Article: Curiosity, Courage and Commitment: Gwen Kolader's advice to leaders on building an impactful DE&I


Curiosity, Courage and Commitment: Gwen Kolader's advice to leaders on building an impactful DE&I

In a conversation with Gwen Kolader, VP - Global Head DEI & Leadership Program we explore how DE&I can be reimagined in a world of hybrid work and the role senior leaders can play today to ensure companies can truly shift the marker on DE&I.
Curiosity, Courage and Commitment: Gwen Kolader's advice to leaders on building an impactful DE&I


How should leaders approach creating impactful DE&I initiatives in a world today where physical touchpoints are fast eroding?

When speaking about an inclusive culture, I would define it as a culture where all people can be themselves, with a level of psychological safety for them to have their voices heard, be seen and be respected. Where systemic barriers have been removed, biases are being challenged and the way they work together at all levels and across all regions is based on fairness and transparency. Where the cycle of listening, learning, changing and growing is continuously being encouraged, especially by leadership. Physical touchpoints can be supportive of inclusivity, but I do not see this as essential. 


I am not saying that physical touchpoints are not of any value, they absolutely can be, but now we have moved to hybrid working, it is key to understand the balance between working from home/anywhere and working from the office/meeting point and how it values the wellbeing of our people. What is essential for that is a personal connection and genuine interest. 


What role should modern-day leaders play in ensuring companies are able to create the right culture that diversity and facilitate inclusivity?

To reach a high level of inclusivity and therefore the ability to attract a diverse workforce, I believe the leaders of today should focus on 3 important skills. Curiosity, Courage and Commitment. Building an Inclusive culture requires an open mind, the willingness to look further than your own worldview, stepping out of your comfort zone, challenging and being challenged, and not walking away from difficult conversations and emotions. It is about change. And change does not come overnight. Leaders that walk the talk and show these skills and behaviors, will be able to create the psychological safety that is needed to create inclusiveness.


In a hybrid world of work where companies find themselves competing for talent once again, how do you see strong DEI initiatives helping companies attract the best talent?

The scarcity of talent can be solved by mindset change. Don’t look at the same places for talent, don’t go for the same profiles and don’t look for that ‘perfect fit that is based on the same definitions for years. The world has changed and will continue to change. When a company can build that inclusive culture, it will become a talent magnet by itself.

Traditionally tech companies have often faced the challenge of losing out on women leaders early in the pipeline. How are you at Hexaware addressing this challenge?

Within Hexaware, we had a close look at the career pipeline of our women and unfortunately, we also see that we have more work to do. We are committed to increasing the number of women in leadership positions through career journey stimulation but also to encouraging women to return to the workplace after being absent for a while. We are having conversations with women to include them in the design of programs that will support the growth of their careers. But the focus is not only for women to bring their careers to a higher level when desired but also for our culture to stimulate that. The way we evaluate, promote and reward our women and the workforce in general, should not be negatively influenced by biases or assumptions. We are working on increasing inclusive leadership, limiting biases and increasing cultural understanding to grow our inclusivity and stimulate a culture where we have equitable opportunities for everyone.  


With a diverse workforce such as yours, how do you ensure leaders are equipped to manage workforce expectations and align them to the organization’s culture and vision?

Our senior leaders have a clear view of what we want to achieve through DE&I as a company and as leaders. Behaviors and decisions are continuously challenged on biases to make sure our leaders showcase what it means to be an inclusive leader. Through communication, initiatives and events our employees are being informed about the progress we make. Our CEO (and senior leadership) is a strong advocate for DE&I and with the commitment to learn and grow, we continuously put DE&I on top of the agenda, putting our employees and customers at the heart of everything we do, to build that culture of inclusiveness.


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Topics: Culture, Diversity

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