By Elda Choucair, CEO at OMG MENA
There is a strong reason why the word ‘diversity’ is joined with ‘equity’ and ‘inclusion’. Diversity is the start, equity then guides the world we design so it caters to all kinds of people, and, finally, inclusion is the pursuit that tests our mindsets and upbringing to how we embrace diversity.
In our region, when we talk about diversity, the prominent type of diversity being addressed is gender. According to the World Bank, in 2021, the percentage of women in the workforce was at 39 per cent worldwide, while in the Arab World, that number was half at 20 per cent. Some countries, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have come a long way, with governments taking the lead to improve these numbers; as a result, we have witnessed a tremendous 100 per cent improvement compared with five years ago. Increasing the consciousness of our deep biases has helped us progress, but it has also helped us understand how much more we need to do to design a more equitable and inclusive world.
“The reality is, we are all guilty of either excluding, misjudging or underutilising someone.”
No matter the practices we pick up and the policies we develop to create diversity and equity, they can never really answer the question of whether people feel included or not because that is about human emotion. The reality is, we are all guilty of either excluding, misjudging or underutilising someone, often unconsciously. Inclusion is the real litmus test and is the metric that broadens the concept of diversity, some even call it a ‘second dimension’ of diversity based on life experiences. Here it is no longer just about gender diversity.
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At OMG, we encourage practices that make people feel heard, wanted, valued and respected. It is all about respecting and celebrating people’s individuality and collaborating effectively. What are we doing to drive inclusion in our organisation? Here are the top four drivers:
1. Apply radical candour
It is the prerequisite to creating a safe environment where people feel comfortable to speak up and where transparency is celebrated and appreciated. This is where we elevate the practice of giving feedback and guidance.
2. Promote based on merit
Career advancement is an important priority for the agency world’s workforce. We deploy the tools and methods to show that promotions, pay processes and the criteria behind them are fair and transparent. What’s more, we are eliminating biases in recruitment and hiring processes whilst training our leaders on how to call out unconscious bias in talent-related discussions.
3. Have the leaders’ commitment
Studies confirm that “what leaders say and do makes up to a 70 per cent difference whether an individual feels included”, to quote the Harvard Business Review. We understand that our leaders must have a visible commitment to this topic; that’s why we discuss it often and openly. We challenge our biases and encourage others to be aware of their pre-conceived beliefs. We are also committed to the Omnicom guiding principles rooted in making our workplace more open and welcoming and have a DE&I dedicated leader to help us all advance.
4. Access senior leadership
We create multiple channels to connect employees with senior leadership. They vary from anonymous, written or in-person meetings. This includes ‘Tea & Talk’ sessions where anyone can sign up to choose the leader they want to engage with. These are not formal sponsorship programmes; however, leaders can serve as sponsors. Ultimately, we need to build trust; those who trust their leader and their team members feel valued but those who lack trust in their work environment do not feel valued or included.
DE&I, they say, is a marathon, not a sprint, but I believe it is neither, since a marathon implies there is a destination. In reality, it is an infinite pursuit and a way of life that keeps evolving. We just hope to be advancing on the right track.