Episode #8 Veerle Dero, Accenture
Hi. Everybody and welcome to, the inclusive so, the, place to get practical, insights to make inclusion, happen, in, the business world and today, I'm absolutely, delighted, to. Be here with Varadero. Verily, a warm welcome, to you it's a huge, pleasure to be here in the soul and. Hurley. Is currently, Europe operations, director, and belong. Lead balloons, at Accenture. Berlin. Can you tell us more, about your your, journey you, know to become, who you are today. So. First of all thank you guys for having me on on the show it's really my pleasure and, my honor to to be here and. Thank you for the warm welcome as well so, I think indeed as you said I have two roles which is my my, day-to-day job is I'm responsible for, all of our operations, activities, for certain clients in in, Europe so. That already is a very diverse group, of people that, that. I have working. With me and then, my other role which I'm very passionate, about is I'm responsible for all of our people activities. In, Belgium, and Luxembourg for. Accenture which. Is related, to fit, at work inclusion. And diversity corporate. Citizenship, so, it's something that I'm extremely passionate, about and, the, reason why I'm so passionate about. Inclusiveness. And diversity. Is that I joined, Accenture, 13 years ago as, a psychologist, so I was a bit of an outsider. And, it took me a while to embrace. The fact that I was different and use, it as a strength instead, of a difference, so I. Learned. A bit myself the hard way that being, unique, is something that you have to embrace yourself, first before others, can embrace that the difference and that uniqueness, so that is why I'm so passionate about it, and. It's a topic very close to my heart oh. That's. Interesting like being a psychologist make. You feel maybe at the beginning you didn't belong as much as correct. Correct. It took me a while I think it took me almost two years to understand.
That Being different is, actually, sometimes a good thing and you, can differentiate yourself you can build on your own strengths, but, what I did learn is that you have embraced it first yourself because. Others otherwise, others, it's difficult for others to do the same and. That I think is part of the journey I went on in, Accenture. Understanding. What my strengths is understanding. That it's different, and it's unique, but, that's good as well and that. Has actually been always, the. Red tape to out my career at Accenture, I joined. As a recruitment, leader for Belgium and Luxembourg I then went into regional, and global roles, in the recruitment space, and from. That I moved into operations. Where I now support, clients, with their Business Process Outsourcing in, HR. But also in other areas of the. Business and that uniqueness. That being slightly. Different. Is always, something that was with me throughout my career. But. It has always been a strength I did not realize it in the beginning but it always has been a strength, in. Very. Late there is you know there's something in Elsa I fight I found your title, one of your titles, really intriguing they belong leads, it looks. At. Accenture. Especially. Because I've been noticing this. Evolution. In the way titles. You, know people who are leading the inclusion, and diversity genders. Titles, are evolving. Before. It used to be diversity, and. Then became diversity, Luiza now it's inclusion, and diversity some. People are called belonging. I've. Noticed, that and, belonging. Head, of belonging, in an in a corporation, in King tell us a little bit about what what is this belongs, project. You know within Accenture. What, does it encompass, it's. An initiative that we've launched, over ten years ago in Accenture. Belgium and Luxembourg and. The, initial, purpose. Was actually to increase a, feeling, of engagement. Actually a feeling of belonging, to the organization. And over the years it has evolved, tremendously but, so it's over ten years Sault where we realized, this, should not just be a workplace, people, should feel that they can grow, here that it can be there themselves that they can even be a better version of themselves and that this organization is gonna help them realize that so. The best name we could come up with at that moment was belong. Because you belong to an organization, but. Over the years it has become more, than actually, an engagement activity, it really has become poor. People agenda we, work very closely with HR, and a hundreds. Of passionate, volunteers on, the topics and we. Work. Around fit. At work how, can you and be physically, and mentally healthy we. Work on inclusion and diversity and, that is a very broad range and we will talk more about it, we, also work around leadership development. Corbet's, and service corporate citizens, sorry corporate citizenship, what is our role in society and, how can we contribute to the community, we work and live in, but. Also how, can our people feel at home what. Do they need what makes them unique and how can they grow as individuals. And, professionals. So it's a very broad range of people topics, in, close, collaboration with, HR in close collaboration with, our volunteers, but also in close collaboration with the market, nonprofit. Organizations, other companies, that have the same priorities. So. Really it's looking for allies who have the same vision on belonging. On inclusion and diversity. Internally. And externally I. Really. Like the fact that it seems to be a very holistic. Approach. To sometimes, in corporations, people start. Working in silos you know and they those, initiatives, are completely, scattered they're not really walking. Hand-in-hand and the way you described, it it seems like you know it, makes sense to put together. Definitely. I think to be honest we learned it as well because we saw that over, those more than 10 years we went into silos, but one of the things we realized the last years that it's not gonna work like that people. Are so diverse. There, is people, are interested in all aspects, I mean in. Our current society you, have that, multi, layer in the.
