"We can take what we do and apply it to furthering diversity and inclusion globally"- A conversation with Dynata's Diversity & Inclusion Manager

Shabari_Dey
Sharbari Dey
Manager Diversity & Inclusion
Last quarter, Dynata adopted a 13-step strategy to make Diversity & Inclusion a priority for our business. Investing in this journey towards an increasingly diverse and inclusive future reflects our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) as both a strategy to drive growth and an opportunity to foster the right culture for our organization. One of the first steps in this strategy was to establish a dedicated D&I position and fill that role with someone passionate, knowledgeable and experienced in leading global D&I strategies.
Delivering on this first step, we are proud to introduce Sharbari Dey as Dynata’s Manager, Diversity & Inclusion. Sharbari brings over a decade of experience in D&I change initiatives – such as managing organizational climate, engagement, and access and success practices – within the higher education and global non-profit sectors. Read on to get to know Sharbari and learn more about what organizations should consider as they navigate the D&I space, common mistakes to avoid and our vision for Dynata’s D&I program.
Tiama-Hanson Drury, EVP Product Development: Hi, Sharbari! Great to chat with you again. The first question I’d like to ask is why Dynata? With so many social movements taking place this past summer, and an increased focus on the importance of D&I, I’m sure there are many available opportunities in the field. So, why this particular role?
Sharbari Dey: Thanks, Tiama. Excited to chat with you as well.
During my interviews, I quickly sensed Dynata’s intention to commit to best practices within the D&I space – both internally and externally. This makes Dynata well-poised to engage in the necessary examination of structural, interpersonal, internalised and institutional practices that fuels a D&I strategy. Which is important because of the nuanced and intentional effort required at the grassroots and leadership level to address diversity and inclusion at any organization. I view my role as a catalyst for designing a strategic D&I framework that is both sustainable and culturally responsive to the social contexts across all our regions. 
Tiama: Thanks, Sharbari. We’re equally excited to have you on board! I know you’re still new to Dynata, but I’m curious if you could elaborate on how – or why – you see potential for Dynata, and our industry to help lead the D&I conversation?
Sharbari: The way I see it, Dynata has market researchers and data scientists in the field every day, talking to consumers and B2B professionals about their attitudes and behaviors across a wide spectrum of topics. This gives us the unique opportunity to bring our expertise in gathering and connecting data to critical issues of equity and inclusion. And by helping our clients uncover these insights – and encouraging people to speak out through the power of research – we can take what we do every day as a data company and apply it to furthering diversity and inclusion, globally.
Tiama: And, backtracking a little, what does D&I mean to you? And how should today’s companies be thinking about it?
Sharbari: I think of diversity as the collective composition of the organization – or more simply, ‘who is in the space.’ This is based on individual social identities (race, class, gender expression, language, ability), historical context of marginalization, and cultural identities (acquired and familial). Inclusion is where employees are intentional about leveraging diversity to inform decision-making, and leaders are intentional about bringing marginalized voices to the table to ensure that everyone is comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the workplace; or in other words, ‘who is heard and valued.’
Tiama: So, diversity and inclusion are two separate concepts that must exist simultaneously to harness their collective power, correct?
Sharbari: That’s right. As organizations diversify, individuals who have been historically missing from discourse are adding their voices to shift dominant discourse. Inclusion is about the trust that those voices will be considered. This distinction is important if we reflect on the evolving language used for individuals with disabilities or to describe sexual orientation and gender identity – we see a shift towards language that better encompasses how a group would like to be understood and addressed. That is inclusion: our willingness to continually learn and understand the nuances of discourse, making us better allies and D&I practitioners.
Tiama: That makes me think…So many businesses are jumping into an increased focus in this area; how can they, and we, avoid some common mistakes?
Sharbari: Engaging in performance solidarity is the first mistake that comes to mind. ‘Performance solidarity’ refers to instances where we are vocal and visual in our support or condemnation, but don’t actively partake in dismantling or examining the processes that have enabled those inequities to exist. To say we are committed to an inclusive workplace is not enough – organizations must be able to articulate how they intend to meet that goal and what benchmarks are in place to achieve it. 
Also, making D&I work non-remunerative and consultative. If organizations expect employees to give their expertise, time and innovation there must be a way to compensate for that labor.
Third, conflating D&I with trainings. Educational trainings are a small part of the process; D&I work needs to intersect every part of the employee lifecycle from hiring to exiting.
Lastly, overlooking intersectionality. Intersectionality is the confluence of race/caste/tribal affiliation, gender and class. These three social identities shape our lived experiences and cultural contexts, and therefore, have a strong influence on organizational culture.
Tiama: Thanks for that background, Sharbari. During our initial meeting, I was impressed by your previous work with a wide range of organizations based on what I believe you called the “D&I maturity scale.” How would you advise a company just looking to ramp up its investment in this area now?
Sharbari: I’d counsel them to take a deep breath and resist the urge to grab the low hanging fruit to respond to socio-political pressures. Designing an effective D&I strategy requires a commitment to reflecting on and auditing what already exists and having candid conversations about the connections between who we are – what we do – how we have contributed to upholding inequitable systems, and what we’re willing to risk in rectifying current practices. It is a reflective, iterative and collaborative process.
Tiama: And I know we talked a bit about Dynata’s opportunity within the D&I space, but can you tell us more about how we’re working towards our goals?
Sharbari: Sure. A significant amount of internal analysis must take place prior to the development of any D&I strategy. And while we’ve already gathered valuable feedback from employees and leaders, we still need to continue the work of identifying potential problem areas before we begin devising a solution. I am hopeful that by 2021 we will have a two-year roadmap in place, detailing our organizational priorities for D&I and the steps required for that process.
Tiama: Thank you so much for joining me Sharbari. I’m excited to see our commitment to D&I be realized!
Sharbari: Thanks, Tiama. I’m excited too.