What makes Sari Brody, former Global Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at IKEA, proud? Being assertive and standing up for yourself.
Big in Japan
When Sari was speaking in Japan, many years ago, she was explaining the new plans and strategy for LGBT inclusion in Japan, which at the time was not a socially acceptable thing to talk about in that culture. But Sari felt it was important to share how she was working with local ambassadors to make it acceptable within the company, and the importance of shifting her behaviors. During this presentation, and employee stood up and shared something with a room full of his colleagues that he had never told anyone – “I’m gay”. As the room fell silent, Sari spoke to the individual, telling him that she was proud of him for sharing, and deserved an applause for being open with his colleagues. Nothing could have prepared Sari for what happened next, as the room broke out in applause and approving looks, as the young man sat there beaming.
As someone who has been passionate about inclusion and the fight for fairness since she was a young girl, Sari has had her fair share of heart-warming moments like this, but the journey to get there has not always been simple. During her experience working in this area, it became clear to Sari that global diversity & inclusion programs are not always the answer, as it is crucial to take into consideration the various culture and socioeconomic factors that come into play at the country levels. To combat this, Sari recommends working with local ambassadors, who can not only help to explain the cultural differences, but can also work with the global program to create a local program that translates to address these differences and distinctions. Without this important step, global companies won’t see the results they hope to within their global diversity & inclusion programs, and the local cultures can be left feeling disrespected.
Passion and Compassion
So, what can global companies and leaders do next? Show your passion and compassion. When you have a passion about a topic, you’re more inclined to learn and listen about it, and to show compassion around it. Ask questions, and lots of them, to show your interest and to express this compassion. And again, above all else, always be assertive and stand up for what you believe in.