Corporations want to alter the system and be inclusive, says SumUp’s international head of variety

Corporations want to alter the system and be inclusive, says SumUp’s international head of variety

The German Felizitas Lichtenberg, global director of diversity and inclusion at the payment company SumUp spoke to EXAME in her interview in Brazil. “Diversity is good for business and good for societies,” she says; see full interview

Diversity and inclusion in companies cannot be an exclusive theme of the human resources area, much less isolated from the global business strategy. With this in mind, the mobile payments company SumUp has for two years, Felizitas Lichtenberg as global director of diversity and inclusion.

The executive, who was in Brazil to closely monitor the company’s operations, spoke to EXAME about the advances in the organization’s culture and, consequently, in serving different audiences. “We need to encourage socially disadvantaged groups to focus on their development, regardless of the country in which they operate. Diversity and inclusion is important for the business of companies in all sectors and, of course, for people,” she says. See the full interview with Lichtenberg, a German-Indonesian executive.

being in charge of head of diversity and inclusion relatively new in companies, tell us a little about the experiences that led you to the position.

SumUp started the global approach to diversity and inclusion about two years ago and I’ve been with the company ever since. In previous experiences, in the marketing area, in addition to focusing on the portfolio, I also enjoyed looking at products and services for socially underserved groups, an activity that took me to the world of diversity and inclusion (D&I) 10 years ago, when I became a diversity and inclusion leader with a focus on leadership and talent development.

It was a position at Vodafone Germany. Three years later, I was promoted to a global level, working in London. At the end of 2020 I came to SumUp to establish a global strategy based on the company’s values, such as We Care, of giving back to local communities; Team First, to incorporate D&I into the employee journey; and Founders Mentality, which aims to support entrepreneurs from minority groups.

Over time, we’ve increased my scope and I’m combining D&I with sustainability to be able to increase our social impact and additionally help protect the planet. An example of this is that, globally, we are part of a movement called 1% for the planet, a commitment to donate 1% of the net revenue generated by a card reader of ours called Solo to sustainable initiatives.

How does the company value cultural diversity globally?

We have a global strategy with local market specificities. A good way to summarize what we do is to divide our initiatives into the main pillars of: visibility; development; gender equality; culture and community.

In terms of visibility, for example, it is important that leaders show their support for the theme, with the CEO being a fundamental part of this. We also encourage employees to be each other’s allies, as socially disadvantaged groups need to work much harder in life because, unfortunately, they suffer constant micro and macro aggressions.

So we as a company need to do our part to remove unconscious biases and contribute to changing the system. And we also need to encourage these groups to focus on their development, regardless of the country in which they operate.

Also, I believe it’s important to talk about privileges. If someone has them, that doesn’t mean the person hasn’t struggled and worked hard where they are today. And it’s not about blaming someone who has more privileges than you. But it’s about recognizing it and using it to create a more inclusive culture or society.

How does inclusion help in the development of professionals?

There are several actions, and an example comes from inclusive leadership workshops. In these sessions we prepare leaders to embrace diversity and inclusion in their teams. This is when understanding concepts of belonging, equity and inclusion, as well as unconscious bias, microaggressions, privilege and inclusive leadership, which need to be addressed so that everyone feels included, performs well and, consequently, develops. We run workshops like this globally three times a quarter and we also train employees in local markets to be able to run the sessions for non-English speaking teams.

What are the main actions carried out on the diversity fronts?

We have worked with many diversity fronts, understanding the needs of each one. For example:

Neurodiversity: We educate employees around these topics and talk about the stigma that exists as we need to focus on the strengths of people who are neurodiverse and change the expectations we have of how people should behave.

Gender Equality: Globally, we aim to hire 30% of women in senior leadership roles. We are at 23% (18% last year) and we will continue our efforts here. In Brazil, they are 63% in the general staff, 48% in middle levels, and 50% in leadership, including the board of directors.

Trans people: We cover 100% of name correction expenses and partially support hormone treatment for people who choose to undergo this therapy. We recognize, however, that we still need to correct some things in our systems, such as removing the so-called “dead name”, that is, the baptismal name with which the person does not identify, in case it is appearing at some point, and we are working on it.

We also work with affinity groups, namely: blacks, LGBTI+, women and neurodiverse. These groups aim to support employees and improve the organization. In addition, each network in this network has a senior executive as a sponsor, which aims to involve other senior leaders on diversity topics, give visibility to the group’s actions and help with career progression.

How to promote diversity and inclusion in the company’s culture?

D&I efforts are only possible if the organization has a culture that embraces the topic. We have a value called “We Care”, which is about how we care about people. This is an important aspect of our culture as it is reflected in tolerance to ensure that everyone belongs. As a result, 82% of employees say they can be themselves and belong.

Another issue is understanding the representation of different groups by region to create awareness and understanding of each other. For example, what is the representation of a country and what is the representation of these groups in SumUp?

In Brazil, 23% of employees declare themselves to be LGBTI+, with 1% being transgender. Meanwhile, studies indicate that about 10% of the global population is LGBTI+. In all the countries where we operate, the LGBTI+ group represents 18% of the company, but it is, for example, a much smaller representation in Bulgaria than in Brazil. Understandings like this are important for strategy.

There is also social work outside the company. What are the main actions in this area in Brazil?

In Brazil, we have partnered with some NGOs in education, culture and health for pregnant women and babies, children, adolescents, young people, adults and people with disabilities. We also help the Escola Técnica em Agroecologia Luana Carvalho (ETALC), which promotes sustainable agricultural education for rural workers by offering courses in agroecology and the production of organic products. Another NGO we help is CapacitaMe, founded by Rachel Maia, which offers professional education to people in socioeconomic vulnerability and supports them in their search for employment.

Last but not least, we must talk about the partnership we created with Generation Brasil, an NGO that helps people from disadvantaged groups to learn how to work in the technology market, giving them the opportunity to work in a thriving market. Last year, we offered 30 unemployed youth a 3-month Java Fullstack development program and hired 11 of them, most of them women and people of color. To date, 78% of respondents have found tech jobs since graduating in March.

How to engage financial market leaders to create more inclusive companies?

Companies, not just financial, but all of them, need to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and the responsibility to improve the lives of socially minored people. It’s a human rights issue, good for business and good for societies. Only if we are diverse can we understand customer needs, hire the best talent and look at solutions and services with different perspectives.

Source: Exam

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