Three of my teachable moments on embracing equity
If culture was soil, what are the fertilizers that leaders would need to mix in for equity to blossom? I’ve been mulling over this question to recognize the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: Embrace Equity. I’m passionate about cultivating healthy, vibrant culture, and so I was intrigued to reflect on how leaders can grow a culture where inclusion and equity are engrained in its soil. Three specific moments came to mind.
Moment #1: Embracing my "otherness"
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, I happened to be the only parent on the Boston Scientific executive committee with young kids at home. I found that I was that voice constantly reminding the team about the challenging and often harrowing realities of our employees who were expected to manage work, their kids’ school closures and distance learning — all at the same time.
I must admit that at the beginning, I felt uncomfortable being “the other” and “the only,” as I had just joined the executive committee. Then I started to realize the impact I was making by being open and vulnerable on this topic, which allowed me to embrace my “otherness” instead of trying to downplay it or pretend that I had it all together as a working parent.
As a result, I became a trusted ear and voice for working parents and was able to better convey the struggles that many of our employees were experiencing. This opened the door for more dialogue, more understanding and much greater empathy in that team, which positively impacted how we navigated the pandemic with and for our employees.
Key learning: Vulnerability opens the door for more authenticity and trust for positive change to happen.
Moment #2: Equity is not a zero-sum game
I was holding a reverse mentoring session with a group of our first-line managers, all of whom happened to be men. A few had the courage to candidly share that they felt alienated and excluded when it came to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). They expressed their support for creating a more diverse and equitable culture but explained that they either didn’t know how or felt fearful about saying or doing the wrong thing. They also shared that they felt a tone of blame for the gaps in the organization, which created a mindset of defensiveness versus a sense of being a welcome part of the problem-solving process.
Their open tone, the trust they extended, and their vulnerability were humbling and inspiring. That moment crystallized for me the importance of inviting all people, not only underrepresented individuals, to the conversation about DE&I. We need to be intentional about listening, seeking to understand and assuming positive intent. And we need to offer learning opportunities and a safe space for those embarking on their own DE&I journeys to express their fears, challenges and questions.
Key learning: Diversity, equity and inclusion is not a zero-sum game. Including all groups, and all demographics — including the majority — is at the core of building a culture that can drive meaningful DE&I progress.
Moment #3: Small acts make a big difference
I work with a communications manager named Dina who helps us put together our Urology town halls, events which are attended by more than 1,000 of our Urology employees around the globe. I happened to be in Dubai last year, during one of our recent town halls, and Dina — who is of Egyptian origin — suggested we have our opening song be a popular Arabic one. She thought it could be a nice way to honor our location and recognize our global team. Right away I thought, "what a fun idea," but I didn’t think of it as a grand gesture of inclusion.
Soon after the meeting, I received an email from one of our U.S. employees of Arabic descent:
“Meghan, I immediately recognized the Arabic song that was played today and thought to myself, ‘wow, this is so cool.’ I have never been a part of an organization that truly embraces and empowers people to be their true selves, their whole selves. I wake up every morning not only loving my work more but feeling a sense of belonging to the company and striving to do better every day because of what it stands for."
For me, it was an important reminder of how much small acts matter when it comes to inclusion.
Key learning: Creating an inclusive, equitable work environment takes more than large corporate DE&I initiatives and goals. It is about empowering diverse voices to lead from their own place of authenticity so that they can contribute and shape the fabric of who we are and how we operate.
Learn more about the ways Boston Scientific supports the advancement of women and empowers all employees to bring their authentic selves to work.