Diversity: It’s About ROI—Not Just Being Nice

Jamaican-born Jackie Glenn sees diversity and inclusion as critical to the success of global companies. That’s why at EMC, the world’s leading developer and provider of information infrastructure technology and solutions, she’s infusing these two elements into the very fabric of the company’s business. Diversity Woman spoke with Glenn about her work and the passion that keeps her pushing for positive change.

Diversity Woman: How did you end up as chief diversity officer at EMC?

Jackie Glenn: My career was in human resources. I was HR director for sales at EMC four years ago, when the EVP of global human resources asked me to take on this role. I actually cried, because I loved my old job so much, but sometimes others can see what’s best for you better than you can. This has turned out to be the best career decision I’ve made in my life. It’s challenging, rewarding, and really contributes to the company’s ROI.

DW: What’s behind EMC’s interest in diversity?

JG: Since we’re in technology, innovation is our lifeblood, and to achieve the highest levels of innovation, you need diversity. You simply can’t have the same types of people at the table making decisions. Numerous studies have shown that having different perspectives is more powerful in driving the emergence of new ideas, making more accurate predictions, and coming up with more effective problem-solving than the traditional like-minded group of experts. We’re also looking at the changing demographics of the global talent pool, and we realize we need to get on the bandwagon in terms of employing people with all sorts of differences if we’re going to attract the best.

DW: What’s your own philosophy regarding diversity?

JG: To me, diversity is not just about race or gender­­. It’s about a host of dimensions, like sexual orientation, veteran’s status, disability, and so forth. Diversity is really about inclusion—­making everyone feel valued for their viewpoints and contributions. If you have an environment of inclusion, you’ll automatically get diversity. That’s why I lead with the concept of inclusion in everything I do. That said, making diversity and inclusion a priority is not just about being nice. It’s about improving business.

DW: What are you doing to promote diversity at EMC?

JG: Quite a bit. Our strategy is focused on executive accountability, employee engagement, and what we call “delivering against the business imperative.” By that, I mean we align the work of inclusion to our business needs and goals, driving a strategy that impacts that bottom line and ensures the steady build-up and development of talented and engaged people. Toward this end, we have a diversity curriculum that all managers must go through, employee affinity groups to support inclusion, and development and education programs, to name a few of our efforts. We also work to develop a diverse supplier base, and we partner with organizations to promote diversity, learning, and advancement of various groups in the community. We have a means of objectively measuring the success of our initiatives as well, because unless they align to the strategic initiatives, we know we’re not staying on course.

DW: What have been some of your significant accomplishments?

JG: I would have to say building our diversity and inclusion curriculum and getting EMC branded internally and externally as an inclusive employer.

I’m also proud of our executive development program for senior women, which is allowing us to bring more women into the technology field.

DW: What about the challenges?

JG: There’s not enough time to get everything done. We’re a multinational corporation operating in 85 countries! Aside from that, convincing managers who are focused on meeting financial goals to view inclusion as both an opportunity and a business imperative is our greatest challenge. My job is to provide concrete research and evidence that having people with differences on their team will bring them greater productivity and help them meet those goals.

DW: What trends do you see in diversity work?

JG: More and more businesses are stepping up and hiring diversity officers. Diversity work is a specialty that people are becoming certified in, so it’s become a bona fide career path. These roles will only become more robust over time.

DW: Any suggestions for aspiring diversity officers?

JG: You must have a passion for this work; this is a commitment, not a job. It’s also not for the fainthearted. You’ve got to be vigilant and tough, and stand your ground. Know you’ll be in a race that’s going uphill. If you’re thin-skinned and don’t like controversy and speaking truth to people, then choose a different path.

DW: What advice do you have for women of diverse backgrounds in business more generally?

JG: Work hard. Do something you love doing. Don’t compromise for money, and don’t get too focused on what
others are doing. Focus on your own path, and put your nose to the grindstone. It will pay off. DW

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