IWD 2022: How HR and business leaders are doing their part to #BreaktheBias at the workplace – Human Resources Online

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Happy International Women’s Day 2022!
To celebrate the occasion, the team at Human Resources Online has put together a series of stories (featuring more than 140 interviewees) under five distinct concepts – with the overarching theme of #BreaktheBias to inspire organisations and leaders to create a place free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination – one that is also diverse, equitable, and inclusive, where differences are valued and celebrated.
In this story, we explored the concept of #BreaktheBias at the workplace, where business and HR leaders share the highest-impact actions they are taking in the workplace to call out bias, smash stereotypes, break inequality, and reject discrimination. More importantly, how a particular workplace campaign worked for everyone, along with the results it has demonstrated.
Here’s what 27 leaders from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, the United Kingdom, and more have to say below.
Also readIWD 2022: What are HR’s biggest DEI challenges?
lester iwd aileen tan
Biases exist not only systemically, but also in all of us, as we operate on unconscious biases that limit the way we think and behave. As such, it is important to create a culture where diversity and openness are celebrated. Implementing diversity in the workplace promotes a safe space where everyone is welcome and heard.
At AIA, we constantly promote diversity in all forms – not just gender – and this comes through in our day-to-day operations. We have frequent ideation sessions to discuss topics such as diversity in the workplace and one thing I have done in these sessions is to appoint a member as the ‘devil’s advocate’ to table an alternative thought or idea for debate – with the aim of helping our people to be more aware of these biases so that they can stop to think before they act.
lester iwd sandra teh
Here at AWS, we always say all builders are welcome. We want to set everyone up for success, where everyone has a seat, and is able to contribute their ideas. AWS takes pride in giving employees a platform where they can easily come together, to have safe and open conversations with inspiring colleagues from all backgrounds, with a focus on community education, breaking biases, encouraging mentorships, and nurturing an inclusive environment. While building my own team, it is my responsibility to ensure I have no biases – hence I have put together a multi-gender, multi-cultural, and multi-generational team aged 20 to 50.
One successful women-specific mentorship programme we host for the community is AWS She Builds, where aspiring women in tech (mentees) are matched with women leaders (AWS mentors), to address uncertainties or misconceptions about the industry, and dispel the stereotype of STEM-related fields. She Builds puts a spotlight on women’s achievements in customer and partner success, industry insights from women’s perspectives, and role models to aspire to. The goal is to challenge, motivate, inspire, and empower women who want to enter the technology field, or evolve their careers to develop further as future leaders of tech. Supported by the wider organisation to include community education and mentorships across APJ, the event has influenced over 7,000 registrations and indications of interest to date.
lester iwd rachel scheel
When I joined Criteo last year as the organisation’s first leader dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I rallied my team to set in motion long-term, data-driven strategies to foster a culture where these values were championed, all across our entire business ecosystem. Since then, we have introduced the Criteo Inclusion Index that quantitively measures employees’ sense of belonging, authenticity, inclusive leadership, and psychological safety. We’ve also introduced several learning paths across global offices to help more employees be allies and demonstrate inclusiveness.
A key campaign that I am particularly proud of is our Criteo Returnship Programme – in today’s climate, it can be especially challenging for job seekers to re-enter the workforce after a career break, to find the balance between work and life. Within the first month of its launch, close to 100 new hires have effectively re-entered the workforce through the programme’s mentorships, flexible work arrangements, trainings, and extended onboarding.
In the road ahead, we continue to have a single-minded focus on ensuring that Criteo is equitable throughout every level of the company, by driving a consistent culture of inclusivity across our offices, and are putting action behind our words, by driving wage parity across genders with Criteo’s Pay Parity Action Plan.
lester iwd catherine loh
CFS has long been committed to ensuring opportunities are available and given to every employee equally. We have been focusing on breaking unconscious bias in the workplace to ensure that we are fair and just in our work, to better develop our talents in a holistic manner, and to better serve our clients. We seek to ensure that our employees can equally view, actively seek to understand, and intrinsically empathise with the different social groups and causes that we interact with daily.
