Diversity at EMC: Building In Inclusion

(This is part of a multi-post series on Diversity at EMC.  See all posts in the Diversity category here.)

I’ve talked a lot about diversity, starting with my own personal experiences and looking further and further outwards.  I’ve had some hallway conversations, exchanged private emails, and gotten more of a feel of what some other people’s experiences look like.

Through it all, though, the question has remained: how do you take the overriding spirit of inclusiveness and build it into corporate DNA?  How do you make sure that people aren’t just working on diverse teams, but that they value and seek diversity?  How do you make sure that everyone feels valued?

There are endless ways, and many of them are under control not of the corporate overlords but the front line managers, senior managers, and even peer employees.

For example, many people I work with take long vacations.  They travel home to China or India, and may take 3 or more weeks at a time to do it.  As a first level manager, think of the influence you have in deciding how you respond when someone asks for a vacation like that.

Similarly, if you grant someone personal time to celebrate a holiday outside the norm in your locale, good for you.  But if you make them feel like they’re putting the team out when you do it, you’re sending a powerful message.  “We’re letting you do this, but we wish we didn’t have to.”

Organizing a team lunch or outing?  Are you sure you have taken everyone’s needs into account?  You don’t take a team with a half-dozen vegetarians to a steakhouse, for example.

Do you treat a team member differently when they are talking about traditional spouses versus other kinds of domestic partners?  Mental versus physical health issues?  If a father needs to leave early to take care of a family emergency, do you treat that differently than if a mother does?

The problem here is the same problem we’ve been talking about all along.  The CEO might be passionate about this, and pockets of employees may be passionate about it, but until every single front-line manager embraces this, until every director makes it a priority, until every hallway conversation takes this into account, it’s hard to say inclusion is really part of the company’s DNA.  One fellow employee compared it to a sandwich: at the top, our senior executives (including our CEO) take the issue seriously and have bought in.  At the bottom, most new employees understand and buy in.  In between, there are lots of people who are in varying states … some are holding on to old cultural artifacts, and some are eagerly moving forward.

We’re working on this.  It’s impossible to say “we’ve succeeded” but I can say we’re getting better.  The cultural changes are spreading from the top and the bottom.  I can tell you how it feels on my team.  I can tell you how it feels on the teams of people who have taken the time to talk to me.  Not all their stories sound like mine — some people don’t “get it” yet — but all of them say the same thing.  We’re better now than we were a couple years ago.

I’m going to wrap this series up (for now) next week.  What does all this mean?  If you’re passionate about diversity and inclusion, is EMC the place for you?  Stay tuned.