By now, the need for candid conversations in the workplace regarding resiliency, inclusion, and equity is apparent. Accenture’s Austin Office Managing Director Tamara Fields (@tamaradfields) asks, “What are you going to do with the conversation?”
During an insightful discussion with Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton as a part of our Keeping Work Human series, Steve and Tamara discuss how to take these conversations and turn them into action.
In the past, Tamara explains, organizations were judged based purely on business results. Today, more and more companies are realizing their most important assets are their humans – who should not be taken for granted. The future of work requires organizations to “talk about cultural awareness and inclusion and diversity in the workplace,” and make it happen for their humans.
Marathon, not a sprint
Despite the urgent calls for racial and social justice, Tamara is aware that the path to a more inclusive culture is a long one. Yet, she is optimistic because she is starting to see a shift in consciousness. “There are people who do not look like me who really care” about the common inequities that Tamara has had to face.
Steve warns organizations not to “confuse conversations with accomplishments.” He recalls a lesson from a childhood basketball coach. “If he ever saw me dribbling in place he would say, ‘That’s a lot of activity but no accomplishment.’ In other words, I wasn’t going anywhere.”
The need for change in the workplace is evident, but like Steve that day on the court, organizations may not know what next steps to take. To Steve, the point of having these difficult conversations is to “set a direction, and then follow that direction in an accountable, transparent way.”
So, how should organizations respond to the calls for equity in the workplace? Tamara finds the best environment for actionable change is one that is truly inclusive for all. She is committed to creating what Accenture calls a “truly human” workplace, where employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
To create a “truly human” workplace, organizations should acknowledge the experiences of all employees. Employee resource groups are an effective way to give people a safe space to express their concerns. Tamara also promotes open forums in the workplace. She has been hosting recurring town halls to give employees a chance to voice their thoughts and participate in difficult conversations. Transparency is another essential component of a “truly human” environment. Corporations should quantify and publicly report their D&I measurements to hold themselves accountable for creating a more equitable workplace.
Not staying silent
“When I first entered the workforce,” Tamara admits, “I was greatly impacted by imposter syndrome.” It was not until she started embracing her differences – gender, race, etc. – as strengths, rather than weaknesses, was she able to understand the true meaning of inclusion. Tamara believes, “if you can find your strength and can own your voice, then you’re able to navigate the barriers that are going to come naturally.”
Steve and Tamara both recognize the importance of communication in creating a more inclusive workplace. Without open communication, Tamara warns, it becomes much harder to address unconscious bias and microaggressions. Effective communication begins when there is a safe space for people to speak, listen, and learn. Organizations should look to those Steve refers to as “awakened allies” to truly listen and participate in these conversations with their colleagues.
Furthermore, Tamara encourages us all to “share our experiences professionally and personally” in hopes of spreading awareness about the challenges that women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) face in the workplace every day. In the end, Steve believes, being an “awakened ally” comes down to “just being human.”
Committing to change
Steve and Tamara have both experienced entering a room and not seeing anyone that looked like them. For Tamara, inclusion “is when I walk in that room, I feel safe.” And this sense of emotional safety applies to every person regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or any other factors, as portrayed in a video Accenture created, #InclusionStartswithI. It is time to embrace diversity. After all, Tamara says, “diversity breeds success.”
Some companies, including Accenture, have already started working to diversify representation. Accenture has committed to a 50/50 gender balance by 2025. Even further, the company plans to announce goals to increase their percentage of Black and Latinx employees on September 1.
The past few months have been challenging, so it is important to remain hopeful. For Tamara, she is excited that “many people, personally and professionally, are reaching out” asking what they can do to join the fight for equity. This inspired her and her sister to compile a list of books, films, and TV shows that promote the experiences and voices of oppressed communities. “Tamara’s List,” as Steve calls it, is a good place for awakened allies to start educating themselves and others.
Tamara reflects, “I’ve always lived this dichotomy of multiple worlds, but what I’ve seen more so today than any other time is the intersectionality of the worlds.” People from all backgrounds are beginning to ask questions, understand, and make change. That keeps Tamara optimistic.
As Tamara sees it, there is still much work to be done, and it can start with ourselves. “I’m trying to be out there,” she says. “I’m trying to advocate. I’m trying to mentor.” It is up to all of us to share our experiences and spread awareness so that inclusion and diversity become the norm, rather than the goal.
About the AuthorMore Content by Sarah Bloznalis