To facilitate this approach, we have implemented an internal closed-loop feedback model to provide assurance and elevate our employees’ developmental journey as we work towards empowering our workforce together. By ensuring that our employees have the ability to voice opinions without fear of judgement before encouraging open conversations to discuss views without moral high grounds, we can identify bias, and help to dispel malice in the workplace.
An example will include our employee pulse survey with the aim of taking stock of our organisation’s pulse or heartbeat as well as the company’s culture. This survey helps the organisation to identify the major strengths as well as areas we can perform better to provide a better employee experience. All responses to the survey are confidential.
lester iwd joyce tee
In my line of work, I have the privilege of engaging many female entrepreneurs, and partnering them to bring their business aspirations to the next level, and I never fail to be inspired by these leaders, who are deeply passionate about what they do. I firmly believe that by being authentic and true to yourself, even as you pursue your passion, half the battle is already won.
To do my part to help nurture the next generation of female leaders, I mentor aspiring young women in the DBS SME Banking team whenever I can. When possible, I also take the time to guide female founders of social enterprises supported by the DBS Foundation, and to encourage them as they build our future crop of businesses of purpose.
lester iwd natasha doctor
At Deliveroo, we are committed to fostering a workplace culture where employees feel valued and empowered to do their best work. One of our company values is to celebrate differences – we do this through various initiatives, which includes an employee-led gender equality committee that promotes and leads initiatives for a gender-inclusive environment catered to employees throughout different stages of their careers and personal lives. We also further conduct unconscious bias training for employees and managers.
People managers play an especially critical role in fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. In order to be truly effective, we equip managers with resources to effectively incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles as they hire new talent, complete performance reviews, develop and recognise team members’ contributions.
As a result of ongoing efforts, women make up 50% of the Singapore leadership team, and 57% of the entire Singapore office.
lester iwd elisabeth stene
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is ingrained in Digi’s strategy, and is represented in the way we conduct our business responsibly. Going beyond gender, we believe that our diversity – in talent, culture, and way of work – is our strength and a reflection of our diverse customer base, which allows us to have a greater understanding of their preferences.
Digi was recently acknowledged in the global Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) 2022 for the second consecutive year. The index highlights organisations’ commitment to the female leadership pipeline, equal pay, and gender pay parity, as well as inclusive culture, among others. This is a testament to our efforts in fostering a gender-balanced workforce, with women representation at 47% and 50% respectively in the management layer and board.
Aside from establishing a code of conduct and D&I policies, Digi provides multiple learning opportunities for employees, such as awareness sessions and summits to advocate for and elevate D&I in the workplace. By inculcating an inclusive culture and series of diversity efforts, our employees are given the freedom to inspire the next.
lester iwd story 2 provided
If you’re going to take a hard look at your practices, and your biases, then sometimes you need an outside perspective.
At Forter, we sought out and engaged a DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) consultancy to ensure we were taking a thoughtful approach. Over the past months, that consultancy has interviewed our employees 1:1, conducted research with all employees, and formed recommendations for how we can grow. Since they work with many organisations, they’ve shared best practices with us from across industries and helped us define clear steps we can take.
In short, if you’re trying to make real change, don’t be afraid to ask for expert help.
lester iwd suman gopalan
As we all strive toward an equal world, Freshworks strongly believes that all changes should begin internally. In March 2020, we took a pledge for equality – in two years, we have achieved 34.7% women globally and 24.6% in leadership positions. We continue with our proactive hiring drive and have pledged to employ 40% women in the organisation and 20% women in leadership roles by 2023.
