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It's been about three years now that I have been undertaking a baking and book challenge. It all began in 2020 when I embarked on creating 30 types of cookies, coupled with 30 equity, diversity, and inclusion tips over the span of 30 days. In 2023, I decided to shift my focus to crafting 12 cakes and delving into 12 books. The book-reading part was relatively easy, and I managed to read 29 books. However, creating the cakes demanded some skill, and there are three lessons I learned throughout the year of baking cakes that I can relate to my work in equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  1. Preparation is Key: Just as in baking cakes, preparation is crucial when implementing any equity, diversity, and inclusion initiative. You can't bake a cake without all the necessary ingredients. I recall a time when I ran out of baking powder, prompting a frantic text to my neighbor for assistance. Similarly, as an EDI practitioner, take the time to understand your stakeholders. Listen and ask questions of leaders and employees. Understanding the issues related to EDI is vital before commencing. Surveys and focus groups are valuable tools to gauge the organization's sentiments on inclusion.

  2. Know Your Oven and Know Your Company: Every recipe provides an estimated baking time, but you need to watch it and understand your oven. Similarly, in the corporate realm, understanding how your company operates is essential. Is the organization more top-down or flat? Do you need multiple meetings with leaders to clarify details? Consider cultural differences—will your program work universally, or do you need to tailor it for different locations? These details are crucial.

  3. It's Not About Looks or Awards: Just as not every cake turns out aesthetically pleasing, receiving EDI awards doesn't necessarily reflect the true state of a company's commitment. Some cakes may crack or require adjustments, but the taste matters most. Likewise, I've witnessed companies receive EDI awards, only to discover internally that the reality for employees is quite different. Beware of companies boasting about numerous inclusion awards, as some of these might be "pay-to-play," defeating the purpose of genuine recognition. Be cautious and focus on meaningful progress rather than accolades.


In 2023 I got better at making cakes however I do not think I will do a cake challenge again.  So in 2024 I am focusing on 24 bars and 24 books. Follow me on Instagram at @steph_redivo

 

*EDI = equity, diversity and inclusion. You may use other terms such as EDIB for Belonging or IDEA for Accessibility.  Feel free to use whichever term you want.

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The term inclusive leadership has only been used for the last 20 years according to the Journal of Leadership Education.* So how do you define inclusive leadership?  I really like Deloitte's definition of Inclusive leadership as six traits: cognizance of bias, curiosity, cultural intelligence, collaboration, commitment, and courage.* (I have put the links below to read all about these traits)

 

Here are three reasons why inclusive leaders are important to your company and how I try to live these every day. To clarify, an inclusive leader doesn’t have to have direct reports. You can be an individual contributor and still be an inclusive leader.

 

#1 They are self-aware and know themselves, including their limitations. In 2019, I went on short-term disability, and I remember the day when I told my husband, Alex, that I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down in tears, and he knew I had reached my limit. I was working in a toxic environment with a toxic manager. It is interesting how I thought that professionals in EDI would be empathetic and be role models of inclusive leadership; unfortunately, this is not always the case. I took three months to sleep, bake, walk the dog, and spend time with my family. It was during that time I realized I needed to find another job outside of the company or another job (outside of the current team) inside the company. I could not stay in the same role and team anymore. 

 

#2 They uplift and sponsor others. Sponsorship, for me, is defined as using your privilege and power to uplift others. You give opportunities to people who are not at the executive table. Mentorship is defined as giving advice to someone. Research shows that when Deloitte gave talented women leadership opportunities, the number of women on our global board jumped from 16% to 30%.*** Sponsorship works for everyone, and traditionally, men have been doing this for years by playing golf and going to sports games. Inclusive leaders also sponsor people who do not look like them. This is an important criterion, as we sometimes sponsor those with similar backgrounds and experience, aka affinity bias. Who is doing great work in your company that may not have access to opportunities? Find them and sponsor them. Talk to other managers and have a succession plan in your company.

