Martha Elena Ruiz Diaz-Granados, general secretary and legal director, Telefónica Hispanoamérica

Ruiz Diaz-Granados describes how Telefónica’s company-wide strategy for diversity and inclusion has empowered women on her legal team.

During the last few years, awareness of diversity and inclusion has gained relevance in the business world, and organizations that promote gender equity and diversity are more positively accepted by society. In Latin America, we have been advancing that line and there is an evident increase in the participation and the commitment of chief executives regarding these topics.
We have made great progress in diversity and inclusion in the region.

We still have much to do – for example, there is a low percentage of organizations led by women, technical areas have a small participation of female talent, and I think what is very evident in the region is a gender-based salary gap.

Colombia has a high percentage of women in leadership positions, and we have space in the corporate world as well as in consultancy and the commercial world. I think Colombian women have gained very important space in business life.

Promoting diversity and encouraging an inclusive leadership style does not only follow social justice principles but it also brings important advantages for businesses, and I think it is viewed in that way in Colombia. It is the principle that guides corporations and opportunities here in the country.

Tone from the top

At Telefónica Colombia, diversity management is a key element of our global strategy. We believe that promoting diversity in our teams and encouraging an inclusive leadership style brings important advantages for the growth of the company and for the wellbeing of the employees. It allows us to attract and retain the best talent, boosts innovation and come closer to a diverse and changing society. That’s why our company is committed to the equity of opportunities and the undiscriminating inclusion of our people. I think that has gained terrain, not only in Telefónica Colombia, but also in the majority of the big organizations in the country, and as organizations act that way, it is an example for society and for the rest of the organizations – it is cultural, to give opportunities and to open the space.

We have a strategy for diversity and inclusion at Telefónica that is divided into five dimensions. One is gender, the other is new generations, the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled people and multicultural interaction.

So for example, in gender equity we have a transparent and unbiased recruitment and selection process; internal and external communications, with memos promoting inclusive language; actions to increase the participation of women in traditionally masculine areas, like the technical areas and, to some extent, the financial area as well; and actions promoting balance between work and personal life.

In the dimension of new generations, we have actions to promote job talent, and we recognize outstanding employees under 35 years of age.

We generate a safe work environment for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, for example by offering extensive benefits, like wedding time, mourning time and parental leave, among others. We have a communications campaign regarding respect and inclusion, and participation in Pride Connection to share and to learn good practices.

We promote the inclusion of people affected by different disabilities as employees and we are trying to attend to the needs of these people as well. We have 32 accessible service centres in the national territory providing specialized attention for people with disabilities, a special attention protocol for people with visual and auditory disabilities, and we have accessible mobile devices.

In the multicultural interaction area, we promote inclusion of people from different ethnic sectors and countries.

Thinking big

As a legal team, we follow the general principles of the organization. As a leader, I actively participate in the local diversity council, and I have had the opportunity to participate in the organization’s female leadership program.

The diversity council is a council in which we establish actions with respect to diversity and inclusion strategy. We establish actions and we follow those actions to meet our objectives with respect to the different dimensions of our diversity and inclusion plan.

In the female leadership program, we empower women. It is a formal program with different speakers, it has a regular space weekly, and there is a graduation ceremony for a selected group of women every year that participate. We share the experience of different women in the organization who have grown and show the women that there is a huge landscape and space, and what they have to do is dare to be part of the recruitment process for different opportunities that we might have, not only locally but regionally. It’s a way to push them to think big, to think that we are capable and there’s no limit.

In the legal area, we consider diversity to be an advantage that boosts our work team. We believe that diversity and differences promote empathy and innovation, generate value in the business and have a positive impact on our resources. At the top of the legal team, we have very good female representation – I’m a woman and I’m the leader of the legal team, but all my direct reports in Colombia are also women. In the region, eight out of eight general counsels are women. So, we are aware of the importance of giving space to women in these positions, of empowering women, and making women visibile in the company, participating in the most important business projects.

Building influence through business partnership

I think lawyers, and everybody, can be potential agents for diversity, and it is the responsibility of everybody to do so.

As lawyers, we have to work hard in order to be close to the business, because we want to be involved at all stages of the business cycle – we want to be business partners, and not just ‘a stage’. That gives us opportunity, visibility, and experience – we gain space, and we gain relevance and importance for the business. Also, lawyers must be open-minded, and not think only about the legal issues, but mix our legal knowledge with business knowledge, which is great for the growth and professional career of the lawyers. We are working to be more flexible, especially in terms of digitalisation tools, because to be one step ahead, you have to have the agility, versatility and the digital knowledge that nowadays is required to be on the cutting-edge.