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We’ve been hearing a lot about diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace lately—a cause women have been championing for quite some time. Equity—which is the goal to be fair and impartial—in particular is the means by which we can open the door to true diversity and inclusion, and ultimately, a sense of belonging for everyone in the workplace.

We sat down with Liuba Loiko, business systems expert at Scotiabank, to talk about how creating an equitable workplace can not only improve the personal and professional path for all employees, but also help to push innovation and success on an enterprisewide level.

Equity Is Good for Everyone Across the Globe

Loiko’s perspective is unique in that she moved to Canada from Russia just four years ago. She grew up, went to school, and started her career in Russia at a time when equity wasn’t even a thought, let alone a goal. “In the books and legally speaking,” she said, “women can go to school and pursue a career in ways not different from what men can do. But culturally and traditionally, it’s a completely different story.”

She recalls having to answer questions like, “Why would women even consider engineering?” If not for the encouragement of a mentor, she might not have even gone down that path. Today, in a new country she calls home, Loiko takes pride in the work she does as a senior business analyst for a leading multinational banking and financial services company.

“I took SAP courses at the university I attended and this individual, my teacher, saw in me the grit required to be effective in this field,” she said. “He helped me to understand how to better deal with the naysayers, and I’ve used that as a lesson learned for other challenges that came up throughout my career.” Loiko recalled the first time she realized that her voice and opinion mattered and how that led to her wanting to participate more in her role at Scotiabank. “It meant there were more opportunities to not only grow as an individual, but to contribute as well.”

Making Room for Different Voices Leads to Better Results

Although there is more of an open discussion about workplace equity in North America, Loiko was clear that there still is much more work to do there. “Often times, women are overlooked for a job or even more responsibility because there is still a stigma of women needing to prioritize caretaking over their work.” She pointed to the similarity with Russia. Even though there are laws on the books that protect against such workplace discrimination, it doesn’t stop the hiring manager or supervisor from making decisions based on biases.

According to “Women, Business, and the Law 2020,” a research report published by World Bank Group, 40 economies have enacted 62 reforms enhancing gender equality since 2017. It isn’t enough, however, to simply enact and adopt progressive laws. To really pave the way for an equitable workplace, there must be room for more diverse voices when it comes to decision-making. “Equity isn’t limited by just gender,” Loiko said. “For example, someone like me can shine a light on not just what it’s like to be a woman in the technology industry, but also what it’s like to be an immigrant in this country and what that experience means to my contribution to this organization.”

There are many layers to diversity, and they stretch far beyond gender, race, and sexual orientation. But if the goal of an organization is to provide an equitable workplace, then it must create a platform to introduce as diverse a voice as possible to better identify gaps, as well as to better tap into the capabilities of its workforce. This is especially true as organizations look to navigate the current business landscape by recruiting and retaining the best talent available.

Don’t Just Demand It, Practice It!

Generally speaking, people want to work for an organization that is fair.  Where you can sometimes lose people is when they perceive that they’ll have to give something up to build a work environment that is more equitable for all. But the reality is that the organization overall will benefit when it makes these changes. “We need to move the needle from trying to identify what someone else can do to create change, to making the conversation more about what we as individuals can do,” Loiko stated.

Part of the challenge in drawing attention to a cause is that we now live in a society where everyone is trying to grab your attention, constantly. And they do so by shining a light on the negative. Loiko said an easy way to initiate change is to draw attention to the good. “If your organization implemented a positive change, or your team made progress on a challenging project because there was diversity in the room, then call it out,” she insisted. “You don’t need to be in the C-suite to influence positive change. You can simply help showcase it when you see it.”

As we all learn to be present in each other’s presence and to be better listeners at the same time, Loiko cautioned that the most important thing to remember is, “to not give up.” She added, “We all have different perspectives in life and that will always dictate how we proceed forward. The key is to understand that just because someone doesn’t hear you right now in this moment, doesn’t mean your opinion isn’t valuable. If you believe it, then keep saying it.”

Register for the ASUG Women Connect webcast, “Focusing on Economy, Gender, and More to Create an Equitable Workplace” on Aug. 27, 2020. Liuba Loiko will share more from her personal story and tips on how to keep the needle moving on equality.

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