 

#3 The last behavior of inclusive leaders is they value community and connection. I call this modern-day networking. Inclusive leaders always have time for conversations and to hear from their employees. They listen actively and appreciate their opinion even if it’s a different viewpoint than their own. It just so happens that through networking, I found a husband. I was taking an IT program 23 years ago, and there was a focus on "getting out there" to do informational interviews and go to networking events. Well, the thought of networking made me feel sick to my stomach and didn’t feel genuine. My roommate at the time said, "Hey, I ran into my friend Alex who works at IBM, and he said he would grab a coffee with you and share what he does." I was so grateful to my roommate and thought to myself, "Wow, maybe I will get a job at IBM." Well, I didn’t get a job, but finding a partner to spend my life with was a pretty great alternative. 

 

In conclusion, inclusive leadership is a strategic model that will have continued focus in companies for years to come.

 



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“Stephanie, how did you get into Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)?” I’m often asked this question. Here’s my story.


On May 24th, 2011, the executive board at SAP sent an email stating that by end of 2017, we will have 25% of women in management positions. At that time, we were currently hovering around the 18% mark. The first thing that came to mind was: how were we going to accomplish this goal? This, no doubt, would require major change in processes and mindsets. The second thing that came to mind was: how do I get into D&I so I could eventually contribute directly to this goal?

Traditionally, girls have not been encouraged to enter the field of technology. The stereotype is that girls aren’t good at math and, therefore, the field of technology. I believed and continue to believe that reaching out to girls as young as 10 would help combat this stereotype and with programs meant to encourage them, then perhaps one day we’ll be talking about a goal of 50% in management positions at technology firms like mine.


From 2011 to October 2014, I began discussions with the UBC Computer Science department to find out if they had an outreach program for young girls. Indeed, they had a Grade 6 program. I felt they needed a Grade 7 one. Fortunately, UBC felt the same way and we got to work. We started by conducting a design thinking workshop. This led to interviewing Grade 7 girls to obtain their input. The result was the GIRLsmarts4tech program. Since 2014, we have had 21 events run globally with over 1100 girls attending the program. Additionally, in 2016, parents told us that they wanted more information, and this led to the parent workshops. To date, we have had 7 parent workshops with different panelists sharing what it's like to work in technology. The GIRLsmarts4tech was run completely by volunteers from SAP and UBC. Without the volunteers, there would be no program and I’ll always be grateful. I’m certain the girls who went through the program and the parents were also grateful!


In 2015, I started my internal search to see what SAP had to offer in the D&I group. I reached out to the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to see if there were any opportunities. At the time, SAP was embarking on a global EDGE certification (http://edge-cert.org). It seems like a lifetime ago, but I still recall the day a colleague called me to let me know that she needed a Program Manager to run the certification program. That phone call changed my life at SAP and I’ll always be thankful to Nicole McCabe. Soon after, I was running the certification program in 12 countries with a tight deadline of 6 months. On September 13th, 2016, SAP became the first multinational technology company to receive worldwide gender equality certification. http://news.sap.com/sap-becomes-first-multinational-technology-company-to-receive-global-gender-equality-certification/.

Today in 2019, I get to participate in creating real organizational change that makes a difference in people’s lives. I get to talk to people about the competitive advantages of having a diverse and inclusive team. I get to smile a lot! Yes, I really do feel that I have the best job in the world.


So, when people ask me how did you get into diversity and inclusion? I say three things:

Do the job first before you are offered a paid role in D&I. What?! I know it's not fair, but if you want something, you may have to create the opportunity for yourself.


Education. Help yourself by taking D&I courses. Personally, I took courses at UBC. Read lots! Here are some of my favourites: The Culture Code,Connection Culture,Inclusion Nudges Guidebook, White Fragility, Inclusion


If you don’t have the time or resources to take courses, then books are a good starting point for an eventual role in D&I. They allow you to learn from others and provide real world ideas to implement within your organization.


The importance of Diversity and Inclusion continues to evolve every year and I see companies creating roles focused on inclusion and equity. Being seen, heard and belonging is everyone's right and we all have a role in creating change.

Good luck on your journey!

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