Unlocking the power of DEI – a guest post by Wise

May 05, 2022

You just read some clickbait keywords in the headline: unlocking and power – they sound like the usual tech circles vocabulary, right? Right next to skyrocketing, profit, expansion and success. Words that all startups would like to see in their media articles, on their roadmaps and in their retros. 

But what if we say that the third keyword – DEI – is the bridge to truly achieving the real meaning of these clickbaity keywords? We should all put DEI into the core of our focus. But don’t do it for the growth it promises. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

So, what is DEI anyway?

DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. For some time, there were talks about diversity, then about D&I or diversity and inclusion. Now, there’s a third musician joining the duo to bring the band together. These terms are seen differently in different companies. Here’s what they mean for Wise:

  • Diversity – Diversity is giving different people a seat at the table. People from various backgrounds and with different perspectives are present in decision-making.
  • Equity – Equity means levelling the playing field so we all have access to the same opportunities. Wait, isn’t this equality? Not quite! Equality assumes we’re all starting from the same point and allocates the same resources, whereas equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed. 
  • Inclusion – Inclusion is giving all people the opportunity to be heard or included.

Everyone in meetings can contribute, are listened to and taken seriously. It’s okay to challenge an opinion, but we have to be mindful of not judging the person whose opinion we’re challenging.

Why is DEI important? 

We’re building Wise for people without borders — expats, students, immigrants, freelancers, traders, businesses — from all around the world and from all kinds of different backgrounds. Today, over 12 million people and businesses are using Wise. We’re here to serve a truly global community and to do that, our team needs to reflect and understand all the diversity the world has to offer. We need to create a culture that’s truly inclusive. And a team of people set up to do their best every day. 

By the way, it’s not only our gut feeling, common sense or heart leading us the way. Research shows that team diversity and inclusion is a key driver of internal innovation and that diverse problem solvers can outperform high-ability problem solvers. In addition, companies with diverse executive boards enjoy much higher earnings and returns on equity and multicultural networks promote creativity

Working on our missions 

Millions of people and businesses save money using Wise every day. But the world still pays £150 billion in hidden fees to banks every year. Which means we’re far from completing our mission of money without borders – instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. 

Similarly, we know we’re not yet at mission complete when it comes to DEI. We already do some great things to make Wise open, nurturing and accessible to all. But we want to do more. We want to be clear about our goals, consistent in our actions and hold ourselves to account for making change happen. We want to make sure the amazing people we hire have a voice and are heard. That they are empowered and productive in their roles. And that everyone has the support and resources they need to have the same opportunities as others.

Why is this hard?

Creating a truly diverse, inclusive workspace which makes sure everyone has access to the same opportunities is hard because DEI doesn’t come naturally. 

We all know people we immediately get on with. This is usually because we have something in common with them. Research shows that we tend to be less willing to trust, forgive, share, and listen to people who aren’t “like us”. This doesn’t make us wrong or “bad’’ people — but it does mean that if you aren’t part of the majority, you can be at a disadvantage.

We don’t always judge a situation or person objectively because of how our brains are wired. Research shows that our brains are wired to look for patterns and form assumptions. It helps us get through the day and understand the world around us. What makes this even trickier is that we can be stubborn about these assumptions and make decisions regardless of the evidence and information we have in front of us. 

We see what we expect to see and we’re often not as objective as we may think we are. Our mind automatically refers to what it already knows. This helps us process information faster.

Is there something strange here? Did you spot the extra words?

This is how stereotyping starts. Instead of giving every person a chance to make a brand new impression, our brain connects certain attributes to this person before we even properly interact with the individual.

How to overcome this

All of this — our bias towards the familiar, our selective awareness and the stereotypes that surround us influence our behaviour. Therefore DEI requires a conscious effort that starts with understanding all these things that happen unconsciously.

At Wise, we’ve created a 3-part plan to bring us closer to our mission of DEI:

  1. Inform — We promote curious, compassionate and courageous conversations, internally and externally, that help us learn from one another.
  2. Inspire — We empower our teams to take ownership for creating an inclusive culture by setting and driving their own objectives, holding themselves accountable and making sure they focus efforts where they can have the most impact.
  3. Act — We create the frameworks, processes, measurement tools and initiatives to scale up our approach to DEI.

Want to learn more about the framework, tools and initiatives that Wise is implementing and how’s it going? 

Make sure to come to Nadia’s talk on Friday, May 20 at 10:00 – 10:30 on the L59 Purpose stage.

This article is written by a guest author and Latitude59 speaker Nadia Costanzo, Head of Banking for Middle East, Africa and Latin America at Wise. As Latitude59’s headline in 2022 is Purpose and Inclusion, we gladly welcome Nadia’s thoughts and insights on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the workspace. A warm thank you goes out to Wise for being our tireless sponsor and supporter in making L59 a success!

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