"When seeking to address diversity and inclusion too much focus is placed on those who are ‘different’."
Steven Cox has recently been appointed as Global Ambassador for Diversity & Inclusion at Fujitsu. Prior to this he was responsible for Fujitsu’s UK Public Sector and Transport Business and was part of the UK executive leadership team. We caught up with Steven to find out how he’s hoping to drive diversity and inclusion activities in his new position.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: You have just been appointed for a year-long position as Global Ambassador for D&I at Fujitsu. What attracted you to this role?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: I’ve been passionate about all aspects of diversity and inclusion for a while. I came out as gay at Fujitsu about four years ago and at the same time set out to make a positive difference wherever I can.
Back then we formed our LGBT+ networking group, Shine, and now also have well established groups for race and ethnicity, women and for people with disabilities.
I was attracted to this new role as it gave me the opportunity to share some of the great work we are already doing, to learn from others who may be more advanced in their programmes, to identify the latest thinking in terms of how to encourage everyone’s involvement in diversity and inclusion and, above all, to catalyse positive change for all people in Fujitsu as we move towards a global approach to diversity and inclusion.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: Can you briefly outline your key goals?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: I see a real potential for companies to increase the diversity of their workforce and the inclusiveness of their workplaces, and there is plenty of evidence on the benefits of doing so.
My overriding objective is to identify what we as a company could be doing in our operations around the globe that would bring about positive change for our people, for our customers and for the societies that we serve and operate in.
Therefore my key goals are around identifying what the latest thinking and best practice is for global corporations like Fujitsu in these areas. Understanding that thinking and best practice in the context of the strategic future of our business comes next, along with evangelising it with our international business leadership.
I will also be looking to develop an understanding of how the increasing use of automation and machine learning will impact the workforce, focusing on the ways in which it can enable greater diversity and support increased inclusion, so that we can continue to deliver the best for our customers.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: A year can pass by very quickly… how will you ensure that you accomplish these objectives within this time?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: With continual focus! The remit is wide-ranging in terms of scope and scale, as such I am being realistic about the amount of change that can be achieved in the time available.
What I can do is lay the groundwork, raise awareness of the need for ongoing change and set out what the enablers for future change will be.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What are you most excited about getting your teeth stuck into?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: From a personal perspective what excites me is the opportunity to learn. I’m doing a lot of background reading and one can see the thinking in these areas developing on an almost day-by-day basis.
There’s a lot of work being undertaken by academics and reports from reputable journals highlighting that while on the one hand this is a simple concept to grasp, it is full of complexities. Each topic area has its own aspects to consider, and these need to be framed appropriately within the national cultures that we operate in.
Getting diversity and inclusion right has a myriad of challenges – we’re talking about what it means to be human, and there isn’t much about being human that’s simple!
Considerations now are much more about all of us having several identities at any one point in time (think male/female, parent/non-parent, carer/non-carer, people with disabilities/without, straight/LGBT+, new starter/experienced professional, and so on).
Not only do we have several such identities, but they change as we progress through our lives and careers.
Therefore the way in which we engage at work, the way that work will change as technological advances continue to be made, and the fact that our workforces will have an ever-increasing range of age groups represented, makes me believe that we are at the beginning of an ever more enlightened way of thinking about and addressing this complex topic.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: How do you see technologies such as automation and AI supporting diversity programmes within large global companies such as Fujitsu?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: Technology undoubtedly presents an incredible opportunity to further enable diversity and inclusion, and indeed we can see the positive effects that technology already brings in so many areas.
Technology that enables people with disabilities is well established and continually pushing new boundaries. Platforms that allow communities of interest to form and share thoughts and understandings are now part of most workplace environments. Self-learning and development opportunities abound.
Looking forward, automation and machine learning, or artificial intelligence, represent a step-change opportunity.
Automation can take repetitive or burdensome tasks out of our day-to-day work. That will release us to bring value where it really matters.
The reality is that diversity and inclusion affects us all in many ways. To have an enriched creative and innovative workplace requires the involvement of everyone.
Automation and machine learning could also conceivably be tailored as the technology develops to be specifically tuned for each individual employee – perhaps getting to the stage where we have virtual assistants that have learned what we are good at and no so good at, and proactively support us.
The technology will also allow new work patterns to be supported – for example, allowing tasks to be shared intelligently across teams will enable those who have non-standard working hours to participate fully. Or perhaps if someone is unable to attend work at short notice the machine learning environment will be able to manage the workload to the rest of the team in real time.
Over time we will undoubtedly see machine learning technology deliver real value in cross-national and cross-language situations.
This will give us the ability to not just communicate in multiple languages, but also to do so in ways that have been adapted for different cultural contexts. Extend that to areas of neurodiversity and one can see how technology could be used to enable those who communicate in different ways to engage with each other really effectively.
Becky Norman, Deputy Editor, HRZone: What about diversity and inclusion in the workplace keeps you up at night?
Steven Cox, Global Ambassador for D&I, Fujitsu: Getting diversity and inclusion right has a myriad of challenges – we’re talking about what it means to be human, and there isn’t much about being human that’s simple!
There are a few areas that I’d call out here. One of them is how to get everyone involved in this topic. There’s a danger that when seeking to address diversity and inclusion too much focus is placed on those who are ‘different’ – and those who aren’t may feel that either this isn’t about them and they don’t need to be involved, or that they have been left out and are disadvantaged as a result.
For me that’s where the concept of multiple identities is really relevant.
The reality is that diversity and inclusion affects us all in many ways. To have an enriched creative and innovative workplace requires the involvement of everyone, and will allow everyone to benefit as a result.
Another challenge is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. What works in one country or cultural context may not work in another.
However we do want to make as much progress as we can in all areas – so this is really about getting the right balance of intent/objective with acceptance of making progress in slightly different ways, or at different speeds, in different locales.
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