddy up’ with someone from Pride to better understand the issues LGBT people face at work. Recently we also held an event looking at how parents of LGBT children can support them. Education and visibility go hand in hand. The more we know the better champions we are.
I have experienced firsthand the positive effects that a mentor or role model can have on career development. This made me realise that we need to embed the concept of allies into our inclusion programme so people can meet role models and find mentors. This was the rationale behind the launch of State Street’s Global Ally Programme.
Numerous studies show consistent higher performance of groups that include colleagues with varied expertise, backgrounds and perspectives. A recent report by Credit Suisse cited a 3% outperformance of companies that foster LGBT diversity; they experience lower staff turnover rates and better retention. The research highlights the role of LGBT allies in nurturing organisational inclusivity: 72% of people are more likely to accept a job at a company supportive of LGBT employees.
I genuinely believe that our values and behaviours are driven by the role models we see. If you look up and see that the people at the top are supportive, you’re more likely to realise the value of your difference and be confident in championing change.
As a global organisation State Street’s leaders have a responsibility – and an opportunity – to perhaps step outside their comfort zone and nurture the diversity we have within our company. For us diversity and inclusion goes to the heart of our business. We have more than 32,000 employees in offices around the world, each bringing unique qualities that help strengthen our business.
We know different viewpoints and perspectives fuel innovative thinking and debate, and can lead to better business outcomes. So I am really glad I attended that Stonewall dinner a few years ago.
Kim Newell Chebator is chief administrative officer for EMEA at State Street