Leading Diversity and Inclusion

Leading Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are no longer topics created by engaged human resource managers. They came from the idea of social justice, but now they already reached an understanding in top management positions – the knowledge that a diverse and included working atmosphere leads to higher employee commitment. It has not always been like that.

Margot Slattery, Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Sodexo, told us her personal story behind her current position live on stage at the Global Female Leaders Summit 2019. This article gives a short overview of her keynote and links to the video recording on our YouTube channel. You will see that it is not only the company’s profitability that drives her intentions in diversity and inclusion – it is her heart which she puts into this project. Moreover, she explains how Sodexo manages diversity and inclusion to get the full engagement and support of its employees.

Covering your true self

Margot Slattery has been working for Sodexo for more than 28 years – a company with about 480,000 employees around the world. When she started her job, she felt totally different about the company than she does now. She was not comfortable at all. Growing up at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland, she had learned how to cover her personality not only at the workplace but also in society. She did not even talk about her sexual orientation. with family members

Growing up in that environment, I did not feel I could be myself.

Margot Slattery, Global Diversity and Inclusion officer at Sodexo, Ireland

In order to find a connection to fellow students or colleagues, she created an imaginary boyfriend. Those lies wasted a lot of energy – especially at work. And it was not only the lies – wearing a mask at least eight hours a day prevents people from including their whole being into work. So there was only a part of her really present and engaged.

You are probably asking yourself now: At what point exactly did she open up and come out? How did she become the confident woman she is today? Was it the day homosexuality became legal in Ireland? The answer may surprise you. It was a change in management positions. The new leaders had been aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, so it became a discussed topic. The leaders have given a different direction towards appreciating people for who they are. And Margot Slattery followed.

For the first time in her life, she dared to open up. She told her colleagues and even her family about her sexual interest. And you know what? It was no surprise – they had been aware of that or at least assuming for years. So all the years of hiding had been for nothing.

Make diversity and inclusion your responsibility!

What do we learn from Margot’s story? Only leaders that believe in bringing their complete personality into the workplace can make diversity and inclusion believable and therefore possible. Don’t leave your employees alone with that. The bigger the company, the more important it is. Only when leaders make the first step, employees can really follow suit and open up.

When you have the feeling that you are the same as everybody else, it is powerful.

Margot Slattery, Global Diversity and Inclusion officer at Sodexo, Ireland

Think a moment about the following question. Do you do everything you can to help people to be themselves? If the answer is no, you should give your best to turn it into a yes – for the company’s, your employees’ and your own sake.

We have to admit that this path is not easy. But the understanding of belonging and not belonging can help you on this journey. So if you experienced situations in which you felt excluded by a group of people, just think about what it meant for you.

To give you some more tips about diversity and inclusion, have a look at Sodexo. They understood the importance of generation Y and Z – a group of young professionals that place emphasis on employer brands and the values they stand for, including diversity. Sodexo realized that it is not enough to just have nice awards and pictures about the relevance of diversity for their company. Margot Slattery told us during her keynote that you have to make them FEEL the significance for you.

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Best practice tips for Diversity and Inclusion

Moreover, gender equality is one of the biggest areas for improvement at Sodexo. As we explained in former articles on the blog, women’s voices make a big difference in the organization – so better check your gender balance. Also, emotional intelligence is something you should consider when dealing with diversity. Whenever you communicate with others, don’t forget that it is a human being with own feelings, desires, and goals you are talking to. This includes more than just choosing the right words – also body language, accent, etc. are part of that. So lead with empathy!

In addition, Sodexo appreciates employees’ new product and service ideas. You may be surprised by how creative and valuable their ideas can be. Sometimes the ideas are even better than the best product developer could have imagined – just because those employees spend more time on several business areas. Margot emphasizes: If you don’t appreciate and reward good ideas, those talented people will do it for somebody else.

The office architecture is also often not taken into account for inclusion. Doorknobs are not on the right height for small people, stairs and desks are not adaptable and the air conditioning temperature is still optimized for men’s needs – whereas a study found out in 2019 that women are more productive at warmer temperatures. So why don’t we adopt all office areas to make employees feel more comfortable?

Those few tips may help you start your own diversity and inclusion journey. We are thankful that Margot Slattery shared her story with us and we hope that this topic will be even more discussed at the next Global Female Leaders summit in May 2020. There are still a few tickets left, so book your seat now!

Review 2019: Collaborating to Build a Better World

Once again, remarkable women and influential leaders from all over the world convened under one roof to share their expertise, perspective and acumen on how the world we live in is developing and what everyone can contribute to make a positive impact. Learn more and download the offical review 2019!

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