Rising Together: Diverse Teams Win
Series Note: Career Girls founder and CEO Linda Calhoun shares insights distilled from her in-depth interviews of over 800 women role models. Each article is dedicated to exploring the skills and attitudes that advance girls’ intellectual, social and emotional learning for success in both life and career.
At our roots, Career Girls crowdsources the hard-fought lessons learned by an inclusive and diverse group of women. Our Role Models pinpoint the skills you need to be successful, not only in work but in life as a whole. This article spotlights diversity and inclusion.
The Importance of Diversity. The truly wonderful thing about people is that we are all different because we come from distinct perspectives…each rooted in a unique life, background, and culture. Whenever you, I, and others come together with open minds in a group, each person brings fresh ideas and new ways to solve problems and reach goals.
Cumulatively, this contributes to a high-functioning team — intellectually, socially, and practically — ultimately yielding all types of positive results.
To optimize the benefits of diverse groups in the workplace, it’s really important for each team member to nurture their ability to work with others. Be respectful and appreciative. Listen and absorb carefully.
This process actually begins way before your first job and it’s a lifelong evolution. It stems from the family and neighborhoods you grow up in, branches out in the activities you choose to follow, and flourishes in the ways you reach out today and every day to come.
Our Career Girls role models share their own thoughts on the importance of diversity in the world of work:
1) We all deserve a place at the table.
One of the most valuable things in any group is diversity. Different people think in different ways and bring unique ideas and contributions to the table.
“We are all different. How do we take all those differences and come together to create something wonderful? That essentially is what global diversity and inclusion is.
“My role is to have people come to the table and appreciate those differences and figure out how we can work together. I will say: in every company I have worked with in which that is the focus — they have achieved results that are amazing.” — Marlin Williams, Economics Developer
“You get a lot more from people, you get a lot more from your life, when you try to recognize the value that each human being has.” — The Hon. Ann Claire Williams, Ret. United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals
2) Diversity builds business strength and profitability.
We live in a global and diverse economy. The more receptive and responsive a company is to this reality, the more profitable they will be.
“Many companies and organizations focus on diversity and inclusion. And they do it not just because it’s the moral thing to do, the ethical thing to do, the right thing to do — but because it makes their companies more effective and their organizations stronger.
“It increases not only the social mission of an organization; it increases the profitability. It builds retention, it builds investment, it builds engagement. All of those things help the bottom line.” — Victoria Budson, Public Policy Analyst
3) Learning different languages gives you a definite edge.
Savvy businesses recognize the great advantage of having team members who speak multiple languages and are likely more sensitive to cultural nuances.
“I would definitely encourage girls to learn more than one language. There are times in life when you can make friends or you can make business relationships if you actually speak the language. So, everything becomes a lot easier.” — Amee Xu, Board Member of Startup Lady Japan
“The way that the human mind constructs similar ideas in different cultures is so fascinating. Learning a second language can be really exciting.” — Karen Chassin, Executive Director, St. Petersburg Foundation
4) Singled-minded ‘group think’ may feel safe — but welcoming varied viewpoints and ideas is the smarter way to go.
Any company that fails to diversify tends to fall behind their competitors. Moving outside an established comfort zone and welcoming differences means progress.
“Diversity in a team is important for so many reasons. It’s been proven with data and research that companies get better results.
“You’re going to understand your customers better, you’re going to have different viewpoints, and you’re going to avoid group think where everyone’s thinking something is right because of who is sitting around the table. If they all look the same, they’re missing a huge part of the majority of the population.” — Deb Kemper, Angel Investor
5) Widen your vision… Enrich your life and others.
Incorporate diversity into your life in a holistic way. Develop a multifaceted understanding of diversity. Speak out respectfully for yourself and others. Open up to new ideas and experiences. These will help you develop and grow… and lead a more interesting, meaningful, productive, and fulfilling life.
“When you’re working in a team that has diverse perspectives, you get to see the world in ways that you never thought you’d get to see it. It is incredible.” — Melissa Sandgren, Social Impact Manager
“Now is the time to be so great and full of ideas because you don’t have any limitations… All of the greatness that we have is inside. You’ve got to let it come out so that everybody else can benefit from it.” — Felicia Howard, Federal Investigator with the U.S. Department of Defense
The Last Word
We’ll let our Career Girls role model Venu Gupta have the last word:
“Without the full potential of all of our community members, we will not rise together.”
— Venu Gupta, Attorney
About the Author
Linda Calhoun is an entrepreneur, activist, and community leader based in San Francisco, California. A graduate of Boston University with a B.S. in Mass Communication, Linda’s career path led her to work in international policy coordination, media, technology, and data management. Her work has met the unique and increasingly important intersections of STEM and Social Justice.
Linda is the Founder and CEO of Career Girls, a nonprofit that was created as a response to the inequality of opportunity that Linda encountered in her story. Linda is the President of the Career Girls board and Co-Chairs the board for the Alliance for Girls.
My own lived experiences as a black woman today, and as a black girl growing up in the United States, shape how I see the world — both its problems and potential solutions.
The problem I most wanted to address is what I’ve come to call the Imagination Gap. Something was holding girls back from meeting their full potential — and it wasn’t a lack of ability. For many girls, the dots were simply not being connected.
My solution was the creation of Career Girls, a nonprofit organization that now has its wings throughout the world. Its global platform speaks to girls around the globe and empowers them to take control of their lives. And, it offers useful tools for the adults and educators in their lives.
I conducted video interviews with over 800 women and now share the hard-fought lessons from this inclusive and diverse group of women we call the Career Girls Role Models. In down-to-earth, realistic videos, these accomplished Role Models clearly explain the skills needed in an array of careers. They take a deeper dive into the concepts behind these skills and provide insights gained from their own education and careers. Ultimately, they answer the all-important question as to why those skills are needed to be successful in work and in life overall.
Career Girls is founded on the dream that every girl around the world will have access to diverse and accomplished women role models — to learn from their experiences and to discover their own path to empowerment. Our mission is to Close the Imagination Gap™ for girls everywhere.
To all of the women who contributed to this article, we are inspired and grateful.
Our contributors to the ‘Rising Together: Discover the Difference Diversity Makes’ article are: Marlin Williams, Economics Developer; The Hon. Ann Claire Williams, Ret.United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals; Victoria Budson, Public Policy Analyst; Amee Xu, Board Member of Startup Lady Japan; Karen Chassin, Executive Director, St. Petersburg Foundation; Deb Kemper, Angel Investor; Melissa Sandgren, Social Impact Manager; Felicia Howard, Federal Investigator with the U.S. Department of Defense; Venu Gupta, Attorney; and Mari Kogiso, Impact Investor.
Contributors to the Career Girls Importance of Diversity Empowerment Video are (in order of appearance): Paula Harris, Engineer Executive; Daisy Galeana, Regional Technical Manager for Latin America, Solar Turbines; Mechanical Engineer; Susan Nicholas, M.D., Physician Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Podcast Host; Shacara Johnson, Epidemiologist; and Celia Dominguez, Ph.D., Organic Chemist, Medicinal Chemist, Drug Discovery and Development.
And… You’re not on your own! Visit the Career Girls website for the Importance of Diversity Empowerment Video and related discussion guides, activities and resources. There are no ads, and everything is completely free.