Preet Grewal is an experienced Inclusion & Diversity leader and has worked in HR for over 18 years. Driven by her passion, she takes pride in her work to create inclusive work cultures where everyone can belong and thrive in the workplace.
As the I&D head for JAPAC at Twitter, Preet leads internal L&D programs, training & engagement to advance global goals and regional growth of Twitter’s business resource groups. Preet is a trusted advisor to her stakeholders and leads with principles of respect and empathy to influence corporate culture change.
Preet has lived in India, UK & Canada and in 2016 she moved with her family to Singapore.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
The pandemic has affected all of us, but not equally. People who have been hit the hardest are women employees in the workplace. How do you see the current diversity landscape?
It’s no secret that the most vulnerable among us were the ones most impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, in many cases, this included working women - who even in pre-pandemic times, would regularly face unique challenges in the workplace compared to their male counterparts, such as pay inequity, access to career growth opportunities, actions rising from conscious and unconscious bias or struggles associated with managing work-life balance.
Prior to the pandemic, many organizations around the world had been making strides in Diversity and Inclusion (DE&I) programs, but that didn’t necessarily mean they were all psychologically ready for the immediate changes that would need to take place when the virus struck. For instance, DE&I training typically relies on small, in-person meetings or participation in events - and that’s obviously not happening at the moment.
However, I would argue that despite the challenges, there are a number of positives that have come to light given the current climate - some of which could even help to accelerate DE&I conversations in the coming months.
For one, with employees now all working remotely, there is a strong feeling of solidarity in this disconnect. We’re in it together, we’re pushing forward together, and we’re becoming far more understanding of the different balls our colleagues have to juggle in their day-to-day lives and acknowledging unique personal challenges. For example, some who may have once questioned a working mum’s commitment to her career just because she wanted to work flexibly, are now doing so themselves. They are realizing that working away from the office does not lower an employee’s commitment to their team and organization.
So in a nutshell, while the overall logistics of DE&I have been impacted, the very essence of supporting unique individual needs during these times is heightened - and hence a continued focus on DE&I needs to be a priority in all organizations.
Do you think the damage to women workers post-pandemic is set to intensify - unless we intervene now?
I definitely think this is a step-up call for businesses and society at large. There is a clear need for the public and private sector to ensure the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women globally is not ignored and we remain committed to driving gender equity in our companies and society.
For organizations, it’s important they take this opportunity to consider a shift in mindset and double down on DE&I - Have you ever asked your employees if they feel excluded, and explored the reasons behind why that is? Are you providing learning opportunities and safe spaces so people can share their challenges? Could you be doing more to hire from talent pools you’ve previously excluded?
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Meanwhile on an individual level - are leaders, teams, and managers supporting women and caregivers during these times? Do you know who from the team is leaning in more at home? In some cases, I suspect people have rushed to solve the problems they had immediately in front of them when the pandemic struck - but now is the time to assess and demand change.
All that said, I lean toward optimism - while damage has been done, I think just as we’ve seen a dramatic pivot towards digital transformation, including from industries that were very rooted in certain ways of operating, there’s absolutely room for the same thing to happen in terms of DE&I in the workforce.
With women still underrepresented in leadership positions, companies have been launching programs aimed at promoting diversity even before the protests that were ignited by the death of George Floyd. How do organizations make sure the promises lead to tangible outcomes?
Setting goals and making sure you are accountable for those goals is of course one way of ensuring tangible outcomes. In Twitter’s latest Inclusion & Diversity report update, we announced where we’re at with our 2025 goals. One of them is to have half of our global workforce be made up of women. At present, more than 42 percent of our employees are female.
But of course, setting goals for the sake of setting goals isn’t enough - hiring or promoting more women can’t just be a token gesture. Unless people feel heard and included within the fabric of an organization, you could very well end up in a position where you’re simply fighting to retain the talent you have, let alone expand.
Do you think the remote mode of working is sustainable? We hear a lot about the importance of creating a sense of inclusion. What, according to you, should be the strategy to make this a reality in a remote working world?
The current climate has clearly shown us that remote work is more than sustainable, which is why we have announced that if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home, they are welcome to do so forever. But equally, if they prefer an office environment, we’ll be ensuring our spaces stay warm and welcoming, with some additional safety measures in place of course, to enable a gradual return. Singapore is currently our pilot for this.
Of course, one of the big potential losers of remote working though is company culture - so organizations must have a strategy in place for bringing their people together to celebrate and commiserate.
What, according to you, are the biggest challenges organizations face implementing DE&I strategy? How can the challenges be surmounted?
DE&I is not a one-time event, it requires consistent and sustained effort and commitment throughout the organization, starting at the top. Leadership has to be accountable with a clearly defined share of the responsibility for driving progress.
A policy is also worth nothing without a firm understanding of the reasons behind certain implementations. Otherwise, it’s very challenging to get a commitment from the workforce, which inevitably hinders progress. To do that, you need to offer forums where your people can speak up about their concerns.
However, I think the biggest "mistake" that organizations make when it comes to DE&I is thinking that it’s in the big acts. In reality, to truly cultivate an inclusive environment, it’s all about the small and daily interactions - for example, in team building and business meetings.
Twitter’s 2020 Diversity Report showed modest gains. What’s your plan moving forward?
Twitter is committed to becoming the world’s most inclusive and diverse tech company and I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made to date - through a combination of increased efforts to attract talent from diverse backgrounds and doubling down on programs that ensure a culture where everyone can be their authentic selves and belong.
For example, we’ve doubled down on transparency through greater leadership accountability for diversity. Executive teams now have clearly defined proportional share of responsibility for driving progress (in addition to company-wide goals).
We’ve shifted to quarterly public reporting on representation, and even have an internal diversity dashboard that lets Tweeps track our performance against our workforce representation goals.
We’ve also implemented a Diverse Slates initiative for open managerial and above roles requiring that at least one woman (global) and one candidate from an under-represented community (specifically Black/Latinx, US) be considered by hiring managers.
We have a bold vision for workforce representation by 2025 and remain steadfast in our efforts to achieve these goals, which include:
Our global workforce will be at least 50% women (at present, women make up more than 42% of our global workforce).
We’ve also set targets for women representation across technical (42%) and leadership (41%) roles by 2025.
Meanwhile, specifically in the US, our commitment is that at least a quarter of our workforce will be under-represented minorities.
It’s a journey - and I believe we’re headed in the right direction, but of course, there can be no rest #UntilWeAllBelong.
Read more such stories from the March 2021 issue of our e-magazine on 'The Moment to Fix the DE&I Equation'