You Cannot say I'm only this I'm so many things I'm. A mother I'm a professional, I love running I love my food. I'm. An addict to certain TV, shows that that's who that's who I am as an individual it's very very broad and also. We saw that all of our initiatives, needs to influence. One another one. Of the initiatives we organized, a few weeks, ago was actually it's. A work stream around being, a parent, and working in Accenture, what is it what you need is flexibility, and they, work together with our LGBT. Community, on how do we talk about our to our young kids about being LGBT, how. Do you bring that discussion, up to your young kids and so it were two parallel. Streams that were discussing, together how, can we organize something, jointly. And we, organize a session, for our parents, where we said okay these are ways in which you can be, very transparent, to your kids about the fact that people can have different preferences people. Are different, but how can you bring that to your young children of different ages or, their, books you can read about it how, can you open a discussion how do you answer certain, questions that, your kids have so. That was a very interesting session which is exactly. An example of how those two streams can work together, yeah. This, brilliant, really especially, because you know nowadays I hear more and I think that's a good evolution, within. The inclusion and diversity I, hear, more and more conversations. Around. Intersectionality. Know, the fact that we are we are not just one thing we are so many things at the same time in, bringing. Together different, streams, yes, it makes lots of sense yes. And for, me that's also the the, difference between, diversity. And inclusion you said it before we were diversity, and inclusion our inclusion, and diversity what. Is the different, for. Me there's a very nice quote, from. Verna Myers which actually, is diversity. Is in being invited to the party, inclusion. Is being invited to dance and that. Really is it I mean diversity. We I think we all understand. That it's important, from different, perspectives. But. Understanding. It's important, is one thing bringing diverse people to the table is one thing but then actually truly, listen to what do they have to say and embrace. What they have to say that for me is inclusiveness. In. Verily, well you are obviously really passionate, about this topic you told me there's one of your favorite topics inclusion, in diversity, but, not it doesn't, come that naturally, to everybody, isn't, it in my I'd. Like to ask you know what's your killer, argument. Convince. People of the value of inclusion and diversity no. For those who are not, as naturally, inclined denotes warrants do something, I have. Many discussions on, the topic and to be honest the the killer argument, always depends, on the people in front of you. And. Also I would say that it's not necessarily, about the, argument, I would think that people. Almost have to. Make a mental, click around it they have to see the light I can have many many arguments and I will give you a few in a few seconds but I think they, have to come to a realization that it is important, it's like, one. Of my colleagues used the example of it's like people who want to quit smoking. Irrationally. They know why it's unhealthy they have read all the documentation, they know exactly what it's about but it's about making for yourself that, mental, click of okay, I have to stop and for me the same it's with diversity, and inclusion we all have read the the research about why it's good to the company's. Performance, but, unless you make that mental click, you're. Not gonna embrace. It and change it so the. Two arguments, for me that I always come, back to is what. Is the economic argument, there. Is so much research, that there is a direct a strong correlation probably, even a causation, between. Having. Gender, balance leadership, things and the financial performance of a company but, also having multi, layer diverse, teams and strong decision taking so, that economic, argument, is there, but. For me there's an second. One I am a mother of three children and. They're, between the age of 10 and 15, and of course we talked about bullying.
