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Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion With Gail Burgos

Monday, August 26, 2019

Gail Burgos is on the road again. She's off to another company location where she will meet with team members and share her vision for the company's diversity and inclusion initiative.

With more than 24 years of experience in the payments industry, Burgos has seen and experienced a lot. She's been a business analyst, client rep, project manager, IT guru and technology executive.

But for the past year, Burgos has served as the company's senior manager for diversity and inclusion. She believes diversity and inclusion within an organization leads to growth, understanding, and most importantly, a stronger global team.

She also believes companies that embrace different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations will have a more productive workforce. Not only is diversity the right thing to do, says Burgos, but studies show it's good for a company's bottom line, too.

Recently, Burgos sat down to discuss a range of topics on her radar, including unconscious bias, true inclusion, profits with a purpose, developing talent and ongoing challenges.

Here are five highlights from the conversation:

01 on true inclusion

People want a sense of belonging, says Burgos. They want to feel included.

"It's all about creating true inclusion, and having people really feel that they are a part of (a team)," says Burgos. "And that takes work every single day."

Several companies have even reversed it, notes Burgos. Instead of calling it diversity and inclusion, they're calling it inclusion and diversity.

"Because really if you get the inclusion part right, diversity will take care of itself," she says.

02 on unconscious bias

According to Burgos, everyone has some type of unconscious bias, or unintentional stereotype developed from our upbringing and background. Some of these are deeply ingrained and can influence behavior.

"When we talk about the journey of diversity and inclusion, it starts in your mind and your thoughts, which controls your behavior and your actions," says Burgos. "So what you feel, where you were born, where you were raised, all of those play a huge factor in how you treat others, how you see others, and your perception of others. Now that becomes normal, natural instinct."

Unconscious bias training programs are designed to expose people to their unconscious biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors.

"The unconscious bias training simply does not tell you that what you're doing or what you're thinking is bad," she says. "It's about things that you subconsciously may do that actually prohibits you from embracing the uniqueness and the differences of other people. How can you welcome someone if you have your own bias, your own wall and your perception of people may be different? So with unconscious bias training, it just helps us put that in check every single day."

Not only is diversity the right thing to do, says Burgos, but studies show it's good for a company's bottom line, too.

03 on a diverse pipeline of talent

Developing a diverse pipeline of talent is a top priority in the payments industry, says Burgos, who regularly connects with other diversity and inclusion officers at other companies.

"One of the things that constantly comes up is recruitment," says Burgos. "What are we doing to create a diverse pipeline and attract the talented workers of tomorrow?"

Partnering with school systems and encouraging students is one way to develop a talent pipeline. Under Burgos' direction, the company has invested in an extensive educational program for students that includes classroom instruction, facility tours, career shadowing days, internships, job fairs and mentoring clubs.

"We are reaching out to a diverse pool of students and giving them opportunities to engage with us," says Burgos. "This is so important when we talk about providing a real tangible experience for the talent of tomorrow."

04 on lessons learned from her father

When asked who was a big influencer in her life, Burgos pointed to her late father and the many lessons she learned from him.

She shared one experience when they toured the Baseball Hall of Fame together in Cooperstown, N.Y. They came upon a mural dedicated to Jackie Robinson and father asked daughter, "Who do you see?"

"That's Jackie Robinson," she replied. "He was the first African-American in Major League Baseball."

Yes, father said, you are correct, but he was much more than that.

"What you see before you is a leader," he said. "He was the right person to take on this role. There were a lot of African-Americans who were talented, had the skills and the build to be a great baseball player. But he was selected because of his leadership ability and that's what made him great."

05 on overcoming challenges and obstacles

One challenge for industry leaders is developing diversity and inclusion as part of a corporate strategy.

"Be sure your organization and your leadership go along this journey with you," says Burgos. "The entire company needs to be committed to diversity and inclusion."

There will be obstacles along the way, she adds.

"At times it may be rough, and there may be some decisions that have to be made that may not always be favorable or liked," she says. "There's some critical conversations that have to be held. There are some uncomfortable spaces that emerge along the journey. But if you stay true and step up to the challenges, you'll make a difference."