By the editorial staff
Tough beginnings – the more you experience, the wiser you become
I was born in Krakow, southern Poland, into a family that for many years had to cope with juggling work with caring for me – the only child, who got seriously ill at the age of two. The years I spent in hospitals, intensive rehabilitation and the feeling that I’m very limited by my body became and has remained my source of power, resistance and determination throughout my life. Looking back at my childhood, I must say I admire my parents, who were devoted to my healing and often sacrificed their private and personal space, including their relationship, which sadly ended when I became a young adult.
These experiences showed me that women need to be stronger and much braver when they want to be free and make their own decisions. Observing my hard-working mom and her determination equipped me with a similar attitude to work. If you want to achieve something, you need to work hard and not run away from challenges. Instead, you must keep moving and be focused on your target. I share that lesson with my mentees and coaches when they sometimes forget that success does not come easily.
Inclusion – you need to discover and understand as a person
I was 16 when I realised that I finally could identify with a group – there was a group of people I belonged to and fitted in with– people with disabilities. I did not have to pretend anymore and hide my limitations, which I had been doing all my adolescent life. I could wear short sleeves and not hide my scars on my elbows. I could be myself.
This is inclusion for me – being yourself and bringing your whole self to wherever you are. Many of my friends had disabilities, were gay or suffered from mental health conditions. A few of them even experienced some of these intersectional dimensions of diversity at the same time. Being a woman with a disability or gay with disability was very difficult in the late nineties. Most of my friends did not fit ‘society’s standard’ in a conservative country. I was always proud of my friends and myself, and step by step we educated others and shared our stories to help others understand a little bit better. Working on systemic solutions, providing individual support and making these stories visible is truly changing the world through the butterfly effect. It just takes time. These experiences shaped my understanding of inclusion in society and work, and are guiding my efforts as a leader in Inclusion and Diversity.
Inclusion & diversity in business
Having a strategy on diversity & inclusion has become standard for modern organisations. Diversity is a fact in the globalised world, but the real game-changer is the inclusion. For example, if the organisation focuses more on diversity with no proper plan for inclusion, it might result in cultural challenges and diverse individuals might find themselves in an unwelcoming or even hostile environment, with managers or support functions not capable of facing and managing the tensions that naturally arise when there is diversity. Diversity brings tension but, if properly managed, can boost creativity and productivity and result in better performance for the organisation.
Inclusion is not a stand-alone cultural aspect. It is highly important that employees can see the integrity of a workplace in policies, procedures and also benefits that need to cover the different needs of groups of employees and take into account external conditions such as location, legislation and markets. Many global organisations like State Street pay extra attention to country-by-country specifics, ensuring that global policies are truly inclusive in all locations where the company employs people or does business with its clients. In the EMEA region alone, we can see significant differences in the needs, rights and conditions of people with regard to traits such as race, ethnicity or nationality, age, educational background, language, political and religious views, physical or cognitive disabilities, medical conditions, sexual orientation and gender identity.
HOW DO WE DO IT @STATE STREET?
Our mission at State Street is to be a truly inclusive organisation. We execute programmes and corporate responsibility initiatives that address, among others, gender balance, people at risk of social exclusion on the labour market with limited access to education or employment, care-takers returning to work after a long absences from work, people with disabilities and immigrants. We organise volunteering and educational events, sessions and programmes that support disadvantaged groups of youngsters through mentoring and coaching programmes (supported by our employees). Our Professional Women’s Network offers a global framework of mentoring and targets different groups of disadvantaged women. We also prioritise intersectionality, where we focus on ethnic minorities or economic disadvantages.
Last year, we launched a Global Disability Taskforce, for which we cooperated with external expert organisations to enhance or introduce new policies and solutions to become a more disability-friendly organisation. Following the recent global spotlight on racial inequality, we have also rolled out a comprehensive 10 Actions programme. Our CEO Ron O’Hanley, along with business leaders and volunteers from various Race & Ethnicity networks, listed 10 action points, which have become our commitment to ethnic and racial minority groups. We truly believe that State Street tackles diversity challenges from many perspectives, providing us with comprehensive responses on current global diversity issues that affect all of us directly or indirectly.
The pandemic crisis made I&D more important, even essential for human survival. Only time will show us the real impact that COVID-19 will have on societies and our co-existence. I hope these changes will not be permanent and that we will soon return to face-to-face meetings offline, the old-fashioned way. I wish that for all of us.