Fostering a culture and team that’s authentically diverse is impossible if there is no ongoing discussion on diversity. At Datasite, we’ve instituted a series of quarterly diversity events to ensure all feel welcome. Next month, we are celebrating International Women’s Day with a panel discussion featuring leaders talking about how we can shape a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take to Truly Create an Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Deb LaMere, Chief Human Resources Officer at Datasite. Deb is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s human resources strategy, including talent management, leadership development and compensation and benefits. She works closely with leadership around the globe to build a culture that attracts, retains and develops top talent.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in and around Minnesota’s Twin Cities and while work has certainly taken me to lots of different locations around the world, home is where my heart is. I also love that I now work as chief human resource officer for a company that is based in my hometown community.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One book that I’ve always loved is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It highlights what can happen when people make assumptions based on first impressions, which can often be inaccurate. This kind of thinking can lead to unconscious bias, and the introduction of unintentional discrimination and poor decision-making, actions we at Datasite can’t afford to take as a fast growing fintech company.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” I love this because it expresses the idea that with a little hard work, passion, and dedication, goals can be achieved.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Two things that help me to destress are cooking and music. I love being able to try new recipes and create something with my own hands. And after a long day of being in front of a screen at work, and these days, on virtual calls, it’s especially rewarding to see the finished product. Likewise, music has always been a great stress reliever for me, from my days playing flute and piano, to my appreciation today of all kinds of music. Whenever I’m working on a complex project or facing a barrage of unread emails, I put on some great music and that always helps to level me.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The global pandemic has changed how we experience work and the way we live our lives. In addition to the immediate tragedy that has resulted in thousands of lost lives, the pandemic has laid bare some severe economic and social issues. The fallout from the pandemic has been born most heavily by people living in or vulnerable to poverty and working in jobs that are more exposed to layoffs and pay cuts or in jobs that cannot be performed remotely. Women have also been hit hard by the pandemic. In the last 12 months, more than 12 million women have left the US workforce and they accounted for all job losses in December. The pandemic offers a chance to change the status quo and to move towards an economy and businesses that uplift. Research shows that companies that pay special attention
to their employees emerge more resilient and more intact in the long run. Some policies that we’ve put in place at Datasite have included creating greater workplace flexibility. For example, we saw right from the beginning of the pandemic, that employees working from home would need extra support. To ensure they could take time away from work, we gave all our employees an extra two days off for mental wellness and to recharge last summer. Earlier this year, we also changed our time off policy to provide employees with a single bank of time off (25 days) to use however they see fit.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
At Datasite, we know we don’t have all the answers, but we are trying new ways of working to help create a diverse and inclusive culture that supports our employees, customers, and communities and drives innovation. Some policies that we’ve put in place include recognizing, recruiting, and retaining diverse talent. For example, one of our female product managers recently led her team in the development of a new product that was named a 2021 BIG Innovation Award winner. We recognized her in a video on social media and internal channels. Having role models helps to see what is possible.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Most organizations, including ours, want to operate in an ethical, accountable, and sustainable way because it’s good for business. Having a diverse group of people that value inclusion challenges us to look at problems differently and consider a wider range of issues and impacts that we might not otherwise. Research has also shown that organizations that seek diverse viewpoints experience higher rates of innovation. As a fast-growing SaaS-based technology company for mergers and acquisitions professionals, this is particularly important to our outlook and success. People also work more productively and openly when they feel accepted in their environment. Our leadership team includes several women, including the heads of legal, service, human resources, accounting, and corporate communications, as well as key sales roles. Additionally, we recently created a diversity council comprised of employees to expand our potential hiring pool and ensure networking opportunities with diverse businesses. We further support their efforts with dedicated digital resources and information that is available to all our employees.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
I can only speak to what we are doing at Datasite but I do think there are several things organizations can do to support more diversity and inclusion. In addition to creating a flexible workplace and recruiting, retaining, and recognizing diverse talent, invest in educational and skills development opportunities, discuss diversity regularly and make supporting diversity and inclusion a continuous process.
- Education can create economic opportunity and prosperity. Datasite is a founding sponsor of Exponent Women, an industry organization that is dedicated to giving women dealmakers access to meaningful interactions and educational content and we contribute to organizations in the communities in which we live and work.
- Fostering a culture and team that’s authentically diverse is impossible if there is no ongoing discussion on diversity. At Datasite, we’ve instituted a series of quarterly diversity events to ensure all feel welcome. Next month, we are celebrating International Women’s Day with a panel discussion featuring leaders talking about how we can shape a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic.
- Supportingdiversity and inclusion is not a singular event or promotion. To create change and new dynamics, there must be a continuous, sustained effort. Until the very best talent has a seat and voice at the table, we will never achieve the possible.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
The pandemic has taught us a lot of important lessons. It’s shown a lot of us in business that we can work from home and be flexible. I think it’s also shown us that we need to take care of ourselves and each other. At Datasite, we’ve been partnering closely with our health plans globally to provide resources for physical and mental wellness, such as access to virtual workouts and other resources. At a time like this, we also know we need to continue to address issues like racism and educate on biases that may be impacting decision making and in providing employees with training on inclusive teamwork and watching for biases under pressure. I know I’m taking these lessons forward at Datasite and I’m confident other leaders are too. In these extraordinary times, companies that keep humans top of mind, will come through this crisis more resilient than when they went into it.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m happy to exchange ideas and discuss best practices on LinkedIn.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!