Capitalize on Your Commitment to DiversitySeptember 18, 2014
As an agent of change promoting diversity in my business unit, I’ve learned a few lessons about what it takes to promote not only women’s success but also diversity in general. These lessons have been learned in personal and rewarding ways through dialogue, through challenge, and most importantly, through personal engagement.
The most important thing is commitment. It’s not enough to verbalize your support or sign on to opportunities as they arise. True commitment must be active and demonstrable; it must seek to bridge the gap between the obvious strategic perspectives and the more elusive tactical execution. It requires the confidence to actively engage perspectives and experiences different from your own, consciously recognize their value and creatively find opportunities to advance and deploy them in a way that results in measurable value.
Commitment must have staying power. Many people recognize that the advancement of women, and diversity in general, is not a project or initiative—it’s a journey. More important, it’s an open-ended journey that continues to cultivate and advance unique perspectives, thoughts, talents and, ultimately, personal and professional success of all who embark on it. It’s a journey that requires commitment with staying power, without which you’re just part of a project.
It can be hard to sustain this commitment, but what comes of it is opportunity. Who doesn’t want that? I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Creating a more equitable and diverse workplace offers fertile ground to demonstrate not only a shared level of leadership but also a differentiated one, and men can play an important role in this work. But, not all men are ready to take on leadership roles in this arena. We shouldn’t expect all men to be, or want to be, leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion right away. So we should look to begin by engaging men through education, dialogue and personal conversations which may eventually foster the desire and skills that allow them to lead the charge. This approach enables them to learn before we ask them to lead, to experience before we ask them to execute, and to change before we ask them to champion the value of diversity and inclusion.
Bill Turnbull was formerly Senior Vice President, North American Property Claim Leader at Chubb.