Advancing diversity, inclusion and equality: Evolving a moment into a movement
‘We need to create a culture where everybody feels the psychological safety to bring their best selves to work,’ says SAP’s Judith WilliamsShow transcript
Judith Williams is the Global Head of People Sustainability and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for SAP. She’s been working on diversity and inclusion in the technology industry for the last 10 years, and she says that although there is now greater transparency about what the industry is doing, there’s still a lot of progress to be made. As Black Lives Matter protests continue in the face of ongoing police violence, she discusses her hopes to continue the momentum of the movement and achieve real social change.
The New Economy: Judith, thank you for your insights in this report – I wonder if you could give us your own personal view of how you think the technology industry is performing in terms of diversity and inclusion.
Judith Williams: I’ve been working on this topic for a number of years in the tech industry, and I would say that we are working on it in the way that we’ve been working on it for the past 10 years. So, that means that we have a lot of work to do, and we have a pretty big opportunity.
And I would say if we think back 10 years ago, the first stage that we saw was that tech companies were not really transparent about how they were doing, and what they were doing, with regard to diversity and inclusion. But now we see greater transparency about what our actual numbers are; transparency about the types of initiatives that we are trying to engage in, both internally and externally; and third, we see a greater willingness to engage in the larger social and political debate, outside of our organisations. So I would say that we have a huge opportunity; we can do more, we can make more progress. But we haven’t done as much as we could have done in the past: I see that changing.
The New Economy: Why is an inclusive culture so important to a company’s ability to innovate?
Judith Williams: What makes a company successful is that we have a lot of different people working well together to solve really complex problems. And what that means is we need to create a culture where everybody feels the psychological safety to bring their best selves to work. We also need to have an organisation that has people who have different experiences, different backgrounds, come from different geographies, different ethnicities: because they bring all those ideas to bear. And it’s that creative conflict that comes when people disagree in an inclusive manner, that actually lets us solve those thorny problems and innovate.
The New Economy: As you say in the article, it’s not just about what businesses are doing internally, but about working to achieve real change for people on the ground; what are your hopes for SAP’s partnership with Global Citizen?
Judith Williams: I have a lot of great hopes for the partnership! I mean, we are dedicating our resources to education, social justice initiatives and increasing opportunity internally. And that’s something that we’re not alone in doing.
We can ally with organisations, non-profits, other corporations, that are driving for the same outcomes to say: this isn’t just about us trying to move the needle alone, this is a movement that we’re all participating in.
We’re saying that this is essential, this is important. And that we all have a role to play. And so when we can come together with an organisation like Global Citizen and elevate our platform, and reach an even bigger audience, we can take this movement and continue the momentum, so we can make real social change.