Crossing Boundaries:
Journeying from Diversity to Inclusion​​

According to McKinsey’s May 2020 report, “Diversity Wins,” or in other words, “D&I is a powerful enabler of business performance. Companies whose leaders welcome diverse talent and include multiple perspectives are likely to emerge from the crisis stronger. In short: diversity wins, now more than ever.”

Here at Fortude, we continue to make diversity part of our DNA. The mistake that is commonly made across several industries is that organizations leave it up to HR to foster inclusive environments. D&I is not an HR strategy; it’s a strategy that includes everyone – so, in order to be successful, we have to be successful together.

Back in 2018, we launched an initiative in line with International Women’s Day to enable Fortudites to understand the importance of diversity. We asked industry leaders to join us, sharing their thoughts. Remarking on his life experiences, our Managing Director Arjuna Sirinanda spoke about his passion for recruiting and retaining a talented, diverse team. In addition, the panel asserted that it was critical that male professionals and other well-represented demographics do their part to support D&I initiatives, since this benefits everyone.

Later that year, we decided to work towards really ‘including’ inclusion – in other words, to make the value of diversity matter, across all our projects and initiatives. That’s when we put together our first baseline data – an internal survey on the impact of Diversity and Inclusion on the organization.

November 2018 brought us the Fortude CHIP challenge, which brought together diverse thinking as we worked towards a common goal. While the whole event, facilitated by Sandbox Consultancy, was heaps of fun, it taught us many things – and top on the list were the endless possibilities available if we only embraced our differences and used it as one of our biggest value propositions. If you look closer at this picture, you can see the flags where we, as an organization, are represented – each location as rich in culture as the next, and bringing to our business goals the zest and drive which motivates us all.

We then looked to really define our D&I mandate, asking ourselves the question: what does diversity mean to us? In a nutshell, Fortude seeks to create an environment that is conducive to a wide assortment of employees, enabling them to function effectively irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, different types of thinking, world views, skill set, education, geographic upbringing, religion or sexual orientation.

Our goals:
• To reduce the gender disparity to 40:60 in 2020
• To maintain fair & transparent processes for hiring & promotions
• To create awareness on unconscious bias
• To nurture “Glocal” thinking & culture

Once again, in January 2019, we requested Carmen, Nirusha, Danu to speak to our teams on the various aspects of diversity, launching therewith, our diversity pledge.

From left: Danu Innasithamby (Global Peace Ambassador for the World Peace and Diplomacy Organization), Nirusha Ranjitkumar Ratnatunga (Partner at Nithya Partners) & Carmen Niethammer (Program Manager – Women in Work at IFC) at the launch of the I AM DIVERSITY initiative at Fortude.

The Fortude Diversity Pledge

As a Fortudite, I will strive:

  • To embrace the diversity of all individuals respecting such attributes as their sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, physical ability, mental ability, and expression.
  • To strive toward equal opportunity and justice for all people in order to create and sustain a safer, more productive, and inclusive Fortude environment.
  • To refrain from using derogatory terms or statements that are harmful and disrespectful to others.
  • To not contribute to stereotypes or make generalizations about individuals but rather to use my own experiences and interactions to better understand and embrace all people.
  • To educate myself about cultures other than my own.
  • To engage in and contribute to the diverse world around me.
  • To actively honor this pledge within my everyday life.

We then launched our Diversity Awareness campaign, entitled ‘Better Together.’ The 60-minute training program invited participants to engage in activities promoting a better understanding of the concepts of diversity & inclusion while generating an awareness of Fortude’s commitment to D&I. Ultimately, our goal was to foster a culture of mutual respect, particularly among diverse groups.

The unexpected

The history of humanity has been defined by choices. Some of these choices have led to ground-breaking political decisions in favor of unity – such as the right to vote, or the collapse of the Berlin wall. Other choices have been detrimental to unity – like the first anti-semitic propaganda in Hitler’s Germany, or the imprisonment and torture of the man who would one day become South Africa’s leader, Nelson Mandela.
How we chose to act, how we continue to choose to respond in the face of adversity, will define our future.

Our key actions

Diversity in the wake of COVID-19

The year 2020 certainly had its fair share of catastrophe. Nevertheless, we were all brought together by that which was keeping us apart – a world united in the battle against a microorganism, the Coronavirus. At Fortude, this meant a twist or two (or three!) to our way of working. We went from conducting instructor-led training sessions predominantly face-to-face to bringing the entire global workforce together on virtual, bite-sized training sessions. Global, all-staff team meetings were no longer exceptions. Employee engagement was still possible. ‘Working From Home,’ which was previously considered a category of physical absence from the workplace, was now the safest way to work. Everything that we thought we could not do without suddenly took second place. And above all else, we learned that no matter what beginnings we’ve had or what unique experiences we’ve come from, we need to be able to work together as a global community if we are to keep ourselves safe and healthy.

So where do we go from here?

We do have a number of options, but one thing is for sure – we want to move from understanding to embracing diversity, and from thereon, to ensure inclusion amidst our workforce.

In the words of diversity advocate Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

We hope you’ll partner with us as we continue on this journey.

Kavitha Gunasekera

Senior Manager – Global Talent Development