How Can you be yourself how do you feel at school so, there's almost also, a very strong human. Aspect, to it if. I explained to my kids why they should not bully others why they should embrace other children, who have, other hobbies other things other thoughts other beliefs the, same goes for inclusion, and diversity is just a human, decent. Thing to do to embrace others we're all unique we're all different as I said it has, to do with your, gender your, age your. Education. Your background, so. We are all different and at the same time we all have, the same values. The same real. Human so we're actually fundamentally. The same so. For me it's that human, aspect that probably is even more important. These days than the pure economic, one I like. That like you have the business case and they knew, yes. Yeah. True in. Very. Well you seem to be well and I know like sensory was so it seemed to be so far you know ahead, of many, companies, you seem, to be really leading. No. This field inclusion. Integrity, in, out of all the initiatives that you've taken, what. Was the most effective, one the, most impactful. One. There. Are many available we. Currently have an thank. You for the compliment that we're ahead but I mean we're learning on it on a daily base to be honest we've. Made very strong commitments. About gender, equality. In. Our business. Our. Leadership, global leadership has been very very strong about that and. Gender, balance is one of our key priorities but. At the same time we have to be very careful, that we don't forget about half of our population and. So. The challenge at the moment is that we, have is do. You force things do you work with quota how. Do you change, that behavior how, do you work with unconscious, bias so there, are many many fronts that we still have to work on and we don't have that silver bullet solution, for. Some people it's the human argument, for other people it's the economic. Argument the business case for, other people, it's. Making. Sure that they see that they, also have a place to to. Play what, we often. Think is that not, just Accenture. But I see with a lot of our colleagues as well is we focus on the minority and. We forget about the silent majority. But, we almost accused, them we blame them for not, embracing. The minority, but it goes both ways so, what we still have to learn I think is have that completely, holistic view, not. Push for those minorities. To be embraced, but to push on that uniqueness of every single individual, to be embraced so we. Talk these days in Belgium about be, long be you instead of just a name belong we add bu, to it because. It's not just about those diversity, segments, it's about every individual, who can come to the workplace being, truly himself, and as I said becoming, almost a better version of himself, thanks, to your colleagues and the people surrounding, you that. Is the area where we still have to work towards, not focus on the diversity segments, but really on the individuals, themselves, in. How concretely. How are you doing that. It's. Going on on many many fronts I think one of the aspects, that we work on as I said is unconscious. Bias it's something that we all have and. So, we do trainings, on that we help people in realizing. How that unconscious, bias can make decisions and. Block. Some of your decisions whether it's on hiring whether it's on promoting but it's just almost, listening, to some of your people, we, also help, our leaders. In. Making. Sure that the. People agenda. And that uniqueness of people is part of their priorities. How, do you build your things what example, are you to your team's what support you need to, make. Sure that you have those inclusive, teams for, some people it comes natural, for others it doesn't so it's, a combination of having, really joint.
Session, Where we exchange some of our doubts of our beliefs of our challenges. But also having them some formal, training around, it and so it for me it's a combination of awareness. Training. But also just being very, honest, and realistic about what's, going on what is blocking us why are we not making certain decisions and not, going, into the blaming mode but into the understanding mode. In. In in what's the most common objection. You come across. Very. Often it is I, don't have time or even. I don't have. And. What. We try to explain, to those people then is that it. Actually has nothing to do with time, or budget because it's not a project it's. A change in attitude, and a change in attitude, doesn't require necessarily. A budget, or time is just looking. Differently, and on how you build your organization. And, of course you need budget and time for certain training certain. Events. We still believe strongly in events, like International. Women's Day the. Pride Parade because. That is creating, a certain momentum and you can anchor some of your initiatives, and your. Activities. Around that so we still believe that it's very important. But, the big change will come from me to the attitude, and not positioning. It as a project or even as a program, it's much more than that it's a journey and it's really a change in your culture, as an organization. And. In for some people, really in, inclusion, in diversity initiatives, they go, against. The meritocracy, principle. That's. Something that I hear often what. Do you have to say to people. Who. Think about. Inclusion, and diversity initiatives. Is going