Perrine Farque is an author, professional speaker, and inclusion and diversity expert who is making waves through the European IT infrastructure space. She helps businesses better grasp the opportunity of having as many people involved in their daily corporate routine to get better and fresher outcomes, increase engagement levels and evolve more positively than ever before.
João Marques Lima sat down with Farque to discuss the current state of the market and her take on diversity and inclusion, as well as her latest book and the key messages in it.
JML: Tell us about you and your journey. How did you get involved with the data center world and what do you do within the diversity and gender equality front?
PF: I spent my career empowering business leaders to leverage inclusion as their secret weapon. When I was a marketing manager working in technology and in the data center industry, I was often called “too aggressive” or “too emotional”, I was repeatedly looked over for promotions and pay rises, while my male counterparts were promoted to leadership positions all the time. I was also judged by the way I dressed when my male colleagues were allowed to wear whatever they wanted.
One day, as I was working at my company’s booth on a tradeshow floor, a prospect came to me and asked me if I was a hostess hired for the show! When I realized that non-inclusive work environments are the main cause of employee turnover and disconnection, I made it my mission to create more inclusive workplaces.
In my earlier career in technology, I have witnessed, first-hand, how inclusive leaders build the most engaged, the most collaborative and the most innovative teams in the world. I have seen inclusive business leaders inviting colleagues from under-represented groups to sit at the table and to speak up, and that created some of the most productive work environments I have ever worked in in my entire career.
JML: On International Women’s Day you posted an awesome clip of you with your 3-year-old daughter in which you talk about how, by the time she is 14, her confidence levels will fall by 30% compared to her brother’s, and that by the time she starts working, she will likely report to a man and she will take twice as long than her brother to be promoted. What are you doing to challenge the status quo?
PF: According to Lean In and Banbossy, when a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she is called “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood.
As a fearless storyteller with radical vulnerability, I inspire audiences to challenge themselves; I motivate groups of people to take action, and I energize teams who may be stuck in a mindset and need a boost to see results; I empower professionals to leverage inclusion and diversity as their secret weapon; I inspire people through keynote sessions, workshops, writing books and speaking at conferences. I believe in justice and compassion. My mission is to inspire people to lead with fairness and empathy. I inspire the world to fight for justice through empathy. I live by my motto: “ , ”.
JML: What trends do you see in the European data center space in terms of industry diversification and equality?
PF: Women in technology, including in the data center industry, are more likely to be laid off or furloughed than their male colleagues as a result of the pandemic, research from TrustRadius has revealed.
And Boston Consulting Group revealed that companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than from companies with below average diversity (26%). This 19% innovation-related advantage translated into overall better ﬁnancial performance.
What that means for the data center industry is that data centers will need to attract and retain more diverse talents to innovate and bounce back after the pandemic.
As the world is rapidly changing, with remote work becoming the new normal and more employees feeling more disconnected from their colleagues than ever before, the need for inclusion and belonging is stronger than ever before. Forward-thinking tech organizations that embrace inclusion as their secret weapon will boost engagement and productivity in 2021 and beyond.
JML: How has COVID-19 impacted gender equality in the data center industry? Do you think there is still too much hypocrisy and “box-ticking” when it comes to the gender equality debate and actions?
PF: Women have been hit harder by COVID-19 when part-time jobs fell 70% (women are three-quarters of the part-time labor force in the UK). Mothers are 47% more likely to lose their jobs than fathers since COVID-19 (according to Institute of Fiscal Studies). Mothers also are more likely to be furloughed and their hours have been cut back 50% more.
According to a research conducted by London School of Economics, Queen Mary University of London, Women’s Budget group and Fawcett in April 2020, 42.9% BAME women said they believed they would be in more debt, compared to 37.1% of white women, and 34.2% of white men. 42.9% of BAME women, said they would struggle to make ends meet over the next three months. Nearly half of BAME women (45.4%) said they were struggling to cope with all the different demands on their time at the moment, compared to 34.6% of white women and 29.6% of white men. Nearly half of BAME women (45.4%) said they were struggling to cope with all the different demands on their time at the moment, compared to 34.6% of white women and 29.6% of white men. Around three quarters of women reported doing the majority of the housework or of the childcare during lockdown.
This was similar for BAME and white women. BAME women were most likely to report that they were struggling to balance paid work and caring for their children, struggling with all the competing demands, and struggling to go to the shops or do other tasks because their children were home, compared to white men (least likely to struggle).
