This piece was orignally posted on LinkedIn by Loes Westerbeek-Veld. All comments and options are those of Loes. 

Acknowledging International Women

The IWD theme of 2021 #ChoosetoChallenge made me reflect on our organisation's recent Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) journey and achievements. 

During 2020 one of the main questions I had in my professional role was, 'how do we get our organisations to prioritise diversity and inclusion (D&I)'? 

In a time where the focus has necessarily been on dealing with a global pandemic, and in some cases just keeping people employed never mind worrying about diversity of employee groups, it can be challenging to raise issues like D&I. 

In my organisation, infrastructure services provider Ventia, we not only managed and supported a workforce of 30,000 people through a pandemic but integrated two companies whilst doing so. This all happened remotely for the most part, with new teams being created who have never met face to face and have instead had to rely on video chats to build relationships. 

Through all that, how do we ask leaders not to forget about ensuring their teams are diverse and inclusive? 

Every company's D&I initiatives will look different, it cannot be a cookie-cutter approach.  Initiatives need to be tailored to address your specific industry and your company's areas of weakness. 

Studies show that diversity and inclusion efforts are worthwhile, especially on a global level. According to a recent McKinsey study the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.  

But it can no longer be just about the money. Business leaders should strive to create an atmosphere where multiple voices are heard, and their opinions are valued and considered and it should be engrained in the company culture. 

The good news at Ventia is we have prioritised Sustainability more broadly, and within that sits D&I. Our Sustainability Council is focused on ensuring environmental, social and governance issues are a priority. Within that, we have four working parties, of which the D&I Working Party is one. 

As the Chair of that working party, I am really pleased to work with a passionate group of people from across the sectors and functions of our business to roll out initiatives that will help us improve diversity at Ventia, more broadly but initially in relation to gender. We also have a commitment from our board to support a target of 40% female participation. This is a big jump for Ventia, as we operate in more traditionally male work environments. 

In addition to looking at gender bias and inequality, our focus on diversity incorporates Indigenous and Maori participation, LGBTIQ+, people with a disability, refugees and asylum seekers and other diverse marginalised community members.  

The integration of two large businesses over the past nine or 10 months has been challenging, but equally it's given us the opportunity to do things differently and better. It's been almost a reset button, allowing for a greater acceptance of change. The challenge has become an opportunity. 

We #ChoosetoChallenge and that's exciting. 

Loes Westerbeek-Veld is Ventia

Pictured above: Loes Westerbeek-Veld is Ventia's Community Manager and also Chair of our Diversity & Inclusion Working Party.