Diversity as a Business Initiative

Jolen Anderson sees her diversity and inclusion work not just as a career but as a calling. Armed with a legal background, she has held diversity, HR and legal roles with Visa, for which she is currently senior vice president and chief diversity officer. Anderson loves the challenges that come with pushing against the status quo. She spoke to Diversity Woman about some of the biggest tests facing D&I professionals today.

Diversity Woman: How has your legal background influenced your work in diversity and inclusion?
Jolen Anderson: My experience as an attorney influences the lens through which I look at our workplace—examining core issues like equality, inclusivity, and the accessibility of opportunity. It also drives the development of a strategic approach to diversity and inclusion rooted in research. We know that by building diverse teams, by partnering intentionally, by allowing individuals to feel that their voice matters, we will achieve the business results we’re hoping for. And this is where diversity becomes much more than just a program to manage, but a real business initiative that we have to be focused on.

DW: Working Mother named Visa a leading organization in its 2018 Diversity Best Practices Inclusion 
Index. What are some of the reasons that Visa received this rating?
JA: Everyone brings their own unique life experiences and backgrounds to the workplace, so we strive to offer benefits and development programs that meet them right where they are. As a working mother myself, I know how valuable it is to get the same access to opportunity within the workplace and support for continued career growth. We drive important initiatives like Equal Pay, offer leadership training geared toward advancing the careers of women, host a Ready to Return program to create opportunities for those returning to the workforce after taking an extended period of time away, and offer competitive benefits to support working families. We’re proud to be recognized.

DW: What types of leadership development programs has Visa created to promote inclusion and create more diversity at higher levels?
JA: Our D&I team created the Visa Elevate program to encourage professional growth of people of color within our company by providing career strategies, exposure to senior leaders, and a platform to better promote diverse leaders at Visa, resulting in career advancement for a significant majority of participants. We also provided Inclusive Leadership and Unconscious Bias training for everyone who manages people across our offices to help identify and elevate awareness of bias and understand the behaviors that promote an inclusive environment. Ninety-five percent of leaders at the VP level and higher have completed Unconscious Bias training, and we are targeting completion by 100 percent of people managers.

DW: What are the three most pressing issues that D&I professionals will face in the next five years?
JA: We will be challenged to produce purpose-built processes and resources that help increase engagement with D&I. We will also be challenged to expand the diversity lens while including allies who aren’t typically engaged in diversity initiatives, and help recruiters cautiously wield the power of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to grow diversity in organizations rather than using tech to zero in on a narrow set of profile types.

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