There’s an unwritten code we’ve all learned over the years to avoid talking about certain topics at work – such as politics, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation, among others – because they’re considered too controversial, difficult or uncomfortable.
But like all things in life, today’s workplace has evolved considerably, and so, too, has our understanding about the positive impact an open and inclusive environment has on employee engagement, which directly correlates to higher levels of performance for individuals and an organization as a whole.
With the issues we’re facing in society becoming more complex, and as the divisions between people have seemed to grow deeper in recent years, it’s only natural that some of us may bring these outside stresses into the office. Yet when we get to work, we hold them in for fear of offending our colleagues or because they’re considered not appropriate for discussion in the office.
On December 7, we took an important step at DTCC to advance inclusivity by hosting a Day of Understanding at our U.S. offices, joining many other firms across sectors to create greater trust, openness and compassion among our workforce. The Day of Understanding is the brainchild of PwC and is being promoted by a terrific organization, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
As part of the event, we hosted Mary Frances Winters, author of We Can’t Talk About That at Work, to lead a discussion on how to discuss sensitive topics like the ones I mentioned above in a positive way and how to create a supportive environment that encourages greater understanding. She shared with us helpful techniques to encourage better conversations, and with her own stories and anecdotes, she showed us why we need to give each other more slack when confronting these issues.
I know talking about subjects like this may make some people uncomfortable, but that’s exactly why The Day of Understanding is so important. We’ll never make progress on these matters if we are afraid to address them head on. By embracing diversity, embedding it in an inclusive environment and taking the actions necessary to recognize the full scope of people’s identities, companies will create a positive atmosphere that enables them to deliver outstanding results to their clients.
Initiating conversations on sensitive topics is not entirely new for us at DTCC. Over the last few years, we’ve brought groups of employees, managers and executives together to raise awareness of unconscious bias. We’ve also conducted Voices of Inclusion sessions to train employees in active listening and supporting a culture that encourages our colleagues to share diverse viewpoints. In addition, our Diversity & Inclusion Council and Business Professional Networks are helping us make headway, but strengthening diversity and inclusion is a journey – and there’s still more work for us to do.
As CEO, it’s my responsibility to “own” DTCC’s commitment to D&I, but I am also determined to help lead our industry forward on these issues. I want to thank Tim Ryan, a senior partner and Chairman of PwC US, for bringing the Day of Understanding to our attention and CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion for making it a priority. I also applaud my colleagues at DTCC for taking this matter so seriously and turning out in large numbers last Friday to be part of the solution and to provide the leadership we’ll need to continue making a positive difference.