Achieving Resilience By Embracing Diversity

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Photo Courtesy of Cognizant.

Photo Courtesy of Cognizant.

Caroline Styr
Caroline Styr

Curveballs have been a part of work since the very beginning. Some are huge — the steam engine, email, autonomous vehicles. Others are smaller but still pack a punch: a resignation, a public transportation strike, a last-minute request with a 60-minute turnaround time.

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Our Women Empowered committee brought together four of Cognizant’s fiercest female leaders to discuss success in the modern world of work, and one of the questions I couldn’t wait to ask (lucky for me, I was moderating the discussion so got dibs on the first question): How do we stay resilient through all the curveballs, big and small?

Leaning out

A woman who certainly knows, and admits that she considers them an enjoyable part of the job, is our Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Amy Schuh. In her view, dealing with the unexpected is a matter of having the confidence to admit you don’t have all the answers yourself, backed by the security of knowing a bunch of other people who do. “You have to have the confidence to say, ’Let me put a pin in this, think it through and come back to you,’” she says. 

Confidence was a word that cropped up time and again throughout our conversation — especially when it’s born not of arrogance but a sense of self-worth. When you’re confident in your own contribution, you don’t feel the need to be the only one who can save the day or find a solution – you’re open to surrounding yourself with people of diverse knowledge and capabilities and unafraid to reach out to the best person for the task at hand. You don’t panic when that person isn’t you.

Or, as Stephanie Higgins, Chief Privacy and Data Ethics Officer, said, “Know your worth. Have faith and confidence in the value that you bring.”

Expanding the circle

How often, though, do we stay within our own comfort zone, even when it comes to whom we know, whom we trust and whom we turn to for advice, wisdom and ideas? 

In our “21 Jobs of the Future” report, we emphasized the essential capabilities for remaining employed throughout the next 10 years, and one of these is “connecting.” Connecting and collaborating with others is the cornerstone of success for businesses in the future of work, because it is through the intermingling of diverse ideas and multiple perspectives — sometimes called “creative abrasion” — that ideation and ultimately innovation is born.

We as individuals can make sure this happens by having — once again — the confidence to speak out. One tip from our discussion was to make sure that every room you’re in has a balanced representation from a variety of demographics and be prepared to say something if it’s not. In other words, help your organization walk the talk of diversity. As Carol Cohen, senior vice president of HR said, “Giving women a seat at the table is a key part of our global strategy in leveling the playing field and increasing diversity in our pipeline. If you see programs with very few women being nominated, have the confidence to raise it.” 

Of course, diversity isn’t just an individual’s responsibility. The culture of an organization should promote not only diversity but also inclusion and belonging. This means creating opportunities for creative abrasion to happen. “We have to find places where it’s the norm to band together — to meet more people, to learn from others. To collectively grow and develop,” said Claire Molloy, Head of Human Resources in the UK and Ireland.

Building your own resilience

Some food for thought:

How is your organization tackling diversity & inclusion?

Targets are still one of the most straightforward ways for businesses to ensure they’re laser-focused on diversity and inclusion. Diageo, for example, sets high targets and shouts about them, setting some level of accountability. In addition to boasting 50% female representation on its board and 40% on its executive committee, Diageo has also set goals of reaching 35% female representation on its senior leadership team by 2020, with a goal of 40% by 2025. As more globally recognized ranking systems, like the UK Gender Pay Gap regulation or Thomson Reuters’ D&I Index, come into play, it’s vital that organizations set meaningful targets and get ready to share their progress.

What is your organization doing to nurture an inclusive culture?

Diversity networks, also referred to as “employee resource groups” or “affinity networks,” are an important part of the D&I team’s responsibilities. They are traditionally initiated to inform, support and advance employees with similar social identities. Bringing these groups together at networking events, such as book clubs or social gatherings, is a powerful way to expand individuals’ networks beyond their usual crowd. Gap, Inc. created business resource groups and advisory boards designed to provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning, mentoring and relationship building among employees. The larger and more diverse the network, the more likely people are to find that person who knows how to tackle a problem they themselves don’t have all the answers to. 

How are you showcasing D&I activities?

Communication plays an important role in achieving a key D&I goal: attracting and retaining talent. Marketplace campaigns, conference sponsorships, social media activity, and speaking engagements are all great examples that can help position the organization as an employer of choice, giving recruits an insight into the organization’s culture.

Internal communications are also key. Involvement in diversity and inclusion activities, such as employee resource groups, can enrich the workplace experience and enable employees to grow in ways they hadn’t considered. Talent development programs, such as Gap’s ASCEND program or our own Propel program, can contribute to advancing women and minorities into leadership positions. Consistent messaging to educate and inspire employees can also contribute to increased employee engagement and reduced turnover.

And here’s a Monday morning assignment: Ask yourself what you as an individual can do to expand your trusted network, thus increasing your confidence to handle the continuous curveballs that come with modern work.


The article was originally published on, and written Caroline Styr, a Research Analyst in Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work in Europe.

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