Victoria Pelletier is the Vice President of IBM’s North American Talent & Transformation practice; she is a senior executive with over two decades of progressive experience in strategy, operations, growth initiatives, and business and talent development.
She is a visionary leader with a passion for innovation, creativity and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In fact, Victoria has won both the 2020 Mentor of the Year award from Women in Communications & Technology AND the 2019 HSBC Diversity & Inclusion in Innovation Award.
Victoria serves as a board member for several organizations; she is also a published author, regular contributor to Forbes and a member of the Forbes Human Resource Council. She is an in-demand public speaker and appears regularly on national radio and television.
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In your latest leadership role with IBM, you’re heavily involved in Diversity and Inclusion. Tell us about the challenge.
IBM is often ahead of the curve on the issues that matter the most to me. When I was asked to get more deeply engaged in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) I realized that I had a significant opportunity to use my privilege, my leadership role and my voice to make a difference. While I bring a passion for DE&I to the table, there are significant challenges around education and being incredibly intentional around developing and implementing strategies and best practices for the creation of a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. To be effective, I devour literature, talk to luminaries in the field, and collaborate with colleagues and clients continuously to truly advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion not just within my organization, but for the clients I support in my capacity leading the client facing North American Talent & Transformation practice for IBM. I ask the people on my team to do the same. DE&I is layered throughout my context.
What is the biggest influence on the DE&I climate in an organization?
That’s an easy one… leadership. Leaders who see DE&I as part of a strong culture and community, are well positioned to help their organization become diverse and inclusive. On the other hand, leaders who look at DE&I as a “department” or worse, a “program,” will never put their organizations in a position to move forward. To be blunt, its often those with privilege that tend to embody the second description. When you come from a position of privilege, it’s hard to see the impacts of systematic racism, sexism, and other exclusive “isms.” That’s not meant to disparage with said privilege, but to highlight the innate biases that hamper DE&I intentionality. Great leadership in DE&I doesn’t mean having all the answers. It does mean you take the work seriously.
A strong DE&I movement in an organization flows from the top down. If this isn’t happening, those who are working in cubicles, staring into those with the big corner offices, will move on to organizations that are more aligned to their values and those that are invested in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
When it comes to DE&I, what’s one of the biggest myths you’ve had to put to rest?
To piggyback on the previous question, the biggest myth is that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a program. Sorry, you don’t shop for DE&I at the local big box and then plug it into a conference or continuing education event. DE&I is about driving culture and advancement of our communities. Since every culture is different, in different sectors or in different geographies around the world, the shape of DE&I in one context could be completely different than another. Recognize DE&I as a process, NOT a program, one requiring strategic intentionality to achieve it.
What makes Diversity and Inclusion thrive in your world?
My team is committed to sourcing, leading and empowering diverse talent across the spectrum representing all ethnicities, orientations, and national origins. Our organization understands that a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce fosters creativity, builds team rapport, and advances both the organization and the communities it serves. My team takes their leadership internally to IBM clients to assist them in building DE&I into the very fabric of their business and culture. We want our organization to model what we hope to see in the world around us. At the end of the day, a successful DE&I culture builds a better world for all.
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