In the latest addition of Meet Our Advisory Board Member, I wanted to introduce you to Goki Muthusamy, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion with Visa Inc. Diversity and Inclusion is such an important part of a business and Goki has first-hand experience in developing and engaging others into diversity and inclusion throughout workplace.
BH: Tell me a little about yourself and what led you into a Diversity & Inclusion career for some of the largest financial institutions in the world:
GM:I started my career in non-profit organizations specifically with the interest of empowering youth. By 23, I worked on developmental projects in Asia, Europe and Africa and completed a training in UNESCO Paris on cultural diversity and volunteerism.
I was on the way to another challenge when I saw that a Bank was recruiting for a Diversity & Inclusion manager in Asia. I was surprised. ‘Why would a for-profit organization care about diversity & inclusion?’ That got me interested….
I took on the 6-month assignment and found the interplay of financial services and diversity & inclusion to be really profound. It was more than just building a great reputation or being compliant. It came from an intrinsic motivation to be a major differentiator to attract, retain, and advance the best diverse talent.
This was the first time I saw that diversity and inclusion directly impacts the bottom line. The dynamic global environment of financial services and ability to make an impact internally and externally not only drew me, but also kept me in diversity & inclusion and financial services. So, what started as a 6-month assignment then became a (almost) 10 year career in financial services in diversity & inclusion.
BH: The role of Diversity and Inclusion is a newer role within HR. Why is this role now essential to a business?
GM: Parts of the function of Diversity & Inclusion have existed in different shapes and forms over the past 20 years. It’s probably in the past decade that businesses, academia, and shareholders are seeing the quantifiable impact of diversity and inclusion. There has been so much more research done on the ROI of diversity and inclusion; specifically the impact to innovation, teamwork, creativity, and performance. Companies like McKinsey have introduced the "diversity dividend", a measurable way to track diversity and financial performance. These types of critical and credible research is -without a doubt- sending a clear message that the focus on diversity & inclusion is essential.
BH: You have worked in numerous large international cities including Hong Kong and Singapore, all within in Diversity& Inclusion roles. Can you tell me some things that differ greatly from country to country?
GM: Being based in Hong Kong and Singapore, I have had the opportunity to work across different cities in Asia Pacific. On the surface, these 2 cities might be similar – both are very multicultural, have rich heritage and pro-business. However, when you scratch the surface, you will start to see that what motivates people, the cultural nuances, policies and practices greatly differ. To address issues around gender, local talent, LGBTQ or disability etc, it requires an understanding of how these challenges are contextualized in Singapore vs. Hong Kong; being able to address some of these challenges in the broader historical and cultural backdrop becomes important.
BH: What is the most impactful thing you have done thus far in your career?
GM: Many organizations are trying to engage mid-level managers in diversity and inclusion. They are the ones who oversee large employee base, have significant influence over decisions and are critical behind employee engagement. I initiated and developed a diversity leadership series targeted at mid-level managers, which provided them everyday tools to help build and manage diverse and inclusive teams. If I can pick another one, it was that I launched the Return to Work Program that facilitated the re-entry of highly talent women who left the workforce for childcare and eldercare reasons.
I’m very proud to be involved these initiatives because I have seen the direct impact to the individuals and to the business.
BH: The news is constantly flooded with stories on gender pay gaps and diversity challenges. In your experience, what steps should organizations take to recruit and retain diverse talent?
GM: You are right, if we look at the newsfeed, demographics of major global companies have changed little over the past decades.
There are so many challenges, and sometimes it can get overwhelming and we sometimes end up "admiring the magnitude of the problem"…. The way I think about it is to tackle it on a granular level, looking at it at every angle and getting ahead of when decisions are being made and not after.
So for example, looking at hiring projections – who are the hiring managers and how can we support them to engage with a "non-traditional" candidate? Not just because that person is different, but because they bring a perspective that’s not there.
Leadership trainings such as Unconscious Bias are a great start, but how are we reinforcing the learnings? Are we reviewing who is being invited to key leadership meetings? Are we facilitating senior leadership to get to know diverse talent locally and internationally? I think trainings are critical, but we can’t rest on our laurels just because we have delivered a training.
There are several examples I can share and have learnt, but the common denominator in all of them is to be specific, practical, and map out what, where, who, and when opportunities for change can happen. And most crucially being able to get ahead of when decisions are made be it hiring, promotions, and retention.
BH: What is your favorite part of your job?
GM: I think my favorite of my job would be a lot similar to what others would say – doing what I love, working with talented people and being able to see how my work impacts others.