Inclusion and diversity
An open letter from Lee Puri and Gurman Hundal
Firstly, we hope everyone is keeping themselves safe and well at this immensely challenging time we find ourselves in. Events over the past few months continue to cast a dark cloud over many people’s lives; it’s our hope that brighter days lie ahead in the not-too-distant future.
On so many levels, we’re hugely proud of how each and every one of you stepped up over the course of the past 12 months. At a time of great uncertainty came vulnerability for many and you showed the courage and resolve to stand firm in 2020. We believe through the uncertainty, fear and loss that COVID-19 has brought to many, the character of our people has ultimately shone through.
Events in the past few months have forced many of us (certainly the two of us) to address things much more through the lens of humanity. How can we be better at a time like this? What do we ultimately stand for? How do we want to be remembered? What do we need to let go of in order to move forward? How can we use our positions to create change?
The two of us have taken time to individually reflect on all the above questions, as well as all that was said and done in 2020. Quite simply, we feel the business is on a journey when it comes to inclusion, however we have to be more deliberate when it comes to anti-racism. Our work on inclusion will remain and we will see the impact over time, but as founders we want to push ourselves and you all to make strides faster.
We believe our stand in 2020 to make a commitment to fight inequity within our organisation was a seminal moment for MiQ when it came to the issue of race. The point where we realised that we effectively had built a business that was completely and utterly complicit in its role in maintaining the status quo of keeping marginalised communities to a minimum in MiQ, was a painful but vital moment. As founders who are both people of colour, we realised we had failed in our duty to create a culture that had anti-racism at its core; structurally we realised we had inadvertently created exactly the opposite.
In our evolving personal accountability for self-learning about how we can be better when it comes to anti-racism, we came across the controversial work “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. We believe this quote illustrates where MiQ is right now in our commitment to integrate anti-racism work into our organisation –
“If, as a white person, I conceptualise racism as a binary and I place myself on the “not racist” side, what further action is required of me? No action is required because I am not a racist. Therefore, racism is not my problem; it doesn’t concern me and there is nothing further I need to do. This worldview guarantees that I will not build my skills in thinking critically about racism or use my position to challenge racial inequality”.
This message here is clear. We can all be better when it comes to acknowledging and addressing bias, prejudices, and discrimination. Our ask is for you to step into vulnerability and discomfort and do the work necessary to become a better, more inclusive person – especially when it comes to the topic of race. It seems there appears to be a school of thought right now at MiQ which effectively promotes the idea that the drive to become a more inclusive and diverse organisation could compromise performance of the business in the long run. We believe not only is this incorrect in its assumptions, but it’s also destructive in our attempts to build a culture upon which inclusivity will be a critical foundation. Our goal as a business is to widen the net of opportunity for people of all backgrounds to gain the opportunity to be considered for employment in our organisation and have an environment where they can thrive when they get here. We are not prepared to accept where we are at currently, it’s not good enough. We need to be better.
With the primary goal of addressing discrimination that exists within our business, we made the decision to focus first on leadership as a credible, impactful starting point when it comes to removing racial bias from MiQ. Our thinking was clear: if we can make our leadership better when it comes to addressing complicity in the structurally complex issue of racism; attitudes, behaviours and ultimately a change in awareness can start to disseminate down throughout the organisation. The business made the decision to make significant investments, bringing in inclusion and anti-racism coaches. They are helping our leadership provide the catalyst towards becoming not only a more inclusive, but also anti-racist organisation. Coaching our leaders to be better is slow, deliberate and focused work. However, it’s important work. If we can create acknowledgement and awareness of the extent to which MiQ is a challenging and, at times, intolerable environment for BIPOC, we will see the grassroots of progress.
Another important step that was initiated last year by Sara Axelbaum, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, and her team, was a full inclusion and diversity audit at MiQ, focused on intercepting bias within our frameworks. In partnership with the Culture Shift Team, who performed the audit, Chris Gormally, Global Chief People Officer, and Sara Axelbaum will be presenting the findings and actions of these in March. If we are to address inequity that exists within our business, then we need to audit our business through the lens of inclusion and diversity. We need to be honest about what we uncover from the audit. Where inequity exists, we need to provide an explanation to the business as to why the inequity is present and what we are going to do about it.
We believe that the above two steps are making headway when it comes to bringing about more inclusive practices. However they are not direct, nor focused enough on anti-racism. Although impact will be felt over time, for us it is not quick enough. We are committed to faster and more intentional progress.
MiQ is a predominately White organisation, with 295 of our employees identifying as White. When you exclude our Singapore, India and China offices, that represents 74% of our employees. If you are one of the top 20 earners in the business, you are White. If you are a middle manager, you are most likely to be White (101 out of 157 or 64% globally, 81% if removing Singapore, India, and China). If you are on the Operational Board, you are likely to be a White male (8 out of 13). We have a very low number of women of colour in middle management positions (8 employees) and not many more men of colour in management positions (14 employees) across our North American, European or Australian businesses. Let’s take this one step deeper. If you are looking for a role in MiQ (outside of Asia), you will receive a job spec that has been written by someone who is White. You may decide to check out the website which has been written by an all White team. You’ll most likely be interviewed throughout the recruitment process by White interviewers. Can you begin to see how much of a “White space” our organisation is?
