The question that we discussed at SmartWorks Reading SmartTalks wasn't what will I be when I grow up, but how will I get there. 

Just over a week ago, I attended an inspiring panel discussion all about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The four panellists included a Customer Success Director at Microsoft (Neil Sparkes) who is a passionate ally for the Women at Microsoft network,  a Sales Director at VMware (James Hogan) who is keen that the diversity of sales hiring improves, a business psychologist  (Carmen Amador Barreiro) who was able to share insights into employee engagement and gender diversity in the workplace, and the Global Diversity and Inclusion Director at Page Group (Sarah Kirk) - the panel was brilliantly compared by Toni Kent, with an honest and open approach.  

First a quick intro to SmartWorks. SmartWorks is a national charity that empowers women to get back into work through offering interview coaching and a styling service including providing the outfit. I am proud to be a volunteer at SmartWorks Reading and we believe that every woman deserves to feel supported and feel her best. Our approach is a respectful and humble one. We always remember that the road between us and our clients is a narrow one. It may be hard for some of us to imagine being in this difficult situation of needing help to find the confidence to go to an interview, but as Johann Hari talks about in his book Lost Connections, sometimes all it can take is for connections to be lost or for one difficult life experience to happen and things spiral. The majority of us spend most of our waking week at work and a job is so much more than an occupation now. We see multiple generations in the workforce and for the more mature generations, a job or career was very much for life and formed the centre of someone’s identity. Now we expect to have multiple careers in our lifetime and there are many people pursuing more than one career simultaneously (see the article in the BBC this week about Slashies- ) and our career is no longer the only thing defining us. Entering the workplace from education requires more resilience than ever before and we must expect to have to handle changes and transformations at work.

The panel discussion focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace both in culture and gender, and on how having a diverse team makes a business more successful. James from VMware accurately commented on how few women we have in the sales profession, and he identified how women posses the skills and strengths to achieve in sales, so why aren’t more women working in sales? We discussed how job adverts don’t always attract a diverse group of people. Carmen noted how it’s proven that a diverse group of people brings more success than hiring multiple of the same kind of person. So it’s important that businesses focus on how to attract all different types of people, and how they make their roles accessible to all. It was reassuring to hear from a male (Neil) who is a proud supporter of the Women’s Network at Microsoft. We cannot exclude men from these discussions, we must include them and educate them so that they are our allies. They are just as much a part of this shift in diversity as women are. 

Feeling valued and engaged at work and feeling in control is key to enjoying work and feeling a sense of achievement. When someone feels these, they are more likely to thrive and be healthy, and be productive for the organisation.

 #diversity #change #empower #opportunity #nobarriers