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Part 5: Diversity in the workplace: how to make it work and maximize its impact

Written by Robyn Blassoples · 2 min read >

Barry Blassoples Eventerprise VP of Growth, sat down with Birgit as part of a ‘Getting to know Birgit Thümecke’ Interview series.

Video Transcription

Barry B: And the challenge that you’ve mentioned, and the first thing you started saying is that fostering a more diverse and inclusive organization is incumbent upon the CEO, primarily.

Barry B: So, naturally that speaks to leadership within the organization, and if the tone is not set by the CEO, well, then by who?

So, let’s imagine then that you have an organization where the tone has been set officially. The official statement by the CEO and the executive is that we are proudly that diverse, we are inclusive, these are our values and they placed it up against the wall. So the framework is set for a more inclusive environment, more diverse environment.

Then, you zoom in on the young woman starting out in her career. Or, maybe she’s been in that job for a few years. Maybe she’s junior to mid-level, management type of role. What would you then give as advice into this person? To say, well, you have an opportunity now given that this is 2019, almost 2020. The framework is set within this organization that says that this organization needs to embrace you as a potential leader, as a potential future CEO or executive. How do you now navigate that knowing that not all mindsets have changed yet?

Barry B: In other words, you’re still going to run into challenges. You’re still going to run into people would much rather be put to maintain the status quo. So, if you were to say bear these things in mind as you navigate your career, what would those be?

Birgit: Yeah, I would say persevere. Don’t care what other people think of you. Do it like my mother did it, against all odds. If this is what you want, ask yourself seriously, do you want a career like this? Can you handle a rejection? I, do you experienced great setbacks with people criticizing? Because that’s going to happen, inevitably.

Whenever you stick your head out hit, you are there to be criticized. I would just be there to support this woman or these many women in the process. And when they experience a setback and when they experience that they have been discriminated against despite the fact that the goals are up there on the wall. There are still some…elements in every company that say this to the CEO, but then they turn their back and say something different.

Birgit: Then, I would just be there to…to comfort them, but also to boost their morale. To…to give them some, some more energy to go again, and try again. Maybe bounce off again, and then try again and again until the door finally really opens. Because it will. Because this is unstoppable. You can’t, you might be able to prolong the process and turn a blind eye and pretend ], but ultimately it has to change, and it will be changing. So what I would say to a young woman is this really, be prepared for some setbacks, and don’t take them personally. There nothing to do with you as a person. They have to do with whatever, the agenda.

 If it wasn’t a woman, it would be a guy and it would be his colour. Or it wouldn’t be the religion. Or it wouldn’t be the age. Really diversity across the board, not just gender, race, diversity. There’s more to diversity.

Barry B: Yeah, there’s a lot more to it.

Birgit: Age discrimination, for instance. Why are certain people after, when they’re older than a certain age, not valuable for the employment market? And why can’t they start very young? And why can’t young people not work together with all people? It’s so invigorating actually. It’s so much more fun. I don’t know why. And that is maybe really because of my upbringing. I never found this…homogeneous environment interesting.

Actually, on the contrary, they scare me a little bit. Because…yeah. It’s too little obvious shoulder-rubbing. It’s too much, “we’re on the same page. I agree. We’re buddies. We help each other.” It’s not kosher to me.