Yolanda Conyers, vice president of global human resources and chief diversity officer for Lenovo, has a challenging role—leveraging diversity and inclusion in a global company with a Chinese heritage.
Since 2007 Conyers has broadened and created the We Are Lenovo culture to better serve and reflect its global workforce. Lenovo, the world’s No. 2 PC maker, operates in 160 countries.
When Lenovo recruited Conyers, she was on sabbatical after serving as executive director of worldwide procurement at Dell. “The opportunity to help Lenovo integrate Eastern and Western cultures captivated me,” says the Lamar University (Texas) computer science major.
She found the opportunity a professional challenge, and it also resonated with her personally as a way to make a difference. “As a child, I remember being bused from my all-black neighborhood to a predominantly white school,” she says. “In addition, my father was a seaman and traveled around the world on merchant ships. He was wise from his travels, and he taught me to embrace the unfamiliar. That’s why I sought out leadership roles, from running for student council vice president in high school to this role as Chief Diversity Officer.”
Conyers spoke to Diversity Woman about how she’s helping Lenovo’s 50,000 employees “embrace the unfamiliar,” in order to help drive the bottom line.
Diversity Woman: You cowrote a book, The Lenovo Way. What is the Lenovo Way?
Yolanda Conyers: The book chronicles Lenovo’s journey to becoming a global company and leveraging diversity as a competitive advantage. Lenovo is a Chinese heritage company that made history as the first Chinese company to acquire an American company, IBM Personal Computer Division. It’s also my personal story, navigating living in Beijing for three years and blending the best of Eastern and Western business cultures.
DW: What are some of the unique challenges working in D&I for a Chinese company?
YC: Firstly, defining diversity for our Chinese colleagues who were unfamiliar with the role of a CDO.
The cultural differences still can be challenging to understand and overcome. For example, during my first three months in the job, I inadvertently offended one of my Chinese colleagues by “requesting” a meeting in an email, not realizing that to request something of a peer or upper management was offensive. After understanding this difference, I was able to reestablish the relationship. To this point, we’ve done a lot of work educating our employees about how to work across different cultures, and The Lenovo Way, our own culture, has established business norms and expectations for how we do things at Lenovo.
DW: How has Lenovo made diversity and inclusion a competitive advantage?
YC: Different perspectives have helped us expand our business outside China and beyond PCs to smartphones and servers.
By leveraging different perspectives, we’ve created better products. For example, different engineering teams in multiple countries came up with different takes on our convertible tablet form factor. We introduced all three of the designs to give consumers more choice than our competitors offer.