Dr. Anita Sands on the theory of diversity, inclusion, and belonging

September 18, 2019 Jessica Breen

2-minute read

Last week the Workhuman® Women’s Network had the pleasure of hosting a fireside chat with Dr. Anita Sands, a global technology and business leader based in Silicon Valley and originally from Drogheda, Ireland. The event was organized in support of Saoirse Womens Refuge, a Dublin charity committed to addressing and combatting domestic abuse by providing a safe, supportive, and confidential environment.

Anita serves on the boards of a number of large tech companies, including ServiceNow, Pure Storage, and Symantec. She came to speak with us specifically on the topic of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

What does diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace? Is it about understanding and respecting people for who they are? Is it about being open to new ideas and perspectives? Or is it the feeling of belonging in an environment and feeling comfortable bringing your best self to work?

In truth, it is a combination of all of these ideas. Anita’s honesty on the subject was refreshing. She said, “Being a woman in technology is not about being a woman and it is not about being in tech. It is about being part of an industry that is changing the world.” Our achievements and performance in this transforming industry are what should be recognized, and not our gender.

Here are my top five takeaways from Anita’s chat:

  1. Have both a sponsor and a mentor. “Sponsors are people who will speak about and for you. They will speak about you when you are not in the room. Mentors are those who will speak to you.”
  2. You are your biggest advocate. “There is no point in being brilliant at what you do if no one knows who you are.”
  3. Build an environment where people feel they belong. “If people in your workplace don’t feel like they belong, what makes you think they will share their most creative and innovative ideas? Belonging is something we can all do something about.” Belonging is a fundamental human need. It means being able to bring your full, authentic self to work, rather than showing up as the version you believe the corporation expects.
  4. Have confidence. “Women need to have the confidence to ask for all they need to succeed – at work and at home.” As women, we should be willing to invest in ourselves. “It’s not fake it until you make it. It’s act it until you are it,” she said.
  5. Know the difference between diversity, inclusion, and belonging. “If diversity is the seeds and inclusion is the crop, then belonging is how you harvest them.” 

HR and broader corporate initiatives tend to put more emphasis on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Anita’s talk reminded us how belonging is equally, if not more, important. “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice, and belonging is a feeling,” she concluded.  

About the Author

Jessica Breen

Jessica is an employer brand program manager at Workhuman. In her spare time she loves spending time with family and friends and traveling.