Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Real Life

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(Editor's note: This column was written by Marcien Jenckes, President, Advertising, Comcast Cable and a recent participant in our inaugural Advancing Diversity Week virtual event.) A few weeks ago, the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video published a post entitled "Belonging: Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matter." It suggests one of the considerations to foster and grow diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) should be to create a sense of belonging for all and thus explains a newer acronym, "DEI&B."

More recently, I joined leaders from Unilever, Citi and the NBA for a conversation at MediaVillage's Advancing Diversity Week moderated by Shelley Zalis from the Female Quotient. We had a candid discussion on the impact workplace culture has on an individual's sense of belonging. Beyond what I shared in that conversation, I wanted to dive a little deeper into some of the specific things we are doing at Comcast Advertising to evolve our programs.

The examples were built over our years of commitment to DE&I. There is still a lot of work to do, and like many organizations, we are on a journey. I hope together we can make the ecosystem better for our employees, customers and partners. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's good business.

A 2020 McKinsey study validates this view. McKinsey found the likelihood of financial outperformance (as measured by EBIT) is 25 percent higher for companies with gender diversity and 36 percent higher for companies with ethnic diversity.

This insight makes sense. After all, if our colleagues and employees feel included and valued, they're likely to do work that makes our customers and partners happy. And if our customers feel valued and included, they're more likely to want to do business with us and to recommend us to others.

All these reasons and more are why we've invested in multiple initiatives intended to foster and increase belonging at Comcast and within the communities in which we live and do business.

Perhaps the most visible of these is Comcast RISE. "RISE" stands for "Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment." Launched in 2020, Comcast RISE has helped nearly 4,700 small businesses owned by people of color with monetary grants, technology makeovers and marketing services. And as I mentioned during the Advancing Diversity Week panel, by the end of 2022, we're committed to supporting 13,000 such businesses.

Another effort we're proud of is our Culture Conversations. This webcast series features advertising and marketing thought leaders who share their insights on issues and opportunities affecting diverse communities. We've produced six so far, on topics ranging from Supporting Black-Owned Businesses to Changing the AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) Narrative. They're all available on demand at http://comcastadvertising.com/cultureconvos/.

Within Comcast itself, we know our greatest strength is a diverse, talented workforce. We're committed to being a workplace that reflects the world around us and the customers and partners we serve. We're constantly looking for ways to enhance our recruitment practices, hiring, development and advancement strategies. And as of the end of 2020, people of color accounted for more than 44 percent of our global workforce.

Fortunately, we've found things we can do -- some of which we think almost any organization can do -- to foster a greater sense of belonging without launching complex programs or hiring expensive consultants. Here are a few examples:

  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs include employees from all backgrounds. They are proving to be a great way to fully engage with Comcast and gain exposure and experience within all levels of the organization. We have nine National ERGs -- Asian Pacific Americans, Black Employee Network, Indigenous, MyAbilities Network, OUT@Comcast, Unidos, Veterans Network, Women's Network and Young Professionals Network. Some of these have international chapters and chapters specific to Comcast Advertising as well.
  • Diversity Advisory/Culture Boards. Made up of employees from across the company, these Boards provide fresh perspectives on our strategies and efforts and challenge our practices to help ensure they are providing a path to greater inclusion.
  • Inclusive Learning. We have launched several learning journeys focused on having a growth mindset, including sessions on unconscious bias and allyship, the practice of creating trusting relationships with and in support of marginalized individuals and groups.
  • Coaching Pods. These are virtual, diverse, collaborative communities of leaders who meet bi-monthly to discuss how to apply leadership principles to foster belonging amongst their colleagues and teams.
  • Listening Forums. We launched these in the summer of 2020 in response to protests and violence triggered by high-profile episodes of police brutality and racism. The sessions offer employees a safe space to express our feelings, listen to each other, and share ideas on how we can make a difference.

A critical lesson we've learned is that creating a diverse, inclusive workforce begins with recruiting and interviewing. In March of this year, we launched a program called "Interview Allies." Those are people who sit in on and monitor the candidate interviews to mitigate any bias that may creep into that selection process.

Interview Allies challenge what we're asking of candidates from the earliest stages of the process, beginning with the job requirements and continuing through to the selection evaluation. The goal of these efforts is to ensure that all our candidates have equally good chances of being hired, whatever their background.

Of course, the pandemic upended many traditional workplace-related behaviors. In response, we're now expanding our Interview Allies program into an Ally Network. The goal is to create safe spaces in which Interview Allies and other "friendlies" can help candidates and employees achieve equity, inclusion and belonging as they navigate their work environments. This objective is especially important and especially sensitive as employees return to shared workplaces and reconnect with others in person. Allyship involves an ongoing spirit of vulnerability, awareness, listening and education. A team of allies can help continue this evolution and engagement throughout the organization.

DEI&B begins, grows and is nurtured by one simple, driving force: human-to-human communication. Some conversations may begin awkwardly, and some may be uncomfortable. But with a commitment to open dialog, that discomfort and awkwardness will quickly give way to shared experiences and bonds of common interest. And these will lead over time to a greater sense of belonging for all.

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