Finnish companies still have a long way to go in supporting diversity

Promoting DEI in the workplace depends greatly on the leadership’s attitudes. Priyanka Banerjee helps businesses with their DEI efforts.

Finnish businesses’ understanding of the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is still basic. That’s according to Priyanka Banerjee, the CEO and founder of the BusinessWiz consultancy.

“Of course, there are a few path breakers who want to create a more inclusive environment for their employees, but generally speaking the whole concept is new. Many companies don’t even know what DEI means,” Banerjee says.

Banerjee’s firm BusinessWiz aims to advance the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in companies.

“For companies that are just beginning their DEI journey, we offer research and strategic services that help them gather data on their employees, their experiences and their ideas. With the help of data, the companies can make informed decisions. When a company is already doing its DEI work in house, BusinessWiz helps it with things like developing its DEI strategy.”

Leader’s critical role

Banerjee thinks the trend is changing in the Finnish corporate world too, however. 

“More and more companies are becoming aware that they need to take the initiative and engage with these topics in advance if they want to succeed on the market now and in the future.”

Banerjee says the role of a company’s manager is critical in DEI work. 

“If the management is committed to DEI efforts, it’s a lot easier to promote it internally.”

Banerjee says that a manager can show their weaknesses and that they, too, are learning something about DEI values.

“It’s OK to make mistakes, but at the same time they have to bear responsibility for constantly learning and striving for better outcomes.”

Learning through experience

Banerjee, originally from India, came to Finland to work in the tech sector in 2016. 

“My experience of working in the Finnish tech industry as a young, brown woman got me to delve deeper into DEI themes.

“I realized there were vast chasms between different companies when it came to understanding how to work with people from different backgrounds, offer them equal opportunities and create an inclusive working environment.”

Based on these experiences and her investigation into DEI themes, Banerjee founded her own DEI consultancy.

Banerjee names a few tangible ways to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

1. Get the leadership on board

Banerjee says the most important thing is for the company’s leadership to commit to enhancing DEI in the workplace.

“If the leadership is on board and actively advocates DEI in the company, the threshold for others to get involved is lower.”

Banerjee says that speaking about DEI principles is considered difficult in many workplaces, and that workplaces do not have an open conversation culture for bringing these issues up.

“The managers’ role in normalizing conversations about DEI is crucial.”

2. Research DEI

Banerjee says that one of the most effective ways to raise awareness of DEI values is to collect and disseminate data about them inside the company. 

“If there is an understanding about how different people perceive the company’s atmosphere and existing challenges, it’s easier for the leadership to start a conversation about that and make concrete initiatives and investments. This also increases employees’ understanding about the topics and encourages them to discuss them.”

3. Coach the leadership

Inclusion coaching for the leadership supports the company’s management in committing itself to DEI efforts and to managing diverse teams in a more inclusive way.

4. Make DEI part of the company strategy

That makes DEI a permanent part of the company’s values instead of a mere standalone project.

5. Make sure more than one employee is responsible for DEI

“DEI is an important issue and requires the leadership’s support and the entire company’s commitment.” 

6. Make minorities’ voices heard

“Make sure there are minority representatives in places like mentoring and leadership programmes. A responsible employer also supports organizations and companies that are owned by minorities.”

DEI terms

Diversity refers to differences and their spectrum in certain environments, such as an organization or a team. These differences could be demographic, such as age or gender, experiential or cognitive, as well as visible or invisible.

Equity means recognizing the barriers which could put people in an unequal position at work. It also means actively developing an organization’s processes and practices to remove those barriers. Through equitable treatment we can, for example, offer fair career opportunities to all employees and help them achieve their full professional potential.

Inclusion means the active and conscious construction of environments in which differences between people are understood and accepted. Inclusion is the glue that holds diverse teams together.

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Kaisu Puranen