At Geneva Global, we work with clients to explore and inform how to create lasting social impact. Because of this, we are experts at uncovering new solutions and opportunities to develop more equitable communities around the world on behalf of our clients. However, in a consulting environment often dominated by fast-paced deadlines and with a strong commitment to our clients, it’s easy to deprioritize developing our own internal strategies on how to fully integrate our social impact philosophies into the fabric of our company culture. We recognize the importance of living our values, and so over the years we have taken steps as a company to apply the same philosophies and visions we help implement globally, internally in our organization.
Since we became a B Corporation in 2017, B Lab (the founder of the B Corporation movement) has provided us with the structure and framework we needed to continually question and reflect on how our internal processes and priorities align with our values as a company. With our global presence, we have strong diversity among our international networks; yet, one of our reflections was that when we looked around the table at our headquarter offices, many of us looked the same and came from similar backgrounds—partly due to our location in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, and also because the networks we draw from when hiring are largely similar to us. We became acutely aware that we were not a reflection of the varied communities we serve and that we want to include those valuable perspectives in our everyday work and processes.
To continue to evolve our company and culture to be more inclusive and diverse, we knew it would take intentionality and a concerted effort. To support this effort, we joined B Lab’s 2019 Inclusive Economy Challenge (IEC)—which includes a specific focus on progressing our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals. The challenge gives B Corps a framework to home in on at least three specific categories to make progress toward over seven months. This deliberate focus is exactly what we needed to prioritize reflecting inward and ensuring we’re aligning our values with our organizational processes and practices.
For this year’s challenge, we ambitiously chose five IEC categories to improve upon. Each of these categories include specific metrics that we’ve agreed to improve upon by the end of August 2019:
- Product & Marketing Inclusion & Accessibility
- Diversity & Inclusion Trainings
- Inclusive Work Environments
- Management of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Inclusive Hiring Practices
To start our progress, this past December, we worked with an external diversity and inclusion firm, TMI Consulting (a fellow B Corp!), that facilitated a training to teach us about concepts like implicit bias and microaggressions. TMI Consulting’s facilitator, Dr. David Campt, walked us through research that demonstrates how pervasive implicit bias is in our daily interactions. One study truly exemplified this pervasiveness: the simple act of a stranger holding a warm beverage as opposed to a cold beverage improved how they were perceived—making them appear more ‘warm’ and friendly. Also, a great tip to keep in mind when interviewing!
To prepare for the training, we started the process of becoming more aware of our own unconscious bias toward groups of people based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation taking the Implicit Bias Association Test designed by Harvard University. Taking different tests before the training allowed us to self-reflect on our blind spots, which set the stage for a larger staff discussion by giving us an opportunity to peel back the layers of our own biases individually first.
Once the training started, our facilitator expertly created a space where we could be both vulnerable and brave enough to have uncomfortable conversations. It allowed our staff to openly discuss where our organization’s cultural challenges exist. In small groups, we identified areas where we’ve experienced bias in the workplace and areas where we can improve. It unearthed valuable information that now guides our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee’s efforts, and showed us where we needed to have deeper conversations to address these issues.
To continue the conversation and our work on this, our EDI Committee dove deeper with staff by having one-on-one confidential conversations this spring to get a better sense of where our culture can better support the experience of inclusivity. The committee is now using these interview results to continue the conversation from the company-wide implicit bias training in a collaborative and generative discussion. As a company, we are co-creating ways to address the bias in our culture and continuing to build our own self-awareness to blind spots and implicit biases. Our goal is to build a company culture that mirrors the equity-driven work we do globally alongside our partners.
To support this goal, we’re continually making progress on our IEC goals related to each category by:
- Incorporating blind reviews for new applicants;
- Removing hiring questions related to previous salary and former incarceration;
- Providing gender neutral bathroom facilities;
- Developing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee;
- Participating in the IEC Peer Exchange group;
- And hosting all-staff trainings on topics related to implicit bias and empathy awareness.
We look forward to continuing to share our journey toward creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive work environment—allowing us to ultimately serve our clients and the communities that we partner with better.