As part of the campaign, we implemented various measures to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Such measures include ‘Women in Leadership’ programmes, sensitisation programmes, gender pay parity review, and our maiden ‘Restart’ programme that helped in awareness and sensitising leaders, recruiters, and employees and added a new layer to our diversity hiring practices. All these programmes paved the way to allow equal opportunities, treatment, and recognition to everyone.
Freshworks looks forward to further closing the gender gap in the workforce and onwards to a more inclusive world. The start-up ecosystem in India had been looking up to us and how we handle DE&I as a global company and we wanted to lead by example.
lester iwd somya sugandha
At GE, we are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce by focusing on transparency, accountability, and community. Most of us talk about training our leaders and managers to think differently and to break perceptions. However, one of the most basic and insightful discoveries for us has been using a ‘degender’ tool for hiring. We realised that the choice of words we put in a job description, e.g., compete, champion, autonomy, 24X7, impulsive, persist, result in attracting or discouraging different genders from applying for a role. Running all job descriptions through the ‘degender’ tool to ensure that it is gender-neutral has opened up a wider pool of candidates, allowing us to choose the best talent for the roles.
We believe that fostering an inclusive culture empowers everyone to do their best work because they feel accepted, respected, and that they belong. We are very proud of the GE Women’s Network which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. For a quarter of a century, it has helped women from all across the world develop their talent, encourage their growth and build strong networks, and grow and support women leaders for the company.
lester iwd annette evans
Having an inclusive mindset is a critical tenet of GPS culture in ensuring bias does not exist in the workplace. It is something I reminded our recruitment partners and our hiring managers recently as we prepare to expand our footprint in Asia Pacific too. I always encourage hiring managers to hold a mirror up to themselves and ask tough questions when it comes to thinking about bias. If there are not enough women in your team, why is that? Do you create an environment where female talent can shine? Do we as a business do that too? If not, what can we do to change? If we are to successfully build the technological infrastructure for the future of global payments. If we are to launch the world-leading products of tomorrow. We need to have the brightest and bravest minds in the room to imagine and build them. It’s that simple.
lester iwd thomas suhardja
Halodoc has a longstanding commitment to gender equity and women empowerment, which is ingrained in our work environment. In light of this, we take various actions to support women and are actively taking steps to increase the number of women in management as well as onboard from time to time. Recently, we promoted one woman to be the Chief of Marketing Officer. In India, we initiated the ‘Women-in-Tech’ programme to support women who have previously taken sabbaticals for different reasons. We’ve trained these amazing women in this programme and get them ready to contribute to the team. We are currently training them in the various newest technologies and tools in our departments. We hope our female employees will enjoy an equitable and inclusive work environment through each of these actions.
lester iwd thomas holenia
At Henkel, our ambition is to achieve gender parity across all management levels by 2025. Achieving this requires holistic measures across the whole employee life cycle. In this regard, I strongly advocate a gender-neutral stance based on equal compensations for similar profiles and expertise as well as emphasise a gender-balanced approach during candidate shortlisting and final hiring decisions for open positions.
In Henkel Singapore, I am proud of our strong talent pool of female colleagues who have stepped up to various opportunities and shaped successful career paths. This is reflected in our employee profile where women currently account for around 48% of our total managerial staff in Singapore. With our employees as our most important asset, we will continue to do more to support both our female and male employees to reach their full potential.
As a business leader, I firmly believe that we have a crucial role to play in making sure that we actively seek out talent that increases the team’s diversity. Diversity in an organisation not only creates a more inclusive workplace and a stronger sense of belonging, but it also in turn builds a strong business culture and increases the likelihood of business success and overall performance. Whether we are a cancer survivor, a single parent, or love sea turtles – we are a million data points.
lester iwd sowjanya
There is a common misbelief that gender differences make men and women effective in different roles. The association of traits to a specific gender creates barriers that contribute towards the limited support women receive at every level of their transition to leadership roles.
At HP, we have set a series of ambitious goals to achieve gender parity in leadership by 2030. This includes achieving 50/50 gender equality in our leadership and achieving greater than 30% of technical women and women in engineering, amongst others.
