Hacking how we work, collaborate and act to embrace gender diversity

  • Posted on February 21, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
international women’s day

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Elizabeth Derby.

As I was reflecting on this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) well before we learned the official United Nation’s theme (“Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”), our focus on innovation seemed natural and resonated with both my business perspective and individual sensibility. Bringing fresh and innovative thinking to our clients is at the core of Avanade’s business as a leading digital innovator. Our “Innovate for Change” theme also inspires me personally as I want us to be bold – to “hack” how we work, collaborate and act. It’s an opportunity to create a more inclusive organization where everyone can do their best work and where we experience the innovation potential of all our people.

When I think of innovating for change, I am inspired by the film “Hidden Figures” and the paradigm shift that occurred for women in STEM due to the tenacity, intellect and innovative approach taken by these three female black mathematicians. These WWII-era women broke through multiple barriers – race, gender, socio-economics, segregation – to inspire generations of girls and other diverse talent to innovate and change things for the better. Their impact has been exponential and is a great example of the many contributions globally that we want to commemorate with IWD.

Capturing hearts and minds to interrupt bias in our digital world
There’s a growing gender digital divide, and the tech industry has both the opportunity and responsibility to address it head on. My dream is for girls/women – and boys/men – to hear the word “innovator” and equally think of female and male inspirational innovators. Here’s a challenge: Get out your mobile device and in five minutes or less, capture all the names of female innovators and male innovators you can think of without the help of Cortana, Alexa, Siri or whatever digital aid you use. What do you observe? Now ask your favorite digital aid to do the same search. Even our search engines need a paradigm – and parity – shift! For this to happen, we must demonstrate how diverse perspectives and teams spark creativity and innovation. As a numbers person by background and a people person at the heart, both the research and real-life examples resonate with me.

By the numbers – What the research tells us
Inclusive and diverse teams are critical to innovation and future growth – and are critical for any business that wants to remain competitive and relevant. Employees perform to their highest potential in an environment that fosters not only diversity, but also inclusion. Center for Talent Innovation research shows that employees are 3.5 times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential in “speak up” cultures where diverse perspectives are welcomed. Catalyst’s Inclusive Leadership: The View from Six Countries research found that employees who felt more included reported 42 percent increased innovation. One interesting finding was in Japan (the host of our 2018 IWD event!) where behaviors among men and women who felt most included were 81 percent more innovative. Of note, women who felt the most valued as individuals demonstrated nearly twice the innovative behaviors. With a clear correlation between inclusion and innovation, let’s look to the human experience.

By the stories – How human experience inspires us
We only need look to the stories – past and present – to see the possibilities. We are inspired by the stories we hear and role models we see. Reading Ten Historic Female Scientists You Should Know made me realize there’s an opportunity to amplify the many examples globally and show people how diverse perspectives enrich our lives. (Confession: from this global list, I only knew about two. How many did you recognize?) Recognizing that only 15 percent of their English language Wiki biographies represented women, Wikipedia launched Project Women in Red in 2015 to address this imbalance. One male ally, a UK author, has made this his life’s work. Wikipedia’s intentional approach has moved the dial to 17.78 percent now. While I’m saddened by the countless stories – motivational role models – that we may not know, I prefer to be forward-focused on what each of us can do to innovate for change.

Innovating for change
To me this means welcoming all voices to the workplace, inviting the dissenting voice and hacking how we work, collaborate and act. Avanade is flexing this muscle with 65+ innovation-infused forums across 20+ countries, as well as a new Client Digital Leadership Bootcamp to instill client executives with insights and confidence to lead their organizations through digital transformation. Stay tuned for the next blog in our International Women’s Day series for real life examples of how we’re making Innovate for Change come to life each day – and how you can too. It starts with each of us!

Marie-Claire Latour

Thxs Elizabeth for your reflections - some pragmatic actions we can all take here. 

March 5, 2019

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