against. Meritocracy. Well. I think one, of the examples, where most. Of the companies, struggle, for me diversity, is much more than than, gender. Balance it goes, its generations. It's cross-cultural. Is LGBTQ, it's, females, it's also, people. With kids without kids so diversity is so much more than just those those segments, but. If you talk about meritocracy it's often comes down to male-female and. Again as Accenture we have very strong, principles. Around. And targets, around what we want to accomplish. Personally. I have three. Kids two girls one, boy what. Drives me is I want to have for, my two girls, the, same opportunities, same, dreams the same possibilities as for my boy they're, three, brilliant kids I'm extremely proud of all three but, I do want, them to have exactly the same opportunities. And. That. For me is the principal we have a lot of discussions, about quota. And. I hear always. Two voices one is saying there, have been quota, for men for so long through history why cannot we just impose, quote enough for females for just a few years and get that balance right on, the, other hand we have even, a lot of females saying I don't, want to get promoted because, of quota, I want, to make it on my own and their. Pros and cons on both views I I don't even, feel strong on one or the other the, only thing that I do feel, as a, woman is if. You have an opportunity even, opportunity. Knocks on your door, please. Consider, it and if, you say no realize. Why you say no and what you might let go. Very. Often the opportunities, that have been knocking online my door I have. Been terrified, about them I had, no clue how I could succeed I, very. Often doubt if I'm capable if, I'm ready it's out of my comfort zone why do they ask me but, if the opportunity is there why. Would you not take it we, are so afraid of failing, and that is for me one of the main. Things that we have to learn females. But also across, diversity. Is we. Are it's okay to feel if, people, knock on your door it because they believe in you that you have the basic skills to grow in that role will it be perfect from they won't know but. We also have to embrace and, learn that failing, is getting us to the next point and it's, not something, that we should be afraid of we, should learn from it stand, up and show resilience, and go on so. My only question for. Females. Who say I don't want, to be. Preferred. Over my male colleagues is do. Not reject. The opportunity, immediately, think about it and realize, why. You say no to something is it. Because you're afraid and, then to be honest fear is never a good guidance is it. Because you're insecure then, talk to people who know you're very good and know what your skill set is and what your strengths, are or is. It because you don't want to be, put. On the spot so think. About why you say no to something and if it's out of fear if it's, out of pride, just. Talk. To some people who can advise you well in. Valley Inn have you it within Accenture have you really didn't fight that, is a major. Factor. Holding. Women back, this. Lack of confidence to accept, you, know roles. That lead. You to an out. Of your comfort zone, the, reason why I'm asking you, this. Question about confidence.
Is Because I read. Studies. That do, say that in, general we. Men tend to be less confident, than men but. There is some pieces of research, that say, that this is a myth but. Actually the levels of confidence, are similar, but, what is not a myth is the fact that women they do come across more, obstacles. Demand when, it comes to you know climbing, the, ladder. The corporate ladder in. The business world so have. You really identified, that isn't, a major, thing holding, women back in, at, Accenture. I do. Not necessarily have data, on it but what I do see, is when, I speak to two. Women whether it's informal, or formal, there. Is an element of their, decision, taking how, comfortable, am i that I will be successful. How. Comfortable, am i that I can combine it, some of my other priorities, so, it's definitely something that is driving that, that decision I. Don't. See that it's not happening with my male colleagues, probably. As well but. I assume, that what I see and what I hear what people tell me is that they. Are more risk-taking, as okay I'm, gonna give it a try I'm gonna see if it works, where as females, we probably jungle, so many things at the same time and. We try to prioritize everything, equally. And of course then you make different decisions I also, see it for myself. Every. Time I'm in a new role and I'm currently in a new role as well you. Constantly wonder, am I doing the good thing is this okay am I good enough and. It probably has more to do with my personality, than anything else but. I do see, it with a lot of my. Female colleagues, you. Want people called imposter, syndrome correct. Correct, yes yes, and again I have male friends who exactly have have, the same but, I think it's something that we. We. Are. Often it's blocking us in making. Decisions going. Outside. Of our comfort zone and that's to, come back on my previous point fear, is never a good guidance. Pride. Is never a good guidance, so we all know, that rationally, we know that we also give it as advice to our counsel ease but it went comes to yourself you, do want to protect yourself, so my. Advice would be talk, to a few people up one before making a decision because they can give it a different perspective as well.