The anti-racism work is not and will never be focused on superficial optics; it’s about creating meaningful and purposeful change that ultimately improves the experience of BIPOC within MiQ; when we talk about people of colour, we focus very deliberately on the experience of our Black employees as this is where we feel the greatest challenge sits. Our work on anti-racism will address the uniquely anti-Black sentiment that society has. We are not in any way minimising the racism that other groups of colour experience, but Black people are the ultimate racial “other” and we must acknowledge this. We also know that by creating equity for the employees who have been the most impacted, it benefits every single employee here at MiQ.
We’re not looking to hide from the challenges that we have when it comes to inclusion and diversity – especially when it comes to the issue of race. Our systems and processes which have been built to recruit talent into the business have enabled MiQ to grow at unprecedented levels over the past few years, however it has often come at a cost if you happen to be a person of colour. If we are committed to becoming an actively anti-racist organisation, we need to be much better and more deliberate when it comes to recruitment of people from all backgrounds; of all genders, all sexual orientations, all abilities; starting with people of colour.
We need to hold ourselves accountable moving forward to being better when it comes to racial inequity. This is not just an expectation from ourselves as founders, it’s a goal that we have across the entire organisation. We are aware that for some people, the drive to be more inclusive when it comes to people of all racial backgrounds is a cause of frustration or even anger. For these people, we implore you to take a moment to truly comprehend what we are looking to achieve over the next few years in our strive to become a much more equitable organisation. The more inclusive and diverse our entire people frameworks are, then the bigger and more expansive the talent pools become; with this increased breadth and diversity of talent comes unlimited opportunity to continue to scale as a business. That is a fact, not an opinion.
Not forgetting, by becoming a more inclusive and diverse organisation we give all people from all backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy an exciting, positive experience at MiQ. Not only is this a basic level of fairness that should be available to everyone in 2021, it is the right thing to do. Which is why we will do it.
If you are a BIPOC employee in North America, Europe or Australia; thank you for trusting us with your career. We acknowledge that we need to improve to make your experience within MiQ more positive. We also recognise that trust needs to be earnt, which is why over the next few months we will be focusing our efforts to make anti-racism ubiquitous within our organisation.
We will continue to push our agenda in inclusion, in line with the Global I&D plan we have shared with you all. However, over the next few months, the both of us will lead initiatives which will better build racial equity within our workforce and be laser focused on active anti-racism, and specifically improving the experience for our Black employees. We can’t allow for our Black employees to wait for us all to catch up. We need to provide more active initiatives to create equality faster. Some of these initiatives include:
- Compensation equity: The new MiQ compensation framework has been aimed at providing more equity within the structure of how compensation works across everyone’s peer sets. Specifically, around any salary gap within job bands when it comes to gender or race, investment in addressing these will be given the highest level of priority in April. These gender or race gaps will be prioritised ahead of any strategic or merit lead pay rises.
- Recruiting: One thing MiQ has done brilliantly is headhunt the best talent in the market – even when we don’t have active roles in the business. When we think back to the people who we have hired who have been true changemakers in our business, in many cases we saw the potential and created positions around the person – we leveraged our “Exceptional Recruitment Process” to respond to talent who we came across, even when there was no open role. On top of the amazing work the I&D and Talent teams are doing through our updated recruitment process, which is starting to drive results (all be it at more junior levels for now), we both will be leading a charge to actively seek out some of the leading talent in the industry, focused on People of Colour and specifically Black team members at more senior levels. Over the next few months, the both of us will be working with the Operational Board, as well as gathering input from our wider teams, to create a long list of potential candidates to approach and discuss how we could leverage their skill sets at MiQ (even if we don’t have an open role available).
- Coaching: Specific coaching for our Black employees: We accept that we and many of our employees have had privileges that are not extended to our Black team members, making it harder to progress in MiQ and in wider society. We want to offer them support from some exceptional coaches who have experienced these challenges first-hand. We are annoyed with ourselves when we sat back and realised that we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on coaching our predominantly White leadership to understand inequity and racism more, however spent $0 on any coaching for our Black employees. That’s simply wrong and not fair, we can do more to help our Black employees excel when they face barriers others don’t. Providing access to and investing in coaches who understand and have gone through similar challenges feels an appropriate place to start.
- Communication: We commit that we will communicate our efforts on anti-racism on a frequent basis, be it open letters like this, on Gurman’s regular monthly business updates and in the various town halls we do across the world. We are committed to remaining transparent with all our employees.
We are on a journey team, one which won’t end and one which we won’t let end. Ultimately living our values, especially courage, is needed to tackle the force of racism head on. With all your help, we will be that company all of us can all be proud of, that sets the tone for all to follow.
We thank you for taking time to read our letter and appreciate your continued support in making MiQ better.
Lee and Gurman