Diversity is core to our creativity and innovation, but we recognise that it starts from the top. The ‘Women in Leadership Lab (WILL)’ is a seven-month-long programme that prepares aspiring women leaders for bigger roles. It creates an open platform where women are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, amplify their ambition with authenticity, hone their P&L skills, and build their leadership brand.
lester iwd jessica shyu
With more than 28 manufacturing sites and 120,000 employees across Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America, one of the challenges Jabil Green Point (JGP) faces is how to have everyone internalise the same values.
At JGP, promoting a culture of respect, providing opportunities for our people to shine, and encouraging open and honest sharing with no fear of repercussions are high on our priority list. To do so, we encourage a bottom-up approach where our people and our sites are free to find creative ways to live out positive behaviours every day. We have found that authentic communications, employee recognition programmes, and leveraging our different points of view can deliver superior solutions and outcomes. This confirms that if done right, DEI can be a powerful element in promoting an equal, safe, and equitable work environment for all to thrive in their long-term career growth.
lester iwd cynthia woon
I always believe that empathy plays a big role in our daily lives – whether it be from a personal or a professional front.
Most of the time, having empathy would always lead to a positive outcome. Generally, leaders do not need to be ‘experts’ in mental health, however paying attention and checking in with your team from time to time can go a long way.
What I learned throughout my years in this industry is that confidence is key and always believe in yourself. In such a competitive industry, never let gender expectations dictate what one person can or cannot do.
lester iwd steve willet
We believe that diversity and inclusion creates a better, stronger and more innovative workplace where we can all be our best selves. Lendlease actively advocates gender equity at our workplace by incorporating gender balance considerations from our hiring processes through to leadership pipeline development.
Ground up, our Asia employee champion networks such as Women in Construction Asia Network (WiCAN) and Chapter Wanita (Malaysia) actively connect and uplift our female colleagues through initiatives such as Connect4 and the learn-over-lunch series.
As a member of our Asia Leadership Team and sponsor for gender equity in the region, I’m proud that Lendlease acts on its commitment in driving diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organisation. We have done a lot but have a lot more still to do. When women succeed, they inspire other women to succeed and with a conductive corporate structure and other male managers who drive for equality, our goals will be achieved.
lester iwd felicia tan
At Mintel, we pledged as a fair employer that offers equal employment opportunities and selects incumbents based on skills-based competency. Our structured hiring process allows applicants, regardless of gender or socio-economic background, to be evaluated fairly and objectively. Our interview panel also consists of a diverse set of people within the company. We believe in an inclusive hiring approach and it enables us to embrace a wider range of perspectives, competencies, and qualities among our talent pool.
More specifically, our ‘Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN)’ employee resource group serves as a platform to build a cohesive community that supports, inspires, and empowers women at Mintel. We have several activities such as podcasts, workshops, and panel discussions, among others, that run throughout the year to increase awareness about gender equality and help female employees become a better version of themselves. #BreakingTheBias in areas such as recruitment and employee development can drive a more inclusive and diverse corporate culture.
lester iwd charlene tan
The most meaningful step we’ve taken is embedding ‘inclusion’ as one of our employee values in 2021. Diversity to us is an innovation-driver in the workplace; it enables us to deliver the technology that serves as a lifeline for our customers who are predominantly front-liners, often working in critical situations.
To build stronger accountability, all employees are now evaluated on whether they uphold inclusive behaviour through their annual performance reviews. With our values driving every decision we make, we attract not only the kinds of people who can not only solve complex challenges, but who are genuinely committed to helping governments and public safety customers worldwide.
Through inclusivity and diversity initiatives we are building on our 93-year heritage of innovation in a way that incorporates different cultures, opinions, and needs. As an encouraging boost to our efforts, a survey co-led by Statista recognised us as one of Singapore’s Best Employers in 2021.
