Building a DEI Program from the Ground Up
What does it take to create and implement a formal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program? Here’s what we’ve done at Megaport, and how we’re going forward.
When I joined Megaport two years ago, we had no formalized, global diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) effort across the company. Seeing that our employees wanted their cultures and backgrounds acknowledged by the organization, we soon began developing our programs and activities. And while there is always more to achieve, we are proud of how far we have come.
Here are the steps we’ve taken, what we advocate as best practices, and the results we’ve seen to date.
Start where employees have interest
Two years ago, we had many different local and regional DEI initiatives, but they lacked impact because the efforts weren’t centralized. The good news is that those initiatives demonstrated just how passionate our employees were about DEI! I then agreed to take on the task of centralizing these efforts.
We began by launching MP1 Changemakers, a volunteer group of employees whose goal is to make a difference for our colleagues and our communities in relation to important social and workplace issues, as well as causes we feel passionate about. We identified our key themes together, with a focus on ensuring an inclusive workforce at Megaport. MP1 Changemakers currently has 40 contributing members and our top three priorities are to:
- Increase representation of women at Megaport
- Celebrate our diversity
- Improve social connectedness and wellbeing.
We then launched an education series to build awareness of why a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace matters. The six-part series was co-designed with Leaders for Good and covered the following topics:
- What and Why DEI
- Inclusive Language
- Speaking Up
“What’s unique about the way Megaport has taken on DEI is it’s driven by a group of employees and was that way prior to the implementation of an official effort,” said Channel Marketing Manager Devin Lim.
“It’s very interesting to see that in this industry, which historically has not been diverse.”
As an outcome of the series, we recorded a 30% increase in DEI confidence with an average ‘session value’ score of 4.3/5. The content has been repurposed as an online program and is included in our onboarding for new hires, ensuring continuity and sustainability of impact. We view this not as a compliance exercise, but as an integral part of our values.
This year, we added Dr. Zaheer Ahmad and Larry Henderson, both distinguished DEI leaders, as external advisors to our Changemakers program. In this capacity, they’ll help determine next steps for the program.
Dr. Ahmad, JP, CCMI, FInstLM held senior level positions with the UK Home Office, UK Ministry of Justice and EY and is the global head of DEI at Haleon. Mr. Henderson is a proven Global Leader of DE&I initiatives holding numerous board and advisory positions, and is a Program Director at C4ADS.
Prioritize developing women as leaders
Our board also set goals for increasing the number of women in the company at all levels and to that end, we added Glo Gordon and Melinda Snowden to the Board of Directors.
We also created the Women Rising Program, supported by Microsoft. This is a six-month virtual leadership program that equips women to become more effective, authentic, and confident leaders through video and audio training modules including “Understanding and Managing Bias” to “Effectively Mentoring and Sponsoring Women.”
Strong learning and development initiatives often have a game-changing impact on enabling women to rise in their careers in the global technology sector, and we’re committed to investing in developing female leaders at Megaport.
“The diversity program is about everybody getting a fair go, regardless of race, gender, religion, culture, age, or sexuality,” said Business Support and Travel Manager Sarah Dwyer.
“Megaport is the most diverse company I’ve ever worked for; there is a space for everybody.”
We ended FY22 with females comprising 28.3% of our workforce, well above the industry average of 19% (in the UK), per Tech Nation Report.
In recognition of International Women’s Day 2023 (March 8), all Megaporters were invited to bring their questions and hear from some of our company’s trailblazing women. Topics discussed included balancing work with motherhood and working as a woman in STEM (the United Nations’s IWD 2023 theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”).
It was a valuable time to pause and reflect on how both men and women can support and advocate for women not only in the office, but also interpersonally.
Support mental health
To us, prioritizing DEI also means supporting the mental health of our employees. Mental health affects everyone differently and can be shaped by gender, race, orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, and age.
Research indicates that some groups are disproportionately affected by mental health issues, and when an individual falls into two or more minority groups (such as a woman with a disability), the impacts can be even more pronounced.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for mental health support, as our team was working remotely while juggling other priorities like helping kids complete schoolwork or caring for elderly parents.
The Australian non-profit organization R U OK? was founded in 2009, and their annual R U OK? Day is a national day of action for Aussies, where people are reminded to check in on each other, ask “are you okay?”, and start a meaningful conversation if they see someone struggling.
We began hosting R U OK? Day in 2021; for our second event on 8 September 2022, we were honored to have former Australian Olympic Champion, Libby Trickett, and Mental Health Trainer Sharon Orapeleng, join us in the Brisbane office.
They shared their stories, spoke about what mental health means to them, and shared their personal struggles as well as the steps they take to protect their mental health. Finally, they offered valuable advice on how to check on yourself and others.
In 2022, we also offered a Mental Health First Aid course that helps employees become accredited in the Mental Health First Aid Workplace Recognition Program.
Providing employees with the time they need to welcome a new family member is an important component to supporting wellbeing.
“I felt very supported to take three months off all at once for paternity leave,” said Kyle Gibson, Head of Finance Operations & Strategy.
“I have a very understanding boss who not only supported my leave, but also worked in my career development around it, so I could return to a new role.”
No DEI effort would be complete without an emphasis on inclusivity and allyship with the LGBTQ+ community. This is included in our DEI training, but we wanted to do more, so last year we created an in-person networking event with Pride Professionals in our Brisbane office.
At the event, we launched the first Pride Professionals Mentoring Program in Queensland, seeking participation from mentors, mentees, and sponsors. We also opened up the event to people outside of Megaport.
In recognition of Pride Month, which occurs in June of each year, we always organize a number of events and initiatives to learn, listen, and get involved in support of our LGBTQ+ community. Each June is dedicated to providing a series of opportunities for our colleagues around the globe, with a focus on the interrelated topics of inclusion and psychological safety.
We believe LGBTQ+ inclusivity exists when a person can come to work and be themselves without having to fear that their sexuality or gender will be an issue, cause them to be rejected, or be used against them.
Providing development opportunities and ensuring career satisfaction to all employees are very important to us. In two short years, we have gone from an ad hoc, inconsistent set of programs to establishing objectives and an agenda for each year, with centralized orchestration.
What makes it work is our people, who remain involved and passionate about DEI as a priority. While we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in a short period of time, there is still much work to do.