Most data center and technology business leaders think of diversity and inclusion as a charitable thing to do, a moral imperative. Most leaders do not understand that diversity is the secret weapon to build a successful business. This is why technology has a diversity gap, because leaders do not understand the competitive advantage that diversity brings.
The one thing tech leaders should do is to invest in diversity and inclusion education by attending keynote sessions, host company events on that topic, read blog posts written by diversity professionals. Learn from what successful organizations are doing. Most tech giants have a whole department focused on diversity and inclusion, like Facebook and Twitter. If they are doing it and investing in diversity and inclusion, surely organizations who also want to be successful should follow them.
JML: You’ve got a new book out now. Tell us more about it please?
PF: “Inclusion – The Ultimate Secret for an Organization’s Success” is about helping professionals become the inclusive and empowering leader they always wanted to become. Studies show that 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace. Statistics and research show over and over again that having an inclusive workplace builds employee engagement, boosts creativity, and adds to the net bottom line.
This book helps business leaders define the impact inclusion has on an organization’s performance. It also explains how anyone can create true inclusion in their workplace and shares who must be involved in creating an inclusive workplace.
The book also provides tips for conducting successful unconscious bias, and diversity and inclusion training – and it points out why every organization should prioritize inclusion. Ultimately, this book will empower leaders and professionals to become the inclusive leader they always aspired to become. Change doesn’t happen by accident.
Change starts with each and one of us. So my hope today is that my book will create a strong desire for all the readers to become a change agent to build a more diverse and inclusive society.
JML: What are the three big mistakes organizations still make when it comes to inclusion, and how can they correct that?
PF: Firstly, focusing on inclusive and diverse hiring only, but not retention. A common diversity and inclusion initiative that organizations start is implementing a hiring program to attract diverse talents. Many companies set goals to attract female talents or BAME talents or even disabled talents. Whilst this is a positive starting point, the challenge is that many organizations fail to implement a program to retain and even promote their diverse talents.
This leads to a retention problem. Organizations spend time and resources on hiring diverse talents, but they lose them due to a lack of focus on retaining them. Google CMO Lorraine Twohill recently admitted that one of her biggest mistakes was that she had been very focused on hiring in her team, but not on retention, career progression and inclusiveness.
A simple way to do this is to get help from diversity consultants who can build a program to retain and even promote diverse talents so that the organization can benefit from a truly inclusive, diverse and engaged workforce that will be more productive.
Secondly, leaving your corporate mission statement out. When I work with organizations on helping them create a diverse and inclusive workplace, I see many of them focusing on a diversity training or a speaking engagement on this topic. Again, whilst these are positive actions, these initiatives only will not succeed unless the organization approaches diversity and inclusion in a holistic way. I always recommend that companies review their corporate mission statement.
The organization mission statement should include a clear, strong statement on their vision regarding diversity and inclusion. The company culture needs to be re-written at its core so that change happens at every level. The goal is to create a systemic culture of change.
During this phase of the creation of a systematic process of change, the core values of the organization dictate what work is necessary; at this phase, a culture of inclusion is practiced by all and a sense of community emerges; the employees should come together from the different departments to take part in creating tangible changes; the question becomes how we can sustain a culture of inclusion and incorporate the organizational core values in every facet of our work and within the organization; the success of this part of the systemic process is the responsibility of hiring managers, HR officers; their mission is to make co-workers accountable for their behavior so they continue the ground work and the culture of inclusion becomes weaves into every facet of the organization;
And thirdly, failing to get leadership commitment. Not getting CEO commitment on diversity and inclusion is probably the most common and deadly mistake of any diversity program.
Top management support is one of the first requirements in creating a shared vision for a systemic change; positive and lasting behavioral change is the primary requirement for a cultural change approach.
Change agents must determine how new behaviors will become a strategic advantage for the success of the organization. For too many years, diversity and inclusion have been regarded as separate concerns.
The reality is that it takes the top leadership of an organization to bridge the diversity gap. It is the vision and commitment of the top leadership team that allows employees to be part of a behavioral process of culture change within the workforce and then makes them responsible for creating a culture of inclusion.
JML: What would you like people to take away from your book and put that to work?
PF: I would like people to understand that inclusion at work is not a nice to have thing; it is a business imperative. As I always say: “when you invite everybody to your table, they bring everything to the table”.
JML: Where can people find out more about what you do and your book?
PF: www.perrinefarque.com; on www.amazon.com, searching my book title: “Inclusion, the ultimate secret for an organization’s success”.