Creating a Culture of Belonging – Diversity and Inclusion Perspectives

Karuana: Diversity, inclusion, and creating a culture of belonging is a core leadership priority at Microsoft. As a company we’ve evolved to understand the importance of realizing these principles in our company culture. Much like the industry around us, we’ve had our awakening about the power of diverse perspectives in everything from product development to customer interactions. To create products that empower everyone, our company needs to reflect a diverse set of perspectives.    

Our journey to this ultimate goal is long, but we are heartened to see how many people of all shapes, sizes, and ideologies are embracing the process. Each of us is an agent of change, working on expanding the reality of a company culture that reflects the diversity of the world around us. Part of this involves embracing those who feel the pendulum has swung too far in this direction. Our commitment to change must include embracing and welcoming respectfully shared differing opinions, or we are not truly implementing diversity.   

As a part of the division that delivers Microsoft Teams and other productivity tools, we must think of the future we are creating right now. For instance, the idea of an inclusive meeting starts with human interactions, but it can also be extended by technology. It’s worthwhile to note that since making the transition to Microsoft Teams, more and more Microsoft employees are switching to “video-on” as their default meeting experience. This visual connection between people in many remote locations creates a deeper sense of connection and supports true understanding. The historic audio-only conference call made it very difficult for remote attendees or employees whose primary language is not English to engage in the conversation.   

This is just one of many examples coming from our division, spotlighting how our technology will support better employee engagement and depth of understanding around the world. Each of us plays a role in ensuring that diversity, inclusion, and belonging are not just slogans, but the lived experience of people around the world. Every day is a step toward this goal. How you are embracing these ideas in your organization is an important question to ask?    

Heather: Our stories – who we are, where we come from, what sparks us to do what we do and the ways we interact with each other – these are the building blocks of diversity and inclusion in tech as well as in life –  Creating that culture of belonging as Karuana describes if of utmost importance. 

Since 2015, Diversity and Inclusion have been an integral part of European SharePoint, Office365 & Azure Conference, starting with its Women in Tech Keynote and Lunch. I’m proud to have been involved since its inception in Stockholm, Sweden, and honored to have given this session twice. At last year’s ESPC, Karuana Gatimu and I created and delivered Community Theater Sessions on Leadership, Networking, and Mentoring. These sessions were open to everyone, and so well received we will be doing them again this year in Prague. Dona Sarkar also gave a wonderful keynote called “Spinning Your Tale: Building Your Personal Brand” last year in Copenhagen, Denmark.  

If the Women in Tech Lunch isn’t already on your radar for this year, make sure you mark your calendars to include Mimi Rodriguez, Storyteller, and Head of Microsoft’s Global Internship Program. Here’s a sneak peek at her topic: 

Women in Tech Lunch- Personal Brand Storytelling: Learn to Tell Story That Makes You Uniquely You 

A distinctive story helps define and successfully communicate unique personal and business concepts and experiences. Storytelling has become a powerful business tool in today’s digital age because it drives an immersive and emotional experience, investing, and inspiring stakeholders and audiences to action. Mimi’s dynamic and interactive session shares practical tools to help you become a skilled storyteller. 

Key takeaways: 

  • What storytelling is… and what is not 
  • Ways to tell a story 
  • Crafting your story with Design Thinking Principles 

This session continues to build upon the themes of the past ESPC topics diving deeper into how we tell our stories. Many events have grown their Diversity and Inclusion programming over the years. Since 2017 the SharePoint Conference has a full session track and welcome reception and has always held lunches and meetups led by the Women in SharePoint Community. Microsoft Ignite launched a full Diversity in Tech track, unconferences, meet-ups, and a Pre-Day last year, and the schedule for this year is jampacked with goodness. Microsoft Ignite the Tour also has this programming in cities around the world.  

This year the Microsoft Tech Community launches a new community area called Humans in IT. Microsoft also offers the opportunity to sign up as a Community Mentor. Both mentor and mentee programs are wonderful and are the combined efforts of Microsoft MVPs and Microsoft working together. I have been thrilled to be a part of the planning committees for many of those motions, alongside Karuana and Tracy O’Connell, our fearless organizer of ESPC and the Women in Tech lunches.  

Ultimately, diversity and inclusion boil down to how we treat each other, support each other, understand each other, and how we create that crucial sense of belonging – where we all can participate as our most authentic selves. Anyone can join in and grow this culture, both as an individual and an employee. Check out the links above. 


Karuana Gatimu is Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Teams, and she delivered the ESPC 2017 Women in Tech lunch keynote 

Heather Newman

Heather Newman is a Microsoft MVP and Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Content Panda; CEO of Creative Maven, and she delivered the ESPC 2015 and 2016 Women in Tech lunch keynotes. 

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