For evidence of the bottom-line value of a diverse and inclusive workplace, look no further than HP. Chris Maguire, Managing Director for the Corporate sector at Thomson Reuters, spoke with US-based Kim Rivera, HP’s Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, about the company’s commitment to what she calls the “gift of diversity”.
Rivera has more than 20 years of experience advising Fortune 500 companies on significant corporate transactions; governance matters; securities; compliance; risk management; audit; and, litigation matters. She has also served on numerous non-profit boards, including the California Latino Community Foundation and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, and is a frequent speaker on diversity and inclusion in corporations and the legal profession, with emphasis on women in leadership.
HP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) is clear. What’s the business case driving the commitment?
There is more than enough data to support the proposition that diversity and inclusion are good for business. A study from McKinsey shows that ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35 percent and that gender-diverse companies and companies with gender-diverse boards outperform industry norms by 15 percent.
The culture at HP is one that has long understood the value of diversity and inclusion to creating a company that attracts, develops and retains a broad spectrum of talent. Our biggest competitive advantage is our people. The value each person brings to the company because of his/her experiences, perspectives and approaches is significant. We want, welcome and embrace their uniqueness.
When the company set out to split in two, there was an explicit decision to create the most diverse board in the technology industry, even in the nation. The decision was tied to trying to create a company that was going to be innovative and high performing because of its diverse leadership—there was perfect clarity about it. And HP did it.
What’s been the impact of having a diverse talent force?
The result has been unprecedented growth and innovation at HP. If you look at any of the articles about what was predicted at the time of the split versus what the performance has been, you’ll see we have outperformed every expectation. The stock price has doubled. We’ve reported six straight quarters of double-digit earnings growth. And we’re now the worldwide leader in desktop PCs. Of course, a significant reason for these results is operational discipline and focus. But another key reason is our focus on finding, attracting and cultivating diverse talent at every level of the company starting at the very top.
What are the major stumbling blocks to achieving diversity in a company?
A major stumbling block is bias. Identifying and addressing the overwhelming amount of bias that exists are key to changing the sad reality coined in the phrase: “Talent is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not”. And this reality will change only when we become aware of our bias. We all have biases—blind spots—that we can correct if we can see and understand them.
HP’s Reinvent Mindsets initiative does a riveting job in pulling the cover back on bias and its impact, especially the video series. What has been the impact of the video series?
The first step to eradicating bias—personal and institutional—is to call it out. The video series brings to light the reality and the problem of unconscious bias towards women (Dads and Daughters), African Americans (Let’s Get in Touch), Latinos (#LatinoJobs) and the LGBT community (Proud Portraits). The videos offer a sensitive and necessarily blunt portrayal of the biases and systemic barriers that have kept these groups from having a fair opportunity to demonstrate their talent.
The impact of the videos is that they have catalysed the issues around bias and the need—indeed the imperative—of tackling bias at every level of the recruitment, retainment and promotion of our most valuable asset: talent. The multilevel initiative is another concrete step toward our commitment to end bias in the workplace.
It replaces polite conversations about bias with real conversations.
I think that’s right. The ads are powerful. They’re emotional. I’ve shown the video on Latinos at several gatherings of Latino professionals and there was a lot of crying. It’s touching something very deep.
What has been the response to the video series within HP?
The overwhelming feeling at HP is one of pride. We are all incredibly proud that this is part of who we are and what we’re doing. You are not going to forget the message of these videos.
What are the conversations in the legal department around D&I?
Our D&I goals are always front and centre. We talk about progress on our goals both internally and with our outside law firms. We’re always trying to think about how do we take these conversations to the next level? How do we structure an environment where people feel comfortable having an open dialogue about D&I and then taking concrete steps toward actionable solutions? We’re finding our way there. The power of the Reinvent Mindsets videos is that they illuminate the strong emotions that must be a part of the conversation.
Why is D&I so personal to you?
First, I hold a fervent belief that everybody deserves a fair chance to achieve whatever they aspire to achieve. It’s something I care deeply about because I know what life is for people with talent, but little to no real opportunities. They work two or three jobs to better their lives and their family’s lives, yet they don’t move up because of societal barriers. Correcting that inequity matters to me. I see it as a moral imperative.
Second, I know from experience that a diverse team is more dynamic and innovative than a homogenous team. I make the statement without hesitation or qualification. Ours is a global economy and the more people from different backgrounds, with different attitudes, and with different mindsets we bring together, the more successful and enriched we’re going be.
How does that commitment translate to how you lead the legal department?
I’ve been working on diversity and inclusion for more than 20 years in different capacities. And in all those years as well as in this time and place, I am deeply committed in word and in deed to create an environment where people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives have a chance to be their best, realise their potential and be recognised for their value. In this effort I have the full support of the board and CEO.
So how I lead is with the unwavering intention of walking the talk by creating a diverse, innovative, high-performing in-house legal team that has demonstrated the power of diversity professionally and personally. I set clear expectations and incentives—including financial incentives—around D&I that are applied with fairness and rigor. My approach is the same for our outside law firms. Last year we established a mandate with our external firms requiring them to meet exacting diversity staffing requirements and levying a 10 percent invoice withholding provision for failure to meet the requirements.
How do you influence other GCs to use their positions to drive D&I?
By talking to them and then talking to them some more. I also badger and pester them, sit on panels with them and follow up often. I tell them about what we’ve done, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I am confident my colleagues at other legal departments would say I’m incredibly persistent and tenacious.
I also find out where they are in their thinking about D&I. I ask them lots of questions. “Tell me how you would promote D&I? What are the barriers that you face?” And, I have to tell you, they want to have these conversations because they want to move the dial on this issue. It’s just going to take time, effort, dedication and commitment on everyone’s part. And I think we have to be a little bit badass about it. We need to act like warriors ready to take on the fight and not back down. We have to be willing to take risks and be bold in how we do it.
What do you hope to win?
A world where diversity is truly celebrated. I would like to see that in my lifetime, not just for my sake, but for my daughter’s sake and for everyone’s sake. Diversity is a gift—it really is.