Late last year, Shari Davis stepped into the role of chief diversity officer (CDO) at CSC, a global information technology company with 96,000 employees working in more than 70 countries. Davis has been with CSC for more than 18 years, most recently as vice president of human resources. She has long volunteered on diversity issues both within and outside the company and, in 2006, won the National Women of Color Technology All-Star Award from the Career Communications Group Inc. Davis spoke with Diversity Woman about her approach and what she hopes to accomplish.
Diversity Woman: What’s your personal philosophy about diversity?
Shari Davis: I believe diversity is about creating inclusive environments in which people have the opportunity to thrive. It’s important for individuals to be able to look up into the organization and see someone who looks like them, or who has a similar background, so they see the opportunities for advancement.
DW: What attracted you to this position?
SD: Service is an important part of who I am. I’m pretty involved with my church, on a leadership team that runs a ministry for girls. I was program manager for CSC’s National Women of Color STEM awards program. This new role allows me to exercise my passions for serving others and creating inclusive environments.
DW: What are some lessons you’ve learned so far?
SD: Senior leadership has to believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to company success. They have to commit and lead by example. It’s not just, “We’re sending out an annual memo, saying we’re committed.” It’s about full engagement. And a few people can’t drive change for a large organization. It takes a village of employees—volunteers to lead and participate in efforts to achieve the company’s goals for diversity.
DW: Why is a diverse workforce crucial to CSC’s success?
SD: One reason is the continued shift in the marketplace demographics—the increase in people of color. We need to make sure we secure the talent we need to grow the business. Also, the aging workforce creates a need for us to seek out the next generation, both in technical expertise and in leadership.
DW: What has CSC done to promote diversity, and how do you hope to extend that?
SD: I’ve seen more focus on increasing diversity in senior positions. The goal is for diversity to be a natural part of how we do business, not a separate initiative. I will be focused on collaborating with human resources, corporate responsibility, and our business leaders to ensure that our recruiting efforts are generating a diverse pool, especially in senior leadership and our college pool.
DW: How do you engage people who may not be convinced that a diverse workforce is necessary?
SD: My approach has been speaking to them in terms they can relate to: What is the business case for how diversity impacts the company’s success? What are the measurements of that success, the ROI?
DW: Any advice for people getting started in diversity work?
SD: You have to have a servant heart. All those things that speak to who people are—job satisfaction, employee engagement, community—are important. So you need a desire to create those kinds of environments. You also need to understand the business. And building relationships is key. Get to know your senior leaders—you will need them.