By Kelly Wells, COO and DEI Council Executive Sponsor
November 17, 2020
The need for companies to solidify their strategy and action to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is greater now more than ever. It is corporate responsibility to lead the way to stop unconscious biases, create equal opportunities, ensure equity in pay and support representation and a sense of belonging for all. Not to mention it is proven to create better business outcomes, from improved innovation and decision making to increases in revenue.
For small companies, having a role or position specifically dedicated to diversity may not be feasible, but that does not limit the ability to drive conscious action and strategy for DEI initiatives. ClaimVantage, which has approximately 100 employees, has officially started its commitment to a diversity strategy through the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. While our global workforce has representation from many different nationalities, this alone does not make us diverse and does not mean we are inclusive. We are just beginning our journey to understand who we are and how we are doing as a company when it comes to diversity.
In addition to starting our council, we launched our first DEI survey, in unison with our yearly employee survey, to learn more about how our employees rate us on areas like creating an environment where there is a sense of belonging, to know if all ideas are valued equally and if opportunities exist for everyone. We hope to learn more about the shape of our employee population and what areas we need to focus on to meet key company priorities, like enriching our work environment and delivering on financial targets and business objectives.
Hear from our Diversity Council
The impact of DEI initiatives on your employees will be as different as their individual lives, backgrounds and experiences in life. As our DEI council has formed, we have learned tremendous amounts about each other, our reasons for getting involved and what diversity, equity and inclusion means to each of us. The members of our council have these thoughts to share with you.
Gabriel Gomes, Software Developer
Diversity is natural to human beings as a species and a core aspect of our evolution. It is material proof of the myriad of attributes, be they physical or intellectual, that brought us to our current modern society. These attributes were historically separated by space and time, but our current globalized economy and society presents a unique opportunity to bring them all together to build upon our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses.
The benefits of a diverse workplace are subject to many articles and discussions that usually adopt a social-economic point of view and diversity’s role in the workplace. But in reality, diversity is not just a modern, work-related concern: it has always been part of who we are and there’s no greater mistake than denying it.
Diversity concerns us as members of the same species, our story, and our role in the world. It concerns our current state of existence and our future. It is the path to push us forward, economically, and socially as a single, united species, bound to venture far and conquer greater things. But most of all, embracing diversity is the way to reach our goals as brothers and sisters, unified under the understanding that we are stronger when we walk together.
Ian-Meredythe Lindsey, Business Analyst – Absence Solution
DEI is important because without diverse voices and perspectives, we miss out on innovative solutions and a broad and inclusive vision. In order to ensure that diversity is encouraged and celebrated, we need to make sure that there is equity in all policies, procedures, and processes so that everyone has access to succeed. That success is supported by an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe to bring their full self to the table.
I see the DEI Council as a mechanism for education as well as accountability. I hope that the council helps educate colleagues on our various differences and why that diversity is important and should be celebrated, while at the same time holding ourselves and the company accountable to ensure DEI is embedded throughout and within everything that we do. I wanted to join the council because I wanted to help create and ensure a safe and welcoming place for all where others won’t have to face some of the challenges and struggles that I have.
Christian Levry, Business Analyst
Businesses, in essence, create a form of value for customers who need or want that form of value. They spend a great deal of money and time on attracting and satisfying customers. As simple as this sounds, there is a lot of complexity involved in the process. It is almost impossible for companies to consistently attract and satisfy their customers if they do not innovate in the way they create, market, and deliver value to those customers. How do companies innovate? They innovate by doing things differently than their competitors. And a prerequisite to doing things differently is to think differently.
Companies operated by people of similar characteristics (race, age, gender, religions, etc.) are more likely to perceive and do things the same way rather than to innovate like companies operated by those from diverse backgrounds. Diversity leads to a multitude of unique ideas and approaches, which result in new ways to create, market, and deliver value to customers. As Telle Whitney once said: “Diversity drives innovation – when we limit who can contribute, we in turn limit what problems we can solve.”
Joe Larrabee, Engagement Manager
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) can easily become overused and undervalued words in the workplace, but to me, they are part of a company’s culture. They shouldn’t be treated like some trend that will come and go. Diversity includes many different identities: racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation. Inclusion means removing the filters that keep people in these categories out.
Unfortunately, most of my professional career has been working for companies that don’t recognize me for the individual I am. Having to work in an environment where you’re constantly on guard and censoring all responses is not only emotionally exhausting but tends to move one towards a lack of confidence and eventually the inability to contribute. Quite often, I was perceived as “standoff-ish” or “not a team player” when I was just afraid to speak.
