We’re celebrating our second annual Global Week of Belonging, a time to further educate, engage and involve colleagues in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. This year’s theme, “Building Trust and Connection,” empowers colleagues globally to understand the importance of building trust and strengthening connections to foster a more respectful, diverse and inclusive culture. Employees will engage in activities throughout the week and hear from internal and external experts and leaders who put trust and connection at the center of their work. For this special edition of Inside Edelman, we profiled colleagues from around our global offices who are committed to deepening Edelman’s commitment to DE&I and are advocates for building acceptance and understanding within the firm and beyond.  

What does DE&I mean to you?

DE&I means “belonging” to me. 

What do you see as the link between DE&I and business progress, performance and growth?

People. Having people who are motivated for the right reasons to communicate the value of DE&I is the link between progress, performance and growth. 

Edelman’s 2022 Global Week of Belonging seeks to emphasize trust and connection. How have you learned to build trust and connection throughout your career?

Through communication—but more so by listening rather than speaking. Listening is the first step towards understanding and once you understand, you connect. 

What has influenced your thinking around DE&I and motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?

Growing up mixed-heritage, elements of DE&I have always influenced my thinking—in both life and career. When I joined Edelman, and connected with the EMEA DE&I Council, I began to really understand how important it was to embed DE&I within the internal workplace culture. My motivation to stay involved comes from my colleagues, both on the Dublin DE&I Council and the EMEA Council. 

What is your approach to understanding the perspectives of colleagues from different backgrounds?

Again, it comes back to listening and creating that space for people to feel comfortable expressing their point of view. Diversity looks and sounds different, to everyone, and no one has the monopoly on what is right or wrong. 

Have you ever had an experience or situation in which you felt like you didn’t belong?

Yes, numerous times. I know that many of us have felt that feeling at some stage in our lives and it is not a nice feeling to experience. The most important thing is not to let that experience define who you are, or where you see yourself belonging.

What can leaders and managers be doing to help improve a company's culture to ensure it is an inclusive workplace?

First, I believe leaders should have an awareness and understanding of the types of diversity that exist in their office—for each office and region, diversity will look, feel and sound different. Committing to learning is also key, which can be achieved through a combination of things: participating in unconscious bias training; personal reading and/or having conversations with staff about their thoughts and feelings on inclusivity in the workplace. Finally, showing leadership through active participation, for example, taking part in workshops, events and activations. This simple act can go a long way towards fostering an active, inclusive workplace.

Leila Shaddadi is Associate Vice President, Edelman Global Advisory Ireland.