“When our differences are our biggest strength”

“Talk is cheap!” What are companies tangibly actioning to ensure a workplace culture of diversity, inclusion and safety?

Diversity is a hot topic. Everywhere you look, someone is talking about diversity and how it impacts the bottom line. But how many companies are talking about it because they feel they should? Because RFIs are now asking for diversity figures? Because they don’t want to be left behind? According to Mark Oben-Pepra, Managing Partner at OMD EMEA, the number one reason you should be cultivating a culture of inclusion in the workplace is because it’s the right thing to do.

Speaking to DMEXCO TV following an appearance on the Congress Stage at the global digital marketing expo & conference which took place in Cologne this week, Oben-Pepra said; “I think a lot of companies at the moment are talking about this because they feel it should be spoken about, it’s a fashionable topic right now and I think there are quite a lot of superficial motivations that lead a lot of companies to talk about this topic.” Awareness is leading to action though he added; “Encouragingly you are seeing a lot more conversations around concrete actions. Talk is cheap, it’s great that you can talk about it and have a vision and a perspective, but more importantly, so what. What are the key steps you are taking to turn this into action?”

Earlier in the day, Open-Pepra joined Virginia Bastian, Group Manager HR at Nestlé, Sarah Bernuit, European Leader at IBM iX and Lisa Utzschneider, CEO at IAS in a panel moderated by the power-house that is CEO and Founder of The Female Quotient, Shelley Zalis, to discuss gender equality in the technological world, but it soon became clear the panel felt equality encompassed more than gender alone.

Speaking about diversity as a whole, Bernuit explained: “Diversity is bringing a different set of people to the party, inclusion is making sure everyone dances”. The panel was in unanimous agreement that the culture of inclusion needs to be led from the top down “It is not a tick-box, everyone needs to be held accountable” said Bernuit with Bastian adding “You have to build the process from many places, you have to start at the top and have clear guidelines and values. Once you have a framework, you can build upon it. We have diverse consumers we are talking to, so we need to have diversity in the workplace to address that”. Oben-Pepra added from a media standpoint, “Seeing yourself reflected in the media is so important. Seeing different age profiles and seeing that all sectors are accessible is crucial”.

Oben-Pepra went on to talk about being mindful of tokenism and ensuring you don’t start to steer towards positive discrimination. At OMD EMEA, a steering group has been formed to ensure this doesn’t happen. RED, an acronym for Recruitment, Engagement and Development, ensures inclusion is felt from the moment someone applies to join OMD EMEA, through using software to ensure job specs use inclusive and unbiased language, through to celebrating different cultures and international days of celebration, through to ongoing training in bias management and beyond.

Oben-Pepra was clear though “As OMD EMEA we are doing some fantastic work, but we by no means have all of the answers”.

Everyone is clear though, the more the topic of equality, inclusion and workplace safety is discussed and the more education there is around diversity for good in the workplace, the more we will see positive changes each and every day.

You can watch Mark Oben-Pepra’s interview in full on YouTube now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o4OffK5PyQ

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