Our legacy of innovation has made cities safer and helped communities and businesses to thrive. That legacy is championed by all of our employees who put themselves in our customers’ shoes and understand our purpose – helping people be their best in the moments that matter.
lester iwd marilyn chaplin
Tackling bias and stereotypes, and removing any inequality and discrimination are the main focuses of NTT’s DE&I agenda. We are planning many initiatives to this effect, for instance – training all our employees including senior executives on unconscious bias, and refining our hiring, promotion, and rewards practices to put systematic checks in place that tackle unconscious discriminations. We have also thus been piloting blind CV screening to remove race, gender, age, and any such biases from the screening process.
Last year we launched our global parental policy to make sure we support new parents appropriately and remove any inequalities, biases, or discrimination against them. We also recently launched a signature global initiative to bring back talented women into the workplace, who’ve been out of the corporate world for a period of time. The aim is to break one of the biggest biases in hiring – an employment gap in the CV, and further empower working women in a post-Covid world.
lester iwd tse yue wei
While gender diversity and equality at the workplace have made significant progress over the years, we need to remain mindful that there are prevailing gender stereotypes the world still grapples with.
As the Asia Lead for SHE (SABIC Women’s Network), a global collective that empowers our female employees to be leaders, there were initial perceptions that the nature of the Network is purely recreational. While there is certainly value in networking and building relationships to foster a sense of community, there is a pressing need to take on a proactive, educational role in addressing unconscious gender bias. A large part of changing hearts and minds is the honesty and willingness to identify where our biases lie and being receptive to change. This is something I have proactively embraced in my role at SABIC.
As a starting point, I collaborate with my colleagues at the network to create simple and yet powerful platforms for engaging our senior leaders with a gender diverse pool of talent, with the objective of encouraging workplace diversity and inclusion, as well as a culture of high performance, one in which we seek to make SABIC a better place for women to work.
lester iwd michael tan
In my 20-year experience in human resources for global companies, I’ve witnessed the importance of placing diversity and inclusivity in the center of employee strategies to create meaningful long-term relationships and a positive environment where people want to work. Diversity is not only the right thing to do, it enriches business and brings a lot more to the table – such as different perspectives, skills, backgrounds – that make companies more innovative and better at fulfilling customers’ needs.
The social and economic effects of the pandemic have disproportionately impacted women and it is my mission to further develop a more inclusive work environment and contribute to meaningful change in the world.
Allyship is a big part of driving equity and achieving equality in the workplace. A few meaningful actions I have taken to be a good ally are setting up a Women’s Leadership Network, ensuring fair representation of female talents at all levels, increasing female representation at hiring, and creating inclusive people policies and benefits.
Moreover, at ServiceNow, we have created a five-point action plan to support diversity and inclusivity. The points include workforce training to build inclusive skills and mindsets; equity for all where we regularly review our equitable processes, policies, and practices, giving employees a voice via open dialogue platforms such as DIBs (diversity, inclusion & belonging) Learning Month and DIBs Leadership Summit; lobbying for good where employees become advocates for change with support and direct action through initiatives such as the ‘Employee Local Giving Campaign’ where we match employees’ donations 1:1 (up to US$1000 per employee) and our ‘Walk-For-Rice’ fund-raising activity aimed at benefiting 7,000 families in need who live in the Southeast District of Singapore; and recruiting and career advancement to increase representation and inclusion across all levels via mentoring programmes for high potential female talents, coaching support, and internship programmes.
lester iwd raen lim
I strongly believe in the importance of having inclusive practices in place to improve diversity and equity and I am honoured to be Splunk’s executive sponsor for our Asia chapter to drive our ‘Million Data Points‘ culture where we celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are not in a one-size-fits-all world and creating a safe workplace that allows everyone to celebrate their diverse backgrounds enables everyone to thrive.
