Diversity is good for business. A study from McKinsey & Company found that public companies “in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.” A separate study from Boston Consulting Group found that businesses with above average diversity scores at the management level generate 38 percent more of their revenues, on average, from innovative products and services. But satisfying shareholders isn’t the only reason to implement diverse hiring practices — it’s also good for employee morale.

I am an avid soccer player and fan which translates to many hours spent in the week playing, coaching, or cheering on the soccer pitch. Often the most celebrated players are those who score the goals. However, imagine, if you will, a soccer team made entirely of strikers. The idea is preposterous — a well-rounded team that is good at every position will be far more successful than a team that is great at just one thing. This is precisely why fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment is such an important part of my job as the Head of HR at Microsoft Canada. We know that our culture is critical to attracting and retaining top talent and, ultimately, creating cutting-edge technology solutions that help our customers achieve more. We know that to create an irresistible culture where our employees can realize their full potential, every person needs to feel like they belong — and be able to contribute with their full and authentic selves.

With authenticity comes innovation

Diversity is more than just a cultural tenet for Microsoft, it drives everything we do. We can’t build effective solutions if our teams don’t reflect our customers and their customers. Canada is an extraordinarily multicultural market — it’s one of the things that make this country great. If our teams don’t understand how diverse groups think, make decisions, and interact, how can we build solutions for them?

It is my job to ensure we’re implementing Microsoft’s global diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy here in Canada. We actively support Women @ Microsoft and GLEAM, a resource group for Microsoft’s LGBTQ+ employees. We celebrate Pride and Black History Month and sponsor Canada’s Special Olympics team.

Employees with accessibility needs can take advantage of the range of accessibility features built right into Windows and Office 365 — features that are getting smarter every day through AI-powered technology. We’ve even skinned our elevators with D&I decals — a small gesture on the surface, but an indication that we value diversity and discuss it openly.

We do this work not only because we believe it’s important to serve our customers. It’s also important to do good in the world.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) estimates that women account for just 25 percent of information, communication and technology positions and that number has remained basically unchanged for the last decade. This means that men outnumber women at a ratio of three to one in the high-value STEM sector — the jobs of tomorrow. At Microsoft, female leaders make up half of our Canadian Leadership Team. We’re proud of that but we know we can’t rest on our laurels. Expanding the talent pipeline for a new generation of work is a key part of our D&I strategy.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels included and valued. Fostering this sense of inclusion and community will, in turn, create an environment that can help us fulfill our company mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. This is an ambitious goal, but one we are committed to achieving.

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Cherise Mendoza

How Microsoft Technology Enhances Accessibility and Inclusivity

Currently, 15 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability, whether it’s situational, temporary, or permanent. Invisible disabilities — such as colour blindness or a mental health condition — affect 70 percent of the population. It’s more important than ever to create inclusive environments in order to give everyone an equal opportunity for success.

Re-imagining accessibility

Technology has the power to create an environment for everyone to bring their best to the table. “At Microsoft, accessibility is at the core of our products,” says Ricardo Wagner, Senior Product Marketing Manager and co-lead for the Disability Initiative at Microsoft Canada. Microsoft’s inclusive design strategy means that from the early stages of a product’s design, researchers, developers, and engineers recognize any aspect of the software or hardware that might pose a problem for those with disabilities and make changes to ensure it works for all. “We’re creating products and solutions that empower people and organizations on the planet to achieve more,” Wagner says.

One of these solutions is Eye Control — a solution already embedded into every Windows 10 system — which allows people living with physical paralysis to use their computer through eye-tracking and speech-to-text technology. Microsoft’s speech-to-text software is a perfect example of an inclusive solution designed for extreme disabilities and that also provides solutions for the greater population. In an increasingly globalized workforce, speech-to-text programs can be used to communicate with colleagues in any language.

Although three out of 10 employees in the workplace live with a disability, many employers remain unaware of their limitations. Creating a diverse workforce needs to start with C-suite executives understanding various disabilities and championing inclusive solutions. Technology can help us do things differently.

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Melissa Vekil