When enterprises speak about diversity, the conversation often revolves around an end goal, a particular stat or percentage related to the workforce or an idea of what the company should look like.
However, diversity by its own definition is the state of being diverse; and includes a range of different things. In my mind, diversity isn’t a destination to achieve; a company can’t check the box and move on. Diversity is a journey that has many milestones.
From the corporate point of view, Level 3 believes diversity – of thought, backgrounds and experiences – affects all that we do, from our employees to the solutions we deliver. Our goal is to create an environment in which inclusion through diversity helps deepen the lives and work experience of our employees, enhances our innovation and creativity and enriches our involvement in our communities.
For me, personally, that means I want the people who work at Level 3 to feel good about their contributions, to believe that everyone has a voice and to know we all have the opportunity to make a difference.
Ultimately, this inclusiveness provides a greater experience for our employees and for our customers. We want both of these audience groups to come along on the journey – roadblocks and all.
It is no secret that technology companies struggle with diversity. A recent study from Project Diane – research focused on the state of black women in tech entrepreneurship ─ suggests the problem lies in the focus on assimilation rather than inclusion.
This resonates with me. Focusing on inclusion in the work place helps us celebrate and embrace differences. Assimilation will only get you so far when you’re a global company looking to hire a highly technical workforce. I don’t need a slew of programmers with the same background; I need diversity of thought to solve problems in new and innovative ways.
Others point to the actual tech pipeline as the issue. Fewer women and minorities are getting a tech education. But even this has been debunked by top schools who are turning out black and Hispanic graduates with tech degrees at rates higher than leading tech firms are hiring.
More needs to be done.
Many ask, where do we begin? For Level 3, it starts with our culture.
Over the last few years, Level 3 initiated a revolution in our culture, led by our North America and APAC President, Laurinda Pang, and championed by our C-Suite. This shift helped to reevaluate many of our traditional behaviors and to usher in a new way of recognizing talent and connecting with our peers, both formally and informally. Under this initiative, we also kicked off a few programs that opened up the conversation around diversity and inclusion.
Employee Led Resource Groups
Level 3 has eight employee resource groups (ERGs) that run the gamut from Level 3 Women to Predictive Analytics and Decision Science Professionals. Each global group provides professional development, networking, volunteer and leadership opportunities to employees at all levels in the organization. The self-selected and self-managed groups provide a team and a network for all employees. Engaged and invested people are more satisfied with the company. We’ve found employees who participate in the diversity-focused programs score 3 to 11 percentage points higher than the rest of the employee base on employee engagement surveys.
A diverse culture provides the opportunity for all Level 3 Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender employees and their colleagues to succeed and opens the door to conversations around equality. The LGBT ERG has been instrumental in helping Level 3 evolve into an employer of choice among groups seeking an inclusive work environment. The group’s efforts helped Level 3 earn a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaigns’ 2016 Corporate Equality Index. Give employees a voice and a platform and meaningful changes occur.
Diversity and Inclusion Week
Level 3 dedicated a week to global diversity and inclusion activities in 2015. Stemming from the United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, Level 3’s week celebrated the company’s diverse cultures and focused on how every employee can be more inclusive. Daily activities were designed to educate, build awareness and celebrate our differences. This new annual activity also offered a glimpse into Level 3 offices around the world through “Day in the Life” videos created and submitted by team members. My big takeaway from this week was the incredible passion people have to teach about their culture. I’m looking for more ways to activate this area of passion for the good of the company.
I am excited about Level 3’s journey – both where we have come from and where we are going. We released a 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Report with additional details on our path. But I want this to be a two-sided conversation. Tell me about your diversity and inclusion journey and let’s continue the conversation in 2016 and beyond.