In recognition of International Women's Day and Women’s History Month, we present a special installment of our Inside Edelman series, featuring a conversation between Jasmine Alano and Camila Gutierrez. Reflecting on their unique journeys, they delve into their personal encounters with inclusion, the significance of belonging, and the collective movement towards a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Can you recall a time when you felt particularly included or excluded? How did that impact you?

Camila Gutierrez: I’ve been fortunate to never experience exclusion at work. When I joined Edelman, I thought I’d have some challenges due to cultural differences, taking into consideration that I am a native Spanish-speaker. Nonetheless, despite the language barrier, the acceptance I’ve received has been overwhelming. Having the opportunity to connect with multiple cultures has been extremely enlightening and rewarding. I feel proud to be a part of a company that cherishes and values cultural diversity as much as Edelman does.

Jasmine Alano: Years ago, I worked at a very male-dominated professional services firm. I felt minimized, constantly needing to assert my value and unable to leverage my skills. I was uncomfortable most of the time that I worked there — being my true self is important to me, and when you don't feel included, being your most authentic self becomes impossible.

That experience really solidified for me what I didn't like and where I didn't thrive. It clarified the direction I needed to take and highlighted the importance of aligning with a culture that resonates with my beliefs. It wasn't until I joined Edelman, shortly after that experience, that I felt a profound sense of belonging, surrounded by peers who welcomed me as family.

What does belonging mean to you within the context of gender equality, and why do you think it's important in the workplace?

Jasmine Alano: Belonging, in terms of gender equality, means having a seat at the table. It’s about feeling respected for your contributions and being comfortable sharing your life's challenges, such as being a working mother who values her family and her profession. Being honesty shouldn’t diminish your professional abilities—it underscores the reality of our world. Diversity of opinions, especially women's perspectives, is invaluable. It leads to more balanced, creative, and tolerant work environments.

Camila Gutierrez: Belonging means everyone's voice matters, it's about amplifying voices and fostering an environment where women's leadership is not only respected but cherished. In Latin America, for example, many of our offices are led by inspiring women whose guidance serves as an inspiration. Seeing them in action makes me feel represented and optimistic about my own potential. Having role models like them not only makes work enjoyable but also motivates us to keep pushing forward and improving every day.

From your perspective, what are the most significant barriers to achieving gender equality in our industry, and how can we address them?

Camila Gutierrez: Trust is the key for me. There's this mistaken belief that women are too emotional or fundamentally different from men. We can change this perception by demonstrating the capability and ease with which women excel in leadership roles. It's about educating our clients and colleagues on the reality of women's lives, not as limitations, but as sources of strength to achieve as much as men are used to.

Jasmine Alano: My time at Edelman has been exceptionally positive, marked by female leadership throughout my tenure. I've experienced compassion and trust, which have been foundational to my growth.

To tackle gender equality across our industry, the necessity of pay transparency cannot be overstated. Advocating for equal pay for equal work not only dismantles barriers for women but also empowers them to negotiate and advocate for themselves from a position of strength. Moreover, it's crucial for men to actively champion and articulate their support for women. Such advocacy can catalyze a significant shift in industry-wide perceptions and practices.

How do you personally try to foster an inclusive atmosphere within your team or our organization?

Jasmine Alano: As a leader, empathy is my guiding principle. It's about understanding others' perspectives, whether they're from different backgrounds or new to the company. Respect for people's personal lives and boundaries is key to creating an inclusive team atmosphere.

Camila Gutierrez: As a lesbian woman, I advocate for inclusivity through openness and approachability. It's essential to foster an environment where everyone feels seen and valued. I'm dedicated to dismantling barriers and fostering a culture where my team knows they can approach me with anything, cultivating trust and enhancing our collaborative efforts.

Can you share a book, article, or event that significantly changed your perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Jasmine Alano: It wasn't a book or article, but a moment in Canada's history that deeply affected me — the discovery of unmarked graves at a residential school. It spurred a nationwide conversation on systemic racism. As a mother, it's my responsibility to educate my children on these truths, to dismantle biases, and to instill in them a respect for all cultures and peoples.

Camila Gutierrez: For me, it was a TV show, 'The L Word,' that I discovered at a young age. It showcased the possibility of having a normal life as a lesbian woman, which was contrary to everything I knew growing up in a conservative, Catholic family. It inspired me to educate those around me, including my parents, during my coming-out journey.

How can we, as individuals and as a company, inspire inclusion and belonging not just internally but in our broader community and industry? 

Camila Gutierrez: The communication industry has been predominantly male led, but with the rise of social media and digital access, these old narratives are changing. At Edelman, we can lead by example, highlighting our inclusive work culture and teaching clients and industry partners the value of diversity through exceptional work and communication.

Jasmine Alano: Internally, our employee networking groups, like VIBRANCE in Canada, have opened doors to understanding and celebrating diverse backgrounds. We need to continue creating spaces for conversation, learning, and challenging stereotypes. It's about taking feedback seriously and ensuring psychological safety for all to voice their concerns and ideas.

Camila Gutierrez: My final thought is to be your true self. When we act from a place of love and respect, we invite trust and open communication. This is how we will build a stronger, more inclusive society — starting within Edelman and radiating outward.

Jasmine Alano: Absolutely, we each have personal power that we must harness to advocate for change. It starts with us and how we choose to lead, inspire, and support each other every day.

Camilla Gutiérrez is an ‪Associate Design Director based in Colombia and‬ Jasmine Alano is a Senior Account Director on the Corporate team based in Calgary.‬‬