Diversity is about respect, not empathy

I am fortunate to work in an agency in a country where women’s talents are given equal opportunity to shine.

In my past experience with other corporate companies this hasn’t always been the case, but I think that often inequality isn’t the result of people’s bad intentions or deliberate choices, but rather of ignorance, assumptions and perception. And this applies to both women and men.

In some countries in Asia, marriage and families are a key reason for why women choose not to continue to develop a career of their own. In other countries, men who want to work with flexible hours in order to spend more time with their children are either not given that choice or their choice is not respected.

This situation requires us to create a system that recognizes the need for both women and men to create a balanced life for themselves and their loved ones. This requires leaders who are willing to think creatively and stay open to new ways of working to give people the choice to act on their needs in the different seasons of their life.

In Isobar India, Shamsuddin Jasani (MD) and his management team have developed a Women’s Council with an 11 point agenda. This initiative includes assessing and acting on the infrastructure and process changes needed to support female employees in flexible working hours, maternity, and harassment issues. To ensure the council reaches all parts of the business they have appointed a Women’s Council ‘go to’ person in each of our offices.

Personally, at Isobar I had the opportunity to work part time for one year in order to take care of my young daughter. My boss, Jean Lin, assigned projects to me that enabled me to deliver impact and results while caring for my daughter at the same time. Without that transition year, I would not have been able to return to a full time career and take on the major challenge to lead China and today the APAC region. My need and gender didn’t become a road block for me to take on bigger responsibility when I was ready.

My commitment is to ensure our business respects our talent by considering life’s realities for all men and women in Isobar in APAC, and ensuring our working culture and processes aligns with their wider needs. We will create space for the individual, where their choices for their personal life doesn’t become a reason to be judged and where all job opportunities, new skills, training, resources are equally open to men and women who aspire to collaborate more, and to be better. While we continue to contribute to our collective ambition as a company, we support and sponsor the personal fulfillment of our talent.

I believe that diversity is a conscious choice that has to be demonstrated by leaders first and foremost. It requires our policies and a mindful culture to ensure that we don’t allow stereotyping or the discrimination of talent. My teams and I recognize and promote talents according to merit and performance, not their culture, gender, religion and political background, because we know that when we design a system and environment where individual needs and corporate needs are not at odds, we will progress diversity and create bigger, better ideas.

Diversity is about respect, not empathy.