Inclusion and diversity are gaining space in the corporate world. But the journey is long and requires not only speed, but resilience and intentionality. In Latin America, it is important to consider that the reality in Brazil is different than Mexico, Chile, Argentina… and even within the same country, it’s not the same. This plurality must be recognized and respected.
Inclusion and diversity, or ‘I&D’ as we call it at GE, is a business imperative. It is no different than other strategic pillars and embedded in ‘how’ we do business. People feeling valued and respected perform better, and this makes it fundamental for corporations. Diversity creates value for our customers, shareholders, and employees, and, at GE, we are committed to fostering an inclusive culture where everyone feels empowered to do their best work because they feel accepted, respected and that they belong.
My role as diversity and inclusion leader has been quite a journey, on which I embarked by putting into practice advice that many of us receive but not always listen to: to accept challenges even if we don’t think we are ready.
I’d been involved with the Women’s Network (WN), one of the employee resource groups (ERGs) we have at GE, for many years. I started my career with GE as an intern and being part of the WN not only allowed me to learn from experienced leaders, but also showed the power of these groups in creating a trusted network of people that help us grow professionally and personally. But when Rafael Palombini, GE Healthcare’s LATAM CEO, invited me to represent GEHC globally as Latin America’s I&D leader back in August 2020, it would be a much bigger responsibility. Although I’ve always been passionate about I&D, I was (and still am) no expert. After a candid conversation with him, where I was encouraged to focus on my willingness to learn as opposed to my limitations, I said yes.
This is a voluntary role on top of my responsibilities as general counsel. It is challenging to find the time, but all the learning, the people that I have met in connection with the I&D routine that I would otherwise not have met, the projects we are delivering and the impact – actual and potential – that the work of this team has, makes it more than worth it!
Together with the company’s senior leadership in LATAM, my role is to ensure that our inclusion and diversity strategy is embedded throughout our business, and to be the spokesperson for GE Healthcare Latin America with respect to I&D with GE Healthcare globally and regionally across the various GE businesses.
2021 has been an intense and rewarding year for I&D. All the GE businesses got together and, with the support of our employee resource groups, a strong I&D plan was developed, focusing on education and awareness, strengthening the leadership commitment and our culture of belonging.
To further the leadership commitment, an inclusion and diversity workshop was tailored to the reality of all GE people leaders in Latin America with the support of a consulting company. Almost 700 people leaders across the company participated in a three-hour interactive session that promoted reflection on empathy, unconscious biases, and how they are linked with GE’s Leadership Behaviors (act with humility, lead with transparency, and deliver with focus). We are pleased with the results, with an 80%+ approval rating from the participants.
In the talent pillar, leaders are encouraged to think of inclusive job descriptions – for example, is fluent English really a requirement? Why limit applications to people graduated from universities A or B?
One last example of our actions this year is the first GE census in Brazil. A self-declaratory anonymous survey was conducted to understand the diversity of the GE team regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, and other characteristics, to help guide the next steps in the company’s journey of inclusion and diversity. The level of engagement made us all really proud. More than 70% of the Brazil team participated in this important activity, carried out thanks to the support of many people but, in particular, the AAF (African American Forum) Brazil, one of our affinity groups.
For the legal profession, on top of everything, I&D is part of our jobs. There is a strong component that intersects with labor and employment, data privacy, compliance. The potential legal impacts of I&D-related matters are relevant, so it is naturally part of the legal professionals’ routine. Here with GE in Latin America, the legal and compliance team goes much further than their ‘legal hats’, actively engaging in various initiatives and being strong allies and advocates for inclusion and diversity.
I&D is really part of our job in the legal team. And, at GE, we are fortunate to have various legal and compliance team members not only engaged in connection with their day-to-day work (the Brazil census, for example, required a lot of support from the legal team as one of our main concerns was to make sure that all data privacy requirements were complied with), but as advocates, volunteers and allies, leading or actively engaged with employee resource groups, I&D initiatives, and promoting a culture of belonging across the whole company.
It is part of the job of any legal or compliance professional to look after the company’s culture and reputation. We need people need to raise their voices when they see something of concern… our job is to ensure that the environment allows for that. I once heard that behavior is driven by conviction, convenience or compliance… so I see that legal and compliance professionals have a lot to add, whether bringing technical legal insights or going beyond, as our team at GE does.
GE believes a commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion is a key element in achieving the best legal representation by partnering with those who appreciate and include a diversity of perspectives, and who can bring more creative and innovative thinking to GE’s challenges. Outside counsel shall work actively in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within all levels of their workplace, to make a diligent effort in the recruitment, retention, training and development, career progression and promotion of diverse lawyers and to afford such lawyers an opportunity to work on GE matters.