Publicis Sapient: the US diversity and inclusion landscape
Geraldine White, Publicis Sapient's North America Diversity and Inclusion Lead, discusses the diversity and inclusion landscape within the United States.
In your opinion what is diversity and inclusion like within industries in the USA at the moment?
Diversity and inclusion varies greatly across the US and its industries. Demographics, socioeconomic elements, local and industry culture all play a significant role in what deficits and opportunities for true success exist across the US in D&I.
How has diversity and inclusion evolved over the years within the USA?
The need for diversity and inclusion practices and behaviors in the workplace has remained constant. What continues to shift are the definitions of difference we must adapt to in order to truly be inclusive. As society continues to evolve so do our needs to be responsive.
What changes/implementations have you seen being made to increase diversity and inclusion?
Advocacy for and implementation of HR policies and legislation continue to be introduced across many facets of D&I. As an example, less than a decade ago, benefits conversations were centered moreso around maternity and it being a benefit solely for women, but have evolved, more appropriately, to family/parental leave options that are far more inclusive.
What are the challenges within the USA when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
Given the diversity of our overall population, the US must be consistently and simultaneously mindful of all aspects of diversity. It is imperative that the US address everything from gender bias, to racial discrimination, mental health awareness, equity for the LGBTQ community, inclusion for those that may be differently abled and even diversity of thought. While some industries and leaders choose to focus on one aspect of diversity over others, there is no real success found in prioritizing the rights and equity of one group versus another.
What is fueling these challenges?
Everything from shifting demographics to the polarizing societal implications of our current political climate have an adverse impact on inclusion.
What do you feel needs to be done within the USA to increase diversity and inclusion?
Diversity only represents the variety of people, and inclusion brings some level of action, but it is the focus on equity that begins to drive accountability in the conversation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not newly drafted. The notion of D&I is founded off of these basic human rights which must be universally protected.
Could you outline for me your company, and how you are ensuring you are increasing diversity and being inclusive when it comes to your employees?
Publicis Sapient is a digital transformation partner with 20,000 people and 53 offices around the globe. We firmly believe that diversity of perspective creates what cannot be achieved any other way. Access to opportunity, growth and advancement should also be equal. We strive to foster an environment where every team member can grow and thrive within the organization and consistently feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.
What are the challenges when trying to adopt a diverse and inclusive culture within a company?
The challenges are as varied as the workforce. Universally, though, true leadership accountability often proves to be the greatest challenge. Leaders must understand that revenue-related and D&I interests are not mutually exclusive. A greater focus on inclusion and equity for employees directly impacts performance. Greater revenue, in turn, allows for deeper investment in employee inclusion and retention.
Why do you feel it is important to be diverse and inclusive?
Frankly, the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion is no longer a matter of personal belief or opinion. There are far too many studies and research results that prove the talent and business benefits of D&I.
What implementations have you made within your company in order to make it more diverse and inclusive?
We maintain an overarching D&I strategy that also respects the varied needs of each geography. We strive to be honest with ourselves about where the greatest opportunities exist for change and how to effectively address them. We have a dedicated global D&I team that operates in consistent collaboration with leadership to enforce metrics-driven accountability and foster a culture of inclusion throughout the organization.
What do you feel is the best strategy for trying to adopt a more diverse and inclusive culture?
Any organization looking to truly foster inclusion must start with the willingness to honestly acknowledge their shortcomings, understand where their inclusion deficits exist and drive accountability across every aspect of their people and business to impart the change required.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add in relation to diversity and inclusion?
Tolerance is different than acceptance is different than inclusion. Any organization who has leadership and managers operating from a mindset of tolerance will not see inclusion or equity adopted as practice.
For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.