Avanade’s commitment to diversity includes LGBT & gender equality

  • Posted on April 6, 2016

LGBT and gender equality

Last month Avanade sponsored a global conference, the first of its kind, from The Economist called Pride and Prejudice. Simultaneous events were held over a 24 hour period in Hong Kong, London and New York with video session links between the three cities. For the first time corporate leaders gathered to discuss the business and economic impact of LGBT inclusion and discrimination. Alongside AXA Deputy CEO Denis Duverne I participated in a panel moderated by Zanny Minton Beddoes at the London event with a crowd of over 270 people from top global organizations in attendance. I have read The Economist for years and felt privileged to be working with Zanny and learning from the other speakers as well as the audience of respected business leaders. The realization, during the event, that it’s illegal to be gay in 75 countries was astonishing to me and just shows how much progress there still is to be made globally on this topic.

In the weeks leading up to the conference I spoke to the board of our LGBT Employee Resource Group and researched many angles to the discussion of the business value of diversity and inclusion. In addition to the global data, the biggest eye opener for me in preparation and participation was that even the most enlightened people or the most progressive companies are all still on a journey. The path is not the same for any two people or any two companies but I can say with all confidence that we are doing a good job at Avanade. We are making progress in creating a workplace that maximizes productivity by allowing people to bring their whole self to work. We still have improvement to make though and I feel a first step is encouraging people to self-identify, to stand up for what they believe in and to be counted. In turn, as employers, it’s our responsibility to provide a work environment that is safe, supportive and allows people to be part of a bigger community.

Equality is paramount, to me personally, and as a company we have made great strides in recent years to be a more diverse organization and to create that inclusive environment. On the heels of Pride & Prejudice, Avanade also celebrated our single largest gender awareness activity with over 76 events around the world to recognize International Women’s Day on 8 March. As I said in my pledge for parity I genuinely believe diversity drives innovation and inclusion encourages creativity. I want to continue the work we are doing at Avanade to change things for the better and ensure everyone counts.

So what do Pride and Prejudice and International Women’s Day have in common, besides shining a light on the importance of diversity? They both also serve as reminders that despite the inroads we have made over the last 30 years toward a more fair and just society which accepts people as they are and aims to employ and reward all equally; we aren’t there yet. We must keep pushing and we must keep learning. When we stop working to understand the point of view of those who are under-represented, we impede collaboration and we create barriers to advancement. This is not what I want for today or for future generations entering the workplace in the coming years and decades.

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