Recap: Transform Spotlight Series – Building and Cultivating a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging (At a Global Scale)

“Inclusion for me is about making everyone feel valued and respected at all times in the company.”

– Tabitha Luis

Enrique Rubio, Head of Transform’s Global Community, kicked off the conversation by introducing a diverse group of speakers from around the world, emphasizing the global nature of the Transform community. He highlighted the importance of having a global perspective on inclusion and belonging, stating, “Today, we will have an incredibly diverse group of people representing several regions of the world having this conversation of building and cultivating a culture of inclusion and belonging together with me.”

Panel Introductions:

Each panelist provided a brief introduction, highlighting their unique backgrounds and roles within the Transform community:

  • Dahlia Turner: “I am the Chief People Officer for Rake Tech, a Canadian living in Portugal. I am thrilled to be part of the global network that is Transform.”
  • Tabitha: “Originally from Venezuela, I live in Madrid. I’ve been working in HR for 15 years, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the past two years.”
  • Laba Nawaz: “I am from Hyderabad, India, and work as a program manager in DEI and employee experience at Eventbrite.”
  • Rodina Walsh: “I am an organizational psychologist from Bulgaria, living in Ireland. I have been a business lecturer and a remote talent advisor for the past five years.”
  • Emmanuel Michael: “Based in Lagos, Nigeria, I am the founder of HR with EM, and I am a certified leadership and career success coach.”

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Defining Inclusion and Belonging:

The panelists shared their insights on what inclusion and belonging mean and why they are essential for global companies:

  • Emmanuel Michael: Inclusion and belonging drive innovation by bringing diverse perspectives together. When everyone feels valued, it boosts employee engagement and morale. Companies with inclusive cultures often achieve better financial performance and can attract top talent.
  • Tabita: Inclusion is about making everyone feel valued and respected at all times in the company. Understanding local diversity, equity, and inclusion regulations is crucial for international companies. It’s also about doing the right thing morally.
  • Laba Nawaz: Inclusion is about creating a safe environment where people feel heard and respected. Belonging means ensuring everyone feels safe and valued.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Inclusion and belonging enhance innovation and employee engagement.
  2. Respecting and understanding local DEI regulations are crucial for international operations.
  3. Creating a safe and respectful environment is fundamental for fostering belonging.

Maintaining Company Culture Globally:

The discussion moved to how companies can maintain their unique cultures while respecting local practices:

  • Dalia Turner: Recognizing and addressing biases is crucial. Educating employees, managers, and leaders about cultural differences helps marry company culture with local practices. Awareness and understanding of time zones, communication styles, and cultural norms are essential for global operations.
  • Rodina Walsh: Erin Meyer’s book ‘The Culture Map’ is a great resource for understanding cultural differences. Companies should embrace the local region’s culture while integrating their values.
  • Laba Nawaz: Strategies need to be customized and co-created locally. Leaders should lead by example, embracing diversity and showing flexibility.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Cultural education and awareness are essential for global operations.
  2. Utilize resources like “The Culture Map” to understand cultural differences.
  3. Customize and co-create DEI strategies to fit local contexts.

Role of Leaders in Promoting Inclusivity:

The panelists discussed the importance of leaders in fostering inclusive workplaces:

  • Tabita: Leaders should actively listen and give everyone a chance to contribute. Communication should be transparent and inclusive, emphasizing empathy and understanding.
  • Emmanuel Michael: Leaders should ensure diverse representation in projects and actively engage with all team members. They should identify and support those who may be hesitant to speak up.
  • Laba Nawaz: Inclusion and belonging start at a small level. Simple actions like correctly pronouncing names, welcoming new employees, and recognizing individual preferences can make a significant impact.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Active listening and transparent communication are vital leadership qualities.
  2. Diverse representation in projects promotes inclusivity.
  3. Small, everyday actions can significantly impact inclusion and belonging.

Creating Safe Spaces:

Creating safe spaces for open dialogue was another key topic:

  • Rodina Walsh: Creating safe spaces requires authenticity and vulnerability from leaders. Sharing personal stories and experiences helps in building trust. Listening actively and understanding local cultural contexts are crucial.
  • Emmanuel Michael: Set clear ground rules and ensure everyone understands what is acceptable and what is not. Provide training and coaching to help employees navigate these challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Authenticity and vulnerability from leaders build trust.
  2. Clear ground rules and continuous training are essential for creating safe spaces.
  3. Understanding local cultural contexts helps maintain a safe environment.

Addressing and Preventing Discrimination:

Finally, the panelists discussed strategies to prevent discrimination and harassment:

  • Tabita: Make clear what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Provide policies and tools to address microaggressions and harassment.
  • Dalia Turner: Mistakes will happen, and it’s essential to create an environment where people feel comfortable communicating when something is wrong. It’s about how we respond to these situations.
  • Emmanuel Michael: Measure and track progress, set KPIs, and ensure continuous improvement. Establish feedback loops and conduct regular audits to ensure inclusivity.
  • Rodina Walsh: Experiencing microaggressions firsthand through VR or role modeling can help people understand their impact. Policies alone are not enough; people need to feel the consequences of their actions.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Clearly define acceptable behavior and provide tools to address issues.
  2. Create an environment where people feel comfortable communicating problems.
  3. Measure progress, set KPIs, and ensure continuous improvement.


This panel discussion provided valuable insights into building and cultivating a culture of inclusion and belonging. Key themes included the importance of education, empathy, and active engagement. As Laba Nawaz summed it up, “Building a safe environment goes beyond passion and requires resilience and continuous effort. Actions must align with words to maintain credibility and genuinely foster inclusion.” By focusing on these areas, organizations can create workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and included.

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