“Employees want to be able to be themselves at work. We can't expect someone to be their best self, if they can't be their true self.” – Nikki Gibson
Dell Nashville is a finalist in the Corporate Diversity category for the LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Business Awards next month. Since this was written, Dell was co-winner of the 2018 Corporate Diversity Award. This award is presented to the company that “has the most policies and practices that protect and engage their LGBT employees, customers, and suppliers.” Dell is proud of the last 20 years of work the company has done to put such protections in place. They have become one of the leaders in their industry in driving workplace equality. Dell Nashville has received numerous awards recognizing it accomplishments in providing protections for the LGBT employees and fostering a culture of corporate diversity. These awards include:
· An Outie Award
at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in 2016.
Nikki Gibson is a human resources compliance consultant and a co-site director for Dell Nashville. She is also the lead for North America Pride, Dell’s LGBT Employee Resource Group. Nikki has been with the company for over 17 years and is proud of the work she has done to advance LGBT equality and inclusion, both at Dell and within the Nashville business community. She says, “Since joining Dell in 1999, I have always been the local contact to arrange events and communications on behalf of Pride and the diversity and inclusion team.” Gibson continues, “Initially we did not have ERG’s outside of our corporate headquarters in Austin, so to ensure that Dell Nashville was engaged and promoted Pride events, I stepped up to lead the efforts. Over the years, we formalized our Pride chapter and our group has increased our local presence, participating in Pride events and being a leading voice in the LGBT community. Most notably, I am extremely proud of our involvement in advocating for LGBT rights and inclusive policies with our local government and our advocacy efforts for equality in the workplace.” Dell Nashville is the region’s largest high tech employers with 1700+ team members.
Those of us who identify as LGBT all know firsthand that the most welcoming and affirming work environments go beyond official policies that provide rights and protections for LGBT employees. The best work environments foster a culture of inclusion and diversity that plays a positive role in virtually all workplace interactions. Gibson says, “Employees want to be able to be themselves at work. We can’t expect someone to be their best self if they can’t be their true self. Dell creates opportunities for employees to share their diverse ideas, which fosters innovation and collaboration. Dell’s inclusion strategy is based on creating an inclusive workplace, cultivating marketplace relationships with diverse communities and organizations, and growing a diverse workforce.”
Gibson says that their site is a perfect mixture of Nashville’s broader culture. She says, “Dell Nashville team members are Nashville natives, transplants, young professionals and seasoned veterans. We represent people of all different backgrounds and beliefs, mirroring the population of our wonderful city. We pride ourselves on our diversity that works cohesively and believe that Nashville can and will collaborate in the same way.” And while she is hopeful that the business environment in Nashville and other cities will continue to embrace diversity, she acknowledges that we need to keep pushing forward. “As a country, a state and a city we’ve come a long way, but there is always more work to be done to make certain every human is afforded the rights they are entitled to. Nashville and the businesses in Nashville continue to show they are working towards that goal. I am very pleased in the progress that the city of Nashville has made over the last several years. We are a diverse city in so many ways, not just within the LGBT community, but also in how we’ve embraced all cultures!”
Large companies need to take an active role in advancing cultural changes. Dell has certainly done so, with initiatives such as Many Advocating Real Change (MARC). The MARC initiative is dedicated to encouraging traditionally non-diverse individuals to advocate for and commit to diversity. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell and his direct reports participated in the MARC program, and the organization has a goal of having all people managers participate in the training by the end of the fiscal year (in January). “This is something that Dell is really proud of,” says Gibson. “Dell is the first technology company to bring this training to our leaders, with the expectation that they share it with their teams. Dell is committed to having a work place where all team members feel welcome – this is one way that we can carry our voice out to everyone in our workplace.”
Fostering diversity is ultimately good for business. Companies that embrace diversity can attract top talent regardless of their background, ethnicity, or orientation. And companies whose employees feel valued and give their best each day will thrive, fueling local economic growth. Gibson says, “It’s imperative for Nashville business to be inclusive. Otherwise our city would be left behind other large metropolitan areas who have already done this, and done it very well.” In that spirit. Dell Nashville is proud to be a part of the Tennessee Thrives coalition and help promote inclusive policies in Tennessee. In fostering diversity, employers ensure that they can compete for top talent. The Tennessee Thrives pledge states in part, “In order for Tennessee businesses to compete for top talent, we believe our workplaces and communities must be diverse and welcoming for all people, regardless of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“We can’t be the ‘IT’ city if we’re not welcoming to everyone,” says Gibson. “And I truly believe that Nashville wants to be a welcoming and inclusive city, a place where everyone wants to visit, and many decide to live. We, along with hundreds of other companies in Nashville, want to make sure Tennessee is a place where all kinds of people will be treated equally and with respect.”