In. Really, what, I think is the best way to do to do to respond, to non-inclusive. Behaviors. You. Know in every, comment, I wanted to make as well is that I think that is, you know with. Last year's me, too movement. And. I think we all became more aware of you. Know the risk, of harassment. In, the workplace for, some people it was like a basics, like we had gone beyond that and then we realize that actually there's so much still to be done on that front on that really basic account so. I think. If it's let's be very clear when it's in proprietary. Harassment. You, have, to go to the authorities and, authority, can be internal. Or it, can be external. For, example at Accenture, we have zero tolerance, against. Harassment zero, we. Have a very clear, ethics. Process. Around that so you immediately, can report a behavior, that is not appropriate. But. For me it goes one step further it's, inappropriate. Behavior but it's also behavior, it goes against, our values as Accenture, but also the values for you as an individual, if you, feel disrespected you, have to report it and. If you don't feel comfortable you have to look for somebody who can support you whether it's a supervisor, whether it's a peer who can help you in that so. It's when you feel that you're being touched. On your personal, values you have to report it of course. As a, consequence, of the me - I mean. We all have been in situations where than their jokes, or their comments, around it. My, reaction depends, a bit on who's in front of me and the audience around, it sometimes, I joke it away but joke it away as really saying this is not appropriate. In, in, a funny way and getting a bit of an informal, flavor to it, sometimes. I'm very harsh, in my Commons and I make a very clear statements, in front of an audience and sometimes. I just take the person, apart afterwards, I say look what you said there is really offending, me as a female or it's offending, other people around the table so it. Depends, a bit but, what I never ever do is just leave it like that, because. That behavior. Is then being installed, being, encouraged. Or just maybe, people are not even aware of what they say how it can come across. So. My, approach is a bit different depending on the situation, depending on the individual, but I will never just leave it like that because that, is something and again I come back to the fact that I have two daughters I do. This not just for myself but also for them and for their friends so for me it's important, that we educate people, who. Touches who, touch our values, as individuals. And that counts for male/female. For all kind of of minorities. And diversity, groups if it's, touching their values, they should speak up or look, for somebody who can help you in speaking up, you. Know there are two principles. In what you said that I think, they are so useful anyway. Release, the. Fact that you know you. Have to do something not doing doing. Nothing that's the no, option, I do something, absolutely different ways, on I, believe. In. Something, also that you pointed out the fact that sometimes people, are not aware so. All right people, are not aware and they you. Know it's a good thing that they you. Know they. Learn you know from your feedback something. That they could improve in, their behaviors and. Of course let, us say you, should also see it in the workplace that we have so many German generations, at the moment in the workplace, and and. We. Have three four sometimes, even five generations in one in one workplace. Their. Background, their, way of looking at for example inclusion. And diversity is, completely, different and so. Educating. For me is a very important, element to that we. Can we have to step away in. Two of the accusing, way the blaming way that. Is not part of the inclusive culture we want to create leaders so. We. Still have a long way to go but I think education. And, focusing, on the uniqueness of every individual, also that person from a different generation who, has a different background and has never looked at it this way that. Also is a uniqueness, that we have to respect so for me it. Has two switched after a step away from the blaming element it's about educating, but, at the same time respecting. The values that every one of us has as an individual.
