What did we learn from our first-ever VIBE Week? VIBE, which stands for “value inclusion, belonging, and equity for all,” is at the core of our belief system at Workday, and we recently spent five days learning more about how we can VIBE in our daily interactions.
There were more than 160 events scheduled across 34 global Workday locations. With so much fantastic content, we couldn’t write about everything, so we’ve compiled some of the biggest takeaways from five of those events.
Social justice activist and Awaken CEO Michelle Kim told an audience of Workmates during VIBE Week that the urgency around diversity and inclusion in the workplace is increasing, driven by momentum from #MeToo, Time’s Up, the immigrant rights movement, and other social and political shifts.
“The equity and inclusion work begins within ourselves,” she explained, and emphasized three key strategies to start that work: know yourself, understand privilege, and use privilege to disrupt power imbalance.
Knowing yourself is about understanding your personal identities (such as personality traits) and social identities (Kim, for example, identifies as Asian, woman, queer, and college educated) that make you who you are. Knowing yourself aids understanding of intersectionality, a theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw that says our experiences cannot be explained just through our individual social identities, but that we must look at the interconnected nature of all our identities that combine to create unique experiences.
The next strategy, understanding your privilege, is the “unearned benefits granted or available only to a particular social identity group,” said Kim. And she emphasized that we don’t feel our privileges, we feel our struggles.
Kim remembers the struggle of growing up as an immigrant in the United States, for example, and finding it hard to learn English and make friends, but it takes intentional effort and reflection to remember the privilege of being a documented immigrant. You can’t control whether you do or don’t have these privileges, Kim shared, but “we are responsible for what we do with our privileges. We must acknowledge that we didn’t have to struggle in certain ways.”
Lastly, we can use our privilege to disrupt the power imbalance. Suggestions from Kim included speaking up when people get interrupted, ensuring credit goes where it’s due, designing inclusive systems, and sharing access and power (such as “passing the microphone” to amplify underrepresented voices and sharing knowledge and information).
Kim quoted author and professor Brené Brown, who said, “You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort. But you cannot have both.” Having that choice, though, said Kim, is a privilege.
Have you pushed a grocery cart through an automatic door? Or watched a movie with captions on? Or have you used the zoom feature on your phone to enlarge a photo or text? These everyday occurrences show how accessibility impacts everyone, not just people who identify with having a disability.
At the Accessibility Rally, led by Josh Klipp, audience members learned how many of us use accessibility features—and take them for granted. This, he said, is a luxury that not everyone can afford.
For example, Klipp asked us to imagine a job candidate who is highly qualified but due to lack of accessibility, may not be able to apply, get a proper interview, or be successful at the company. Klipp shared an unfortunate incident that occurred at another company where a job candidate who uses a wheelchair was carried into the interview because the building wasn’t wheelchair accessible.
Klipp asked attendees to talk about what proactive measures they can take to make the workplace more accessible. Not only is this a good thing to do on its own merits, it’s good for business.
“What does that feel like to you when you show up to work, and you don’t have to ask for something you need because it’s right there; your company has already thought about it,” Klipp said. “How cool is that? That’s a company you’ll want to do amazing things for.”
During a gathering with leaders from the marketing, products, legal, and technology teams at Workday, the biggest takeaway was this: We all have the power to make diversity and inclusion a priority in our areas of influence.
Petros Dermetzis, our chief products officer and employee No. 5 at Workday, shared how the original leadership team focused on growing a diverse, global company: “You bring in people from multiple parts of the world, and you create a company. It was by design.”
Erin Yang, vice president, platform technology product and strategy, encouraged us to take steps to make the path easier for those who come after, helping underrepresented groups to succeed. Christine Cefalo, chief marketing officer, reminded the audience that when thinking through how a marketing piece may be perceived, it’s key to get multiple perspectives. “What one person sees, another person may not.” And Jim Shaughnessy, senior vice president and general counsel, shared that “a focus on diversity, particularly in recruiting, is necessary but it’s not sufficient. It’s about belonging and inclusion, and having an environment where people bring their authentic selves.”
And finally, they encouraged us to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” When we get used to hard conversations and push through the fear of being misunderstood, we strengthen the muscles needed to make belonging and inclusion a priority.
Does diversity and inclusion in the workplace contribute to an organization’s bottom line? The answer was a resounding “yes” from a panel featuring prominent Bay Area business leaders and moderated by Workday Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor.
The guests weighing in were Amber Boyle, director, diversity and inclusion, VMware; Ron Gonzales, former mayor of San Jose and president of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley; Lee Jourdan, chief diversity officer, Chevron; and Monica Poindexter, head of diversity and inclusion, Lyft.
On the topic of why employee resource groups (also called affinity groups) are important, Gonzales compared large organizations to rubber bands: “They won’t stretch and change unless people are pushing them for change. We need internal champions to stretch the rubber band.”
What’s good for employees is also good for business, the guests pointed out, and diverse perspectives drive innovation. Lyft’s Poindexter added that when products and services are designed and developed with the unique needs and perspectives of a diverse group of employees, they’re more likely to meet the needs of end users.
The leaders agreed that every company is at a different place in its diversity and inclusion journey, but a critical element for success is an executive team that views diversity and inclusion as a strategic business priority. Continuing the dialogue is also important, not just within organizations, but throughout the business community—and at events like VIBE Week. Chevron’s Jourdan added that “we’re all learning as we go. That’s what makes it exciting.”
At the Workday Belonging & Diversity VIBE Fair held outside our California headquarters—which had twice the amount of attendees organizers expected—everyone had the opportunity to learn about a new culture, cause, event, or program by visiting one of the 25 booths to get their “passport to diversity” stamped.
The conversations were open and honest, and it was a good reminder of why we had VIBE Week—life really is a tapestry, and finding out who people are when they are able to show their true selves without fear or favor is a profound pleasure.
Some of Workday’s employee belonging councils (EBCs), including Kampi (our Filipino EBC), Latinx, Pride, and Veterans, as well as employee clubs and various work teams, asked Workmates trivia questions related to their cause. Others provided unique giveaways, such as our Pride EBC, which passed out flags to celebrate and educate Workmates about the different subgroups that make up the LGBTQIA community.
Other groups provided introspective participation for Workmates: Workday Parents Bay Area asked participants to write down one way to introduce inclusion to children, and Christian Bible Study Fellowship asked Workmates to write down one thing they’re grateful for.
Others encouraged physically active participation. One booth did turban tying demonstrations while sharing facts about Sikhi and at our Belonging & Diversity booth, Workmates could spin a raffle wheel to win a lunch or coaching session with our Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor, among other prizes.
All booths shared follow-up opportunities for Workmates to get involved through future events or by providing resources to learn more, so that we can continue to strengthen how we VIBE across our global company.