Breaking Stereotypes, Bolstering Diversity

Breaking Stereotypes, Bolstering Diversity

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Breaking Stereotypes, Bolstering Diversity

Breaking Stereotypes, Bolstering Diversity

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“It is typically a surprise to people when they meet my husband,” reveals Russ Simon, Associate Partner at Citihub Digital. “I am not a stereotypical model of anything, I break it simply by being my authentic self.”

When Russ started working in IT (more than 20 years ago), the workforce was mostly heterosexual-identifying men, and he adds, “with a questionable sense of how to behave in an office.  Jokes were common and by today’s standards, rather offensive. It was tolerated as just the norm back then.”

As the social movements related to race and gender equality slowly grew, Russ noticed a change in the mix of genders and races entering the IT sector.  “I think part of this change was reactionary to market demand. IT was booming. IT jobs needed to be filled and the pool of white heterosexual skilled workers was not enough to fill the demand. Firms moved from doing nothing about inclusivity to running active campaigns to recruit non-stereotypical applicants. They then discovered that with a diverse workforce, different points of view in solving business issues were presented. Having seen these benefits, big firms have embraced diversity, and this has presented opportunities to hire people based on their capabilities and less so on their race, gender, or orientation.

Capitalizing on the benefits of being an inclusive employer, Keith Maitland, one of Citihub’s Founders and Head of the North America region and Global Operations, believes that the firm’s leadership team is fully committed to having a diverse workforce. “To be a successful consultancy firm, we must have a sensitive and collaborative team, where there is mutual respect and understanding and everyone has an equal voice. To shape this team, we need to attract the most talented people from every background.”

Citihub’s Diversity Working Group is key to maintaining and improving inclusivity in the workplace.  The group defines the firm’s core values, reviews suggestions and issues, and watches for industry and social changes that may provide opportunities to improve the work environment. The group also continually conduct reviews of recruitment and retention best practices to eliminate bias and encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply to all positions. The group is also the guardian of all public facing material to ensure that it aligns to the firm’s core values and principles, as well as being sensitive to social movements and changes. As a result of the input from the Working Group, Citihub is currently conducting subconscious bias training.

As a member of Citihub’s Diversity Working Group, Kimberly Halston, COO, NA, believes in the importance of bringing awareness of diversity to employees, potential hires and clients. Currently, she is spearheading the “Breaking Stereotypes” campaign with the aim of helping employees become more aware of themselves and others. “In our everyday life (work and home environments) there are consequences to exhibiting stereotypical behaviours. Providing relevant training to employees ensures that these behaviours are corrected.”

Ticking outside the box

Part of the success of the social change we see now is a result of the pressure that private firms put on their entire ecosystem. “Our clients, most of whom are leaders in the financial services industry, recognize the importance of diversity and are in turn expecting us to align to their standards by providing more diverse team members.  We are also expected to work seamlessly with client team members from a wide variety of backgrounds,” observes Keith. In practical terms, Citihub maintains zero tolerance to unacceptable behaviour.  “We will always take action to address situations, whether they stem from within the firm, our clients or other service providers.” In addition, Citihub supports all types of family and social situations by providing as much flexibility in work location and hours as their clients will allow.

Citihub is constantly striving to improve the diversity of their workforce.  Their goal is to lead by example and beat the demographic limitation and challenges. Kim shares, “It’s important to understand our world is always evolving and working for an organization that supports this evolution can only benefit those who represent the firm.”

Looking to the future

Whilst the social struggles for race and gender equality and acceptance are far from being won, it is noteworthy that private firms, like Citihub, are doing their fair share to impact change.

“The challenges that I have faced in the past (prior to 2013 SCOTUS decision in United States v. Windsor), were very few because of the integrity of the organizations that I have been part of,” Russ admits.  “Some of them are very forward thinking and have extended my health insurance to my husband, help us relocate to the UK so we could stay together when we were not legally able to marry, and also offered us tax protections; so financially, we were like any other married couple.”

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