And. Are, there any mistakes. That you made on your journey in, that we could avoid you know what, what could we learn from, your mistakes. I, think. Individually. Very. Often. On inclusion and diversity is. The. Things that I regret all the things that I always looked, at my own framework. I. Reflected. On my own values, instead of the values of someone else and that, is its human it's that that it's a combination of that unconscious, bias where, you take your own framework as reference. And. Just, being, too quick assuming. A friend. Of mine for example. Was. Giving an example of we. Were thanking at accenture people for organizing, an event and we. Gave everyone a bottle of champagne. But. One of the girls was actually, because. Of her belief not drinking, so it's, it's a small thing it's not even I mean the gesture was was, honest, and and was really great they they wanted to show how grateful they were for organizing. That event but, it's just making, your own taking your own reference framework. In. Your communication. To others and, I've made many many mistakes like that to be honest I probably make them on a weekly on a weekly basis. Whatever. I really want is that people then explain. That to me why it's not appropriate or why I should have given it a bit more more thought and that's. Not that's again that's not blaming it's just educating. And it's that's that thin line between that, education. And your. Own reference framework. Which is sometimes limited, and just because. Who, you are how you have been raised how you have been educated, what is your background. But, yes I think that is my most, made mistake. Yeah. That's so profound I think it's really this. It's. Not natural for most, of us human beings to put ourself, in, other people's, shoes Oh it'll, be time is an empathy, this, cognitive, empathy, doesn't. Come like naturally, it's. A process. But. I think and, it's it's something. That we do see we. Work on it very much in eccentric as part of leadership, and, leadership for me is the driving force behind diversity. And inclusiveness, it has to come from, that natural leadership. Is that emotional. Intelligence or what you just called empathy, is a critical, word in inclusiveness. It's. Having empathy, for the people around you is having empathy for the society, around you and, what. I truly, believe is that going forward that will become such an important, component of, leadership that I'm very hopeful for the future. In. What, would we almost coming, to the end of our session, really it goes very fast doesn't, it it, does yes yeah. What. Would be your you, know your yoki, advice, for anyone you. Know starting, their journey yeah. Is it. An inclusion and diversity League, I. Think. My main advice would be what you just said it is a journey, it's. Not a project, it's not even a program, it is a journey, you're, gonna go two steps forward one, step back you're gonna come across people, who believe who don't believe you're. Gonna learn a lot about your organization. Good, things bad things and, you're also gonna learn a lot about yourself so, you have to be ready for that my. Main advice would be put. Long-term, goals so. That you allow yourself, to do that one step back if needed, so put long-term goals but concrete, actions, to get there, accept. Resilience, you're, gonna you're, gonna face it anyway, and as, I said sometimes, you're gonna go two, steps forward and then suddenly you're gonna feel ah I'm.
Gonna Why take one step back so it's important, to surround you with allies allies, internally. Who are true ambassadors, of inclusion. Diversity, but, also externally. As, companies, we often protect our intelligence. And I understand. But inclusion, and diversity has. Nothing to do with with corporate, intelligence. It has everything, to do with an attitude so go. Outside talk, to people talk to other organizations. Be open, about your barriers, that you come across we. Were last, week in Brussels, we are we, were signing. A charter with more, than 20 companies charge. Of the EU commissioner. Maria, Gabrielle on more. Women in digital. What. Is encountering, as mechanizations. And look for those allies, internally, and externally as, well, in. Any, quotes. Favorite. Favorite. Full blown inclusion in their eyes do you have any favorite. TEDTalks of, books that you'd like to share with us. There. Are many many TED Talks and many good books one, of the things that I always watch and I would encourage your, viewers, as well is, we. Have something from the north and was. Our chief executive. Officer for products. Industry. Group he always talks, about LGBT. On the Davos World Economic Forum, so that's a really good one to watch and the. Other thing one of my favorite quotes is actually from Mother Teresa it's an old one but I think it still counts. Especially on, inclusion and diversity, and. It is I can. Do things you cannot do and you, can do things I cannot do so, together we can do great things and, I think that's still very very valid yeah. Totally, well thank you so much verily, it's being my pleasure irrational, interview. And. It's great to feel also your passion, and how authentic, you are you know really in knitting you know that agenda, within. Accenture. Thank. You has a much larger ties thank you very much thank, you and. Thanks everyone for watching I, hope you enjoyed as much as I did it would be great to to. Find out you know what were your key takeaways from this conversation please. Write. Down something. In our comments, like. This episode. If you liked it share it. Also, if you think if, you got value out of it, and. If you want to learn more about my, work. Supporting. Companies on their inclusive. Leadership, journey. Visit. My website, they, click international. Comm Tabata, Buddha Beauty dot. Dec. LIC, international. Calm, I hope, to see you soon in, the next episode until. Then, embrace. Differences. In make, a difference, survive. Early.