Businesses need to start acting on diversity and inclusion

Business, CSR, Ireland | Thu 8 Mar | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Annette Hickey, Senior Director of Customer Solutions for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at PayPal.

Businesses have never been more vocal about diversity and inclusion, but actions speak louder than words, says Annette Hickey of PayPal.

Inclusion benefits a company hugely in productivity and creativity, which is why it is vital for businesses not just to talk about it, but act on it. This means fostering an environment where different views are acknowledged, diversity of thought is encouraged, and a wealth of experiences are utilised.

Creating an inclusive workplace

Diversity comes naturally in an organisation like PayPal, which has more than 227 million customers across the globe. In Ireland alone, between the Dundalk and Dublin locations, there are 2,500 employees supporting customers in 16 different languages.

Inclusion requires more time and effort; it is not simply a case of bringing together people with different backgrounds but rather an active approach to ensure that each member of the team is shown respect and given the opportunity to participate and progress. It is about including individuals in a way that encourages innovation and collaboration through gatherings and initiatives, which is why it is the foundation of everything PayPal does.

A diversity and inclusion strategy has to go further than holding regular events for employees and embracing a variety of cultures. It also has to be ingrained in the workplace. At PayPal in Ireland, all team leaders are trained in this area to combat any unconscious bias and the focus isn’t solely on gender. The two-day training course also explores personality types, as well as other characteristics that differentiate people. This method of practical learning teaches team leaders how to operate in an inclusive way and interact with people in different scenarios, whether that’s during a meeting or when they are out on the floor.

Furthermore, inclusion and diversity has to be present and actioned across all levels of a business. The recent PayPal Workforce Diversity Report showed that globally we have achieved a 20 percent year-over-year increase in women at the vice president and above level, and that 45 percent of the board now comprises of women and underrepresented ethnic groups.

Making a difference

Actions, more so than words, are what make a real difference in the daily lives of individuals. It’s vital to contribute to the health and happiness of the workforce, for example by letting people work flexible hours or by giving them access to an onsite gym. Acting on our core values of inclusion and equality in a proactive and positive way through initiatives and programmes is another way that we support and champion our teammates.

We have our own LGBT Network, PayPal Pride, and host a Diversity Inclusion Week every year at our Dublin office. Recently, PayPal partnered with OUTstanding, an organisation which supports and promotes LGBT talent within companies, and has plans to launch a mentoring programme where teammates will be assigned a trusted leader to help them develop professionally.

Recharge is one of the internal programmes of which we are very proud. It helps women who have taken time away from the technology industry to update their skills and easily re-enter the workforce. We also keep employees on maternity leave up-to-date with what’s happening in work so that their return is seamless.

Reaping the rewards

While embracing diversity and inclusion rewards the individuals within the company, it also benefits the business. From this perspective, a diverse and inclusive environment attracts the best talent, improves productivity and reduces stress levels. This is why major companies like ourselves are really focusing on this area.

For smaller organisations, investing large sums of money into a diversity and inclusion strategy is not necessarily feasible. However, there are ways of making a big difference without spending huge amounts of money. For example, the lunch menu could reflect the different cultures within the workforce or a national holiday that is celebrated in another part of the world could be recognised.

In order to help smaller companies implement a cost-effective and beneficial diversity and inclusion strategy, they need to be provided with adequate support and education. Furthermore, it is the only way to effect change on a larger, broader scale.

Looking at the wider picture

Sometimes, promoting diversity and inclusion is about taking a stand outside of your own organisation, because representing the communities you serve is equally important. PayPal demonstrated its commitment to fairness, equality and inclusion when it cancelled a proposed new operations centre in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to legislation which invalidated the protections of the rights of LGBT citizens.

This law violated the values at the core of our company culture, including the belief that every person should be treated with dignity and respect, which is why we felt compelled to take action to oppose discrimination. This decision, as difficult as it was at the time, was made with our employees, our customers and our communities in mind.

In Ireland, we actively supported the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015 and signed up to the Irish Diversity Charter, which prevents discrimination and promotes equality within organisations. We are also very involved with and participate in the annual Dublin Pride Parade.

While strides are certainly being made in relation to diversity and inclusion across the board, there is still a great deal to be done, particularly in helping smaller businesses implement effective and affordable strategies. It is not enough to talk about having a diverse workforce, you have to embrace inclusion wholeheartedly and champion it at every opportunity.

Annette Hickey is Senior Director of Customer Solutions for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at PayPal – the company committed to making financial services available to all and empowering people and businesses to join and thrive in the global economy. Annette is also Dublin Site Leader and PayPal Pride executive sponsor.