Recently, I started working for ClaimVantage where I took the same reserved approach. I was not initially aware of the culture and the company’s acceptance of being a middle-aged gay man. Over the first few months, I tested the waters, letting out personal tidbits and ready to duck or laugh off the unfriendly response. But there were none. Surprisingly, what I received were my colleagues being more interested in what I was sharing and adding their own experiences to it. About six months into my job, my partner and I were invited to attend a company-sponsored leadership event, which included not only our employees but representatives from all our customers. I was speechless by this gesture. After being employed in various jobs for almost 30 years, this was the first time that I (we) have ever attended a corporate event, together. And might I add, we had a blast!
So, when the ClaimVantage DEI Council was being formed, I felt that it was my opportunity to ensure that potential and future employees know who we are and when they come through our physical (or virtual) doors, they can be who they are.
Eli Pasia, Technical Account Manager
During my interview process in 2017, there was really no conversation between the interviewer and myself whether ClaimVantage had a DEI council or if the company wouldn’t discriminate against sexual orientation. I’m fully aware of not being discriminated against for age, race, religion, etc. However, in this day and age, this issue is still one of the controversial topics in the country and the world.
Part of me really wanted to get the job but part of me was worried about losing my identity. I’m always goal-oriented, my career is so important to me and I knew this company could help me get where I wanted to be. But at what cost? I was scared of asking how the company handled discrimination so I thought to myself if it ever came to a point when it’s unbearable, I can just quit.
The summer of that year, I decided to come out to two of my colleagues. I always think – start small. I’m glad I did because they encouraged me to open up.
For some, it may seem like coming out is a no-brainer; that it should come naturally. In reality, it’s the complete opposite. These things always take time and it’s someone’s right to decide when they would like to share that part of their life or when they may not be ready because they are afraid of repercussions.
This is why it’s so important for me to be part of the DEI council. I am a woman, representing the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT+) community. I’ve experienced oppression, racism, and discrimination in all shapes and forms, which I know many of my colleagues have not experienced or will never have to experience. I truly believe in educating your colleagues and business partners of this subject to make them aware and understand that a percentage of the workforce is being affected by this every day. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion — three simple words that create so much impact. I am proud that the company I’m representing is taking a stand on this.
They said you shouldn’t mix business with your personal life, and to an extent this is true. Based on my experience, though, in order to build relationships — whether with your vendors or customers — it’s inevitable that you share a part of yourself with them. Often, this is a good foundation of honesty and trust.
Small Steps, Big Impact
While our journey has only just begun at ClaimVantage, the passion and vision of our DEI council members sets us up for important and necessary growth as a company. We will continue to take small steps forward and will celebrate the big impacts they have on our employees, our business, and our communities.
We are not experts nor are we leaders in this space, but we are allies and we support the initiatives of our customers, partners, and friends. In support and solidarity, we are sharing some steps and tips for how you can start a DEI Council at your company or organization.
- Get leadership support. This first step is needed to set the stage for the hard parts to come. DEI topics can be uncomfortable, and if your leadership is not able to support the initiatives when the conversation becomes challenging, the success of the council will be limited without that upfront commitment. Be able to explain the reasons why a council is needed and what general goals the council is expected to achieve.
- Make learning a priority. At the beginning of your journey, you may not be nor do you need to be an expert in DEI topics, terms, or issues. You can, however, still be a champion and sponsor of the DEI strategy. Dedicate yourself to learning and exploring the information you need to know to expand your views, speak intelligently, and be an ally. There are many resources available, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Determine the easiest way to integrate learning into your day and start with that forum. Options include listening to podcasts, reading about diversity initiatives of companies you admire, or following diversity groups and leaders on various social media platforms.
- Get connected with other DEI champions. There is no better way to get support on your DEI journey than to learn from individuals that have been in your shoes. Reach out to people that can connect you with leaders and get an introduction. You will likely find that people will graciously share their valuable experiences and give you information that will help you decide the best direction for your company.
- Be prepared to feel uncomfortable. If you are new to DEI topics, there are many terms and concepts that could be new as well. You may also face some realization of your own personal opportunities to learn and grow. Be open to moments of growth and new understanding, and be willing to forgive your past self for lack of awareness or unintended actions.
- Expect small steps rather than large change. It’s important to have realistic expectations, and know that just by starting the DEI journey at your company, there will be an impact. Allow the council the time and space to form as a team, establish a mission, and set realistic goals that align with your company’s business goals.
Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mission Statement
At ClaimVantage, by creating, nurturing, and sustaining an inclusive culture where difference drives innovative solutions, we strive to deepen and expand our commitment to diversity and inclusion, ensuring that we provide the highest standards in our software solution that meet the needs of our customers and their employees.