European Bank for Reconstruction and Development hosted a powerful Diversity Week that drove meaningful conversations


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EBRD presents hugely successful and engaging Diversity Week

EBRD presents hugely successful and engaging Diversity Week

 November 02, 2020

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) hosted a powerful Diversity Week that aimed to engage staff from across its regions in meaningful discussions and important conversations.

The Week proved a great success for the Bank, and drew significant participation and engagement from staff of all backgrounds and levels of seniority.

Several interactive events, webinars and fireside chats saw significant participation, with an average of 100 participants per event throughout the week. Many of these events featured external experts on topics from understanding addiction to traditional Japanese art forms.

A special piece by one employee, Alicia, called 'Going for DiversiTEA' proved very engaging and inspiring, as she spoke to different teams in the Bank to see how they marked Diversity Week with their own virtual coffee events.

This year, the theme for their Diversity Week was ‘We are all EBRD’, with the aim of showing support to its staff members, whatever their circumstances and in whatever capacity, through this new normal. The events and activities on offer addressed a wide range of topics, including:

  • Finding ability from disability
  • Responsibilities and opportunities for leaders
  • Mitigating unconscious bias in virtual teams
  • Finding your voice at work
  • Actionable allyship from being a bystander to an upstander
  • Lessons learned from lockdown to better cope emotionally, socially, physically, and academically

Additionally, and being quite creative with the diversity-focused activity, over 20 individual teams across the Bank held virtual “picnics” or coffee sessions, where the participants got together to have an informal chat on all things diversity and inclusion. When asked to brainstorm what D&I meant to them, the different teams came back with a variety of responses, such as:

  • Remaining open-minded
  • Being engaged in building relationships
  • Being respectful of one another
  • Being caring towards others
  • Accepting differences in other people

Overall, staff feedback from the Bank’s Diversity Week was hugely positive.

Extensive social media activity

The EBRD saw a high level of employee engagement with their social media activity. A heartfelt post called ‘My lockdown miracle’ by one EBRD colleague, Lucia, over her experience with fertility, generated considerable interaction across the Bank’s internal channels. The powerful and personal piece resonated strongly with many people.

An open heart and an open mind

EBRD - Ivana Duarte

The EBRD’s Head of Azerbaijan, Ivana Duarte (pictured above), shared a thought-provoking and inspiring article about having an open heart and an open mind when it comes to Diversity in the Bank’s regions. Ivana was prompted to consider deeply what ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ meant to her and how they manifest throughout her life, both in the personal and professional realm. Ivana was born in Slovakia, and as she began her career and began moving around the world, she propelled herself into unknown cultures. She wondered if she could assimilate. She considered how she might be treated as a working professional woman. She contemplated the impact of her religious beliefs.

"Rôznorodosť, diversidad, diversity, rozmanitost, sokféleség, müxtəliflik. This is how you say ‘diversity’ in each of the six countries I have lived in - Slovakia, Spain, UK, Czech Republic, Hungary and Azerbaijan," explains Ivana. "There’s something striking about this list of words that are supposed to mean the same thing. Not only do they sound and look different, but ‘diversity’ itself has different connotations, nuances, and implications in each of these cultures.

"I believe diversity and inclusion is a continuous process of learning. To me, it’s about challenging myself to understand others’ experiences, being flexible to change by attitude, and enriching my perception of the world. At its heart, I believe D&I is about keeping an open mind – and that’s what I try to do both in my personal life and in the workplace ... I firmly believe that one way of learning is simply to learn from others, and having diverse teams and working with people from different backgrounds, of a different gender and race, sexual orientation, and religion is an opportunity to enrich oneself and grow as an individual," she writes.

Having spent considerable time in Azerbaijan in her current role, Ivana has seen the many challenges the region faces in regard to true workplace diversity. "The most visible challenge remains an inequality of opportunities and career progression based on one’s gender. When looking for a new colleague to join the Bank, I as a manager always try to consider candidates that would not be a ‘traditional’ fit for the role in the region. For instance, a female professional for a role as a banker, and a male candidate for a receptionist role. While we can all acknowledge that these are outdated stereotypes, they are very much still a reality in many of our regions and we have to see them in order to beat them," she explains.

While each culture may have its own challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Ivana believes the way to start overcoming barriers is to listen, learn and keep an open mind. Diversity of cultures and different ways of understanding the world are important for building a more open and accepting society. "I hope that we as a Bank can continue to build this strong culture of diversity and inclusion across the entire institution. After all, it’s more exciting and fun that way," she says.

Forging an inclusive, supportive, and friendly work culture

"Taking the time to check in with each other and have discussions about anything and everything is one step on the way to making our work culture feeling more inclusive, supportive, and friendly," cited one EBRD employee. Consider your own career path with the EBRD The EBRD invests in changing lives – a mission that could not be achieved without its employees.

Research the wide range of projects and career opportunities available within the EBRD.

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