Three key learnings for your organization’s DEI work from the Inklusiiv Forum 2021

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Over 120 professionals interested in DEI topics and top companies in Finland were brought together to share learnings and have topical discussions about the state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Inklusiiv Forum on 18 November. The event included valuable discussions and learnings on how to advance DEI and foster belonging in organizations. Here’s a recap of key insights from the Inklusiiv Forum.

Inklusiiv forum

Belonging – a business imperative, not a nice to have

In his keynote, Asif Sadiq, the VP and Head of Equity and Inclusion of WarnerMedia International explained the important conversation around belonging and how inclusion is not the end goal – a sense of belonging is. Belonging is not a new concept, but a much-studied topic among DEI professionals and academics. In short, the term means that all individuals feel safe and comfortable in a group while being their authentic selves.

What is less talked about in belonging is how it does not stem from unity. Belonging stems from the differences and being able to address those. Belonging grows from psychological safety where individuals can disagree and raise their concerns without the fear of being judged or humiliated. Belonging means that no one is defined from the outside but allowed to be their authentic self and that one feels accepted and appreciated.

Belonging grows from psychological safety where individuals can disagree and raise their concerns without the fear of being judged or humiliated.

To reach a state of belonging, diversity and inclusion should wave across your business in every area. DEI is not a subfunction of HR or something that one to two individuals drive out of personal interest. Organizational practices have to be in place and in addition, every single person, but especially leaders and managers, have a responsibility of weaving it into your organizational routines from daily meetings to recruiting processes.

As cited at HBR “when people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential”, – which, in turn, means financial benefits for organizations. When people feel that they belong they also tend to say longer in an organization. As Asif said, creating belonging is not a nice to have – it’s a business imperative.

Instead of data-driven, go data-informed

Many discussions at the Inklusiiv Forum highlighted that data plays a crucial part in every organization’s DEI journey. You can start by analyzing the current state of your organization. This helps you define where you need to head to and what your goals could look like. Keep in mind that every organization is different and every starting point looks different – that’s why it’s important to figure out the best-working individual data points and insights for your company’s needs.

Diversity & inclusion data should also be taken into account in all aspects of your business, such as recruiting.

In her keynote, Suzan Hourieh Lindberg, the CEO at The Social Few, dove deeper into data informed inclusion and the impact that comes with it. She showed a study that measured diversity in recruitment processes. The study called “The Talent Code” included 13 global-minded Swedish organizations. Hourieh Lindberg asked to see their data of 1 200 possible recruits for tech roles such as developers and product managers.

Hourieh Lindberg asked the organizations to collect data around age, gender identity and languages. The results were revealing and surprising for all: after applying, only a handful of applicants older than 45 years got a callback – the numbers went from 20% to 3% in just one phase. A similar drop happened in terms of gender and language. 77% female applicants dropped to 50% female applicants getting a callback. 34% of Hindi speaking applicants dropped to 3% Hindi speaking applicants getting a callback. What was most revealing about the findings was that even if the most matching profile pool was diverse in gender, age and language at the first stage of the recruitment, the jobs ultimately went to 75% men, 100% with Swedish and English as their languages and 100% in the age group of 35-40 resulting in a rather homogenous group.

As Hourieh Lindberg pointed out, with data comes insights and with insights comes possibilities. After showcasing the study results to the companies, many went on to reassess their recruiting processes. A year later, when Hourieh Lindberg did a similar study, almost all of the companies had better diversity numbers than they had before – only because they became more aware of what can happen in their processes.

We all have good intentions of treating everyone equally but what we often forget is that we are humans. This means that for example unconscious biases affect our behavior and processes. Data gives people a chance to see the reality beyond our humanity and that’s why it is so important for your DEI work now and in the future.

Create an environment for key conversations

Creating belonging comes from the small things people do every day at work. Usually, these are the acts that we do without thinking further: picking a place for a team day that might not be inclusive for disabled people or mobility challenges or having microaggressions such as asking someone where they are *really* from. We might not be aware of how we might not be inclusive in our ways.

We all have unconscious biases and that is why it is really important to acknowledge them and proactively try to mitigate them. Open dialogue and training are needed in workplaces to raise the discussion around the topic – as well as an open mind. DEI is a continuous learning journey that starts with being honest with ourselves about our shortcomings or lack of information. It is also imperative to take action: improve processes and practices to mitigate biases and promote inclusion.

We all have unconscious biases and that is why it is really important to acknowledge them and proactively try to mitigate them.

Tomas Nyström, Accenture’s Country Manager put it like this: “Do not use power – but lead instead. Twist your organization to a people-first organization and build a culture where everyone is equipped to participate in the discussion.”

This means raising awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion topics in your organization, starting from the basics, such as terminology, business benefits, and of course, the importance of these for individuals and their wellbeing. For people working with DEI and for those advocating for them, “diversity” or “inclusion” might be clear as day, but for many the terms are unfamiliar. Many are worried about saying the wrong thing but creating safe spaces for conversation is the way to take conversations forward. At the end of the day, no one can claim that they know it all about DEI. It is about not overlooking the basics to make the unfamiliar familiar to everyone.

To make real change happen, everyone from across the organization can and should be involved in discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion.

To make real change happen, everyone from across the organization can and should be involved in discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion. Leaders and managers, in particular, play an important part in creating inclusive workplace culture, setting expectations for inclusive behaviors, and leading by example. In the end, every single person of an organization is responsible for creating a more inclusive work environment, also towards those who might not be yet on the same page with you on DEI.

Asif Sadiq sees that the future of inclusion is about human interactions, things that we should all know how to do naturally. But, as Sadiq specified in his keynote, we’re often too scared to ask questions and explore the differences. For this reason, it is so important to have hard conversations that are based on open dialogue, welcome disagreements and instead of preaching, lead by compassion.


We want to thank all speakers and participants for the meaningful and engaging conversations at the event. Thank you Tekniikan akateemiset, Accenture, TietoEVRY and Futurice for supporting the event as the main partners. We also want to send a special thank you to the partners Gofore, KONE, DNA Oyj, Brella, Microsoft and SOK.

Inklusiiv Forum is an event focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in working life. Inklusiiv Forum brings together DEI experts, professionals interested in DEI topics and top companies in Finland to share learnings and have topical discussions about the state of DEI, future of working life and essentials in building better workplaces. The event includes top-notch keynotes, panel discussions and hands-on workshops that help drive the DEI change in organizations. In 2021, the theme of the Inklusiiv Forum was Belonging – an integral part of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

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