Putting words into action, we work on the Splunk Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annual Report on an annual basis, using data to help us better navigate around global challenges, expand inclusivity and achieve our goals so that everyone at Splunk can thrive. We also created employee resource groups to provide community, mentoring, and networking opportunities for Splunkers, reinforcing our culture of inclusion.
We are delighted that our local and global efforts have us recognised as one of the 2022 Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality, with a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index and are named in the People Companies that Care 2021 list.
lester iwd dana von der heide
Being one of the few female leaders in the logistics sector inspired me and my Co-Founder Arne Jeroschewski to strive for equal gender representation when hiring. At Parcel Perform, we have almost a 50%-50% ratio of male and female colleagues across our global offices and functions. Next to gender, we also are determined to ensure diversity across multiple aspects – we have over 130 staff from 16 different countries, with the most diverse set of backgrounds and skills to help us grow and navigate so successfully in the internal markets.
Thanks to the global boom in e-commerce, we see more young talent entering the logistics technology sector who care about a workplace that values these ideals. For them, a gender-balanced environment is essential, aside from compensation and benefits. While the sector is slowly getting younger and more diverse, there is much work to be done to elevate female leadership; biases have to be broken as we make progressive strides to accelerate and enshrine women’s equality in the workforce.
lester iwd ina bajwa
At Tata Communications, we believe that diversity of talent is the key to our success. People of different genders, backgrounds, skills, and perspectives enable us to anticipate and respond to changes in our industry with agility and address our customers’ evolving needs more effectively.
One of the key approaches to breaking bias is through constant education on being aware, and regular listening opportunities with employees. We do regular pulse surveys which provide a safe channel for employees to share the improvements they’d like to see in the workplace, policies, and practices. In addition, we also run an annual survey where we seek feedback on all possible dimensions of working from the employees. The results are viewed holistically, and action plans are put in place to introduce relevant changes.
Our global part-time work policy, work from home policy, and caregiving policy in conjunction with LEAP (life event assistance programme) are the result of some of the feedback received from the listening channels, which today help employees balance their personal needs and professional responsibilities at the same time.
Technology can also aid in eliminating a few biases in the processes. For example, we have deployed an AI-based solution that masks the gender of the applicant and that enables the hiring manager to shortlist profiles purely based on merit.
lester iwd michele haddad
TIBCO recognises the pivotal role female leadership plays in our success as a company. ‘WISE’ (Women Inclusion, Success & Equity) is an employee resource group (ERG) that I’ve recently launched. My vision for WISE is to empower women at TIBCO and within technology communities to cultivate an inclusive environment through connection and education. We’ve hosted 27 events since its inception in 2020.
Our global sponsorships of She Loves Data and Women in Technology encourage women to develop technology skills and provide a strong network of companies driving gender equality in the tech industry. We have helped women in vulnerable positions facing unemployment due to the instability brought about by the pandemic by offering virtual certification workshops on dashboarding and forecasting.
Through these concentrated efforts over the last 12 months, we have significantly increased our female hiring in the APJ region and increased promotions for female team members by 9.9%.
lester iwd lauren zhao
Over the past decades, we witnessed a conspicuous change in women’s roles at all levels which contributed greatly to closing the gender inequality gap. At UPS, ensuring talents regardless of background and gender receive equal opportunities has long been our mission.
Being a member of Women Leadership Development at UPS, I have been advocating for greater gender equity internally by fostering male allyship. Last December, I participated in a regional ‘He For She’ sharing session where I discussed with fellow UPSers about the importance of situational awareness and gender intelligence which could help encourage active listening, and to a large extent, break inequality and reject discrimination. There is also an online training series on the topic of ‘overcoming unconscious bias’ where I shared insights on acknowledging the fact that everyone is biased, and how our perspectives tend to be influenced by social stereotypes – with the aim to break common stereotypes.
Also readIWD 2022: 5 messages to appreciate your colleagues, friends, and loved ones
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