WBAA — Our Efforts towards Diversity and Inclusion

This is a story about diversity and inclusion efforts in a beautiful tribe of diverse passionate people who build innovative products to bring a positive impact in the lives of our colleagues at ING and beyond. It’s about us — who come from different nationalities, cultures, backgrounds having different expertise and super powers, speaking different languages and having many more diverse characteristics.

“Our data driven thinking, passion to innovate, attitude of getting things done, and more than everything, our zeal to continuously learn and improve as individuals and as a team, is what unites and makes us a part of the WBAA tribe. With a scaling tribe, our focus on cherishing diversity and strengthening inclusion also scaled”

Veenam Jain — Product Manager — Founding Member of WBAA D&I Council.

Inspired by reading “The Cultural Map book”, we organised the very first group session with an objective to raise awareness in diversity and inclusion (D&I) while checking how we do in this area as a tribe. Very nicely using the power of data and a fun activity based on the cultural map, we made our colleagues more aware of the diversity we have as a tribe in many areas — areas that go above and beyond the traditional boundaries of evaluating diversity in terms of nationality, gender and age.

The cultural map really helped us visualise and recognise the impact of diversity through a new lens. We saw how it impacts our day to day work and interaction with our colleagues . That was the starting point of our journey towards forming a small but really strong WBAA Diversity and Inclusion community, while having full engagement and support from our leadership.

Based on best practices and insights shared by ING’s Global D&I group, we decided to focus on three main areas to further our initiative, namely “recruit, promote and retain”. We are working towards spreading more awareness while identifying key areas of improvement under these three pillars.

“As much as companies promote the initiative of being diverse, it is up to people to take initiative and insure this. This is why a diversity and inclusion team is fundamental in driving D&I efforts, and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard”

Bongani Shongwe — Data Engineer — Founding Member of WBAA D&I Council.

Our vision is to foster a workplace climate and culture where everyone can bring their “whole” self to work without any fear and be treated with empathy and equality.

“We are a big and beautiful tribe with people that are diverse in different ways, like gender, age, cultural background. Sometimes we still have stereotypes and mis-understand each other. And sometimes not all voices get heard. I really hope that working on this topic can create a happier and more inclusive working environment for everyone. We are a family and no one should be or feel left behind”

Xi Zhang — Data Engineer — Founding member of WBAA D&I Council.

WBAA D&I learnings and experiences

It’s been a journey of 12 months since we have started and here are some great learnings and experiences we would like to share with diverse teams like us — teams that acknowledge the value diversity delivers and wish to become better and more inclusive:

Our data-driven approach

Understanding and evaluating diversity with the help of actual data points leads to transparency and great insights on the topic. We use it all the time, be it visualising the diversity we have in our tribe based on different parameters or ensuring we comply with the ING wide D&I rules, such as 70% diversity at each level.

It all starts with Awareness

During our first WBAA D&I sessions, we often pondered over questions and dilemmas on why to initiate a discussion about this topic since it is already part and parcel of our life. Moving forward, we became more aware of the diversity we have in our tribe and the feelings of different people coming from different cultural backgrounds. We realised that this is an area that requires conscious efforts and continuous attention to remove, or at least sensitise us regarding unconscious biases — biases that are hard to recognise but impact our colleagues. We realised that spreading awareness was the key starting point for us and has helped us immensely in progressing with this initiative.

Activities & Games make it fun and impactful

Since the beginning we have been organising several fun activities and games which have made our D&I efforts for awareness more impactful. A few interesting ones include:

  • Cultural Calling Cards: A fun icebreaker game which can help culturally diverse new teams to get to know about team members cultures in an interactive way. Check it out here.
  • Barnga: A simulation game to understand cultural clashes. We played it during a tribe event and it has touched our colleagues’ hearts. Here is a reference link.
  • Writing greetings in your local language: This is a great way to start any meeting, asking people to write greetings in their local language while entering the meeting room. It’s a small yet beautiful activity, spreading positive vibes within a group.
  • Karaoke: We organised it online, as part of our WBAA remote fun activities. Still, it was so much fun to sing and dance altogether on songs in different languages and different genres. Check out this app for remote setup.
  • Slack bot to detect unintended bias in written speech: Though we see ourselves as a progressive tribe, our words can project exclusivity. In helping to teach inclusive language, a member of our tribe introduced a slack bot which calmly remarks on using inclusive language. Here is a reference link.
  • Online knowledge sharing library: A common repository where we share both research but also interesting blogs relevant to D&I to get educated and stimulate awareness.
  • Watching documentaries together: We organised a virtual documentary (13th) session on the topic of “Black lives matter”. It was so inspiring and relieving to freely share our thoughts, feelings, concerns, but also the varied angles this important issue takes in our different countries of origin. We highly recommend watching it here or on youtube.

D&I as part of the key goals of WBAA senior management

D&I is part of the key objectives of WBAA’s leadership which really helps us ensure it receives equal responsibility, efforts and support, like any other key important objectives. This support has been a strong motivator in driving our initiative and actioning on the key improvement areas.

“My firm belief is that when people can bring their full self to the office, teams will perform much better and people will thrive and flourish. It is not an easy route to take, it takes effort, reflection, and time, but I feel a strong responsibility to create a work environment in which we are inclusive, explore each others’ ideas, and apply the norm “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”.

Working with like minded people in senior positions is a key success point according to experts in the D&I field and is recommended by many big organisations. Check out an example of research by the National Centre for Women in IT.

We go deeper to understand diverse needs

From the various experiences shared by our colleagues in D&I meetings we understood that it means differently for different people at different times. And to be inclusive we must recognise different needs. In order to understand various needs and perspectives in an unbiased way, we are using various techniques and tools to get a deep understanding about every topic we pick in this area. An example is using anonymous surveys which have been really helpful in collecting different viewpoints freely.

Sharing brings our cultures together

Small sharing efforts really help in bringing our cultures together: bringing local goods for our colleagues while returning back from home vacations, greeting each other in local languages during stand-ups, sharing a notification about our diverse cultural festivals and celebrating together are some examples of the things we cherish.

With the above-mentioned activities, learnings and experiences and the full support of our tribe’s leadership, fellow colleagues, and ING as a whole, we believe we are on the right path — that of creating a fully diverse and inclusive work environment for our colleagues. A place where each of us feels fully comfortable in bringing their whole self to work.

“We look forward to many more beautiful experiences, conversations and positive outcomes in our tribe and would be happy to collaborate and help like minded teams who are also trying to make this world an inclusive place to live!” — Veenam

Please reach out to WBAA with any nice ideas and recommendations relevant to Diversity and Inclusion via wbaa@ing.com.

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