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Neta Meidav: “Inequality is not new”

Encourage a speak-up culture: stigmatizing issues (such as with race-related discrimination) can be challenging for employees to report at the best of times. An ‘open-door policy’ or an anonymous mailbox might not be the most accessible or engaging ways for employees to come forward. So without effective reporting tools in place, many will suffer in […]

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Encourage a speak-up culture: stigmatizing issues (such as with race-related discrimination) can be challenging for employees to report at the best of times. An ‘open-door policy’ or an anonymous mailbox might not be the most accessible or engaging ways for employees to come forward. So without effective reporting tools in place, many will suffer in silence. These people may also relay their bad experiences to their colleagues. Around 10% or so may actually leave the business instead and others may find their voice elsewhere — like social media or in the press.


Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Neta Meidav, CEO of Vault Platform. In 2017, inspired by the #MeToo movement and her own experiences with harassment, Neta left her job as a UK climate adviser to found Vault Platform, an app that lets employees securely save and time-stamp evidence of discrimination and misconduct until they are ready to report to HR. She is a recognized authority on the problems of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.


Thank you for joining us Neta! 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?

I think this crisis has been at boiling point for a very long time, it’s now boiled over. People are tired of the situation and tired of talking about it. The self-reckoning has been gathering momentum too and has made it into the spotlight.

Inequality is not new. It has been an issue for a very long time. Things like discrimination and racism don’t become systemic overnight, they were built into the system from the very start and everybody has a responsibility to dismantle the flawed systems and rebuild them with equity and equality at the core. This is a global issue; it’s a personal issue; and it’s very much a business issue.

In our business, we talk about ‘trust’ all the time, in fact, we refer to Vault Platform as ‘trust tech’. Trust is essential. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer only one in five people in employment believe the system is working for them. Employees in developed nations do not see any light at the end of the tunnel and think they will probably be worse off in five years’ time. Trust in traditional institutions like media and government are at an all-time low and women, men, and other gender definitions alike are looking to their employers and CEOs for guidance and leadership.

This doesn’t mean that employees trust their employers and leadership to make the right decisions — and we are seeing a lot of companies being very publicly called out for their hypocrisy — but the world over, employers are largely seen as what should be a trusted partner for change. This number is from 2019, but 71% of people believe it is their CEO that should take the lead on change rather than waiting for authorities to impose it. This includes leading the charge on sensitive issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and gender equality.

Yes, there is a trust gap between employer and employee because people don’t think their senior management ‘get it’ quite yet or fully understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion, equality, and profitability. But there is a great opportunity for businesses that do get it — and this is a measure that will be taken against how a company behaves and what actions it takes, rather than what it says.

June is typically the month associated with Pride celebrations, but this year June continued to be as eventful as the preceding few months of 2020 in terms of shining a spotlight on widespread discrimination in the workplace.

As a wakeup call, the systemic discrimination exposed through the COVID-19 crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the George Floyd killing and Pride’s own call attention on discrimination against the LGBT+ community means hitting ‘snooze’ is no longer an option.

A cursory scroll through LinkedIn reveals a rainbow of logos adorned with the Pride colors and sentiments of solidarity posted in support of Black Lives Matter. But action is needed more than words. Speaking up is one step. Listening is another. Standing is yet another. Acting is a crucial step. And if anyone had any doubts: we now need crucial steps.

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?

According to a survey conducted in late 2019 by the Center for Talent Innovation, 58% of Black professionals have experienced racial prejudice at work — much more than any other racial or ethnic group.

LGBTQ employees face hostility in the workplace. At least 22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers and 20% of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs. This increases to 32% for LGBTQ people of color.

As we have seen during the pandemic, BIPOC and marginalized groups such as LGBT+ are disproportionately affected because they work in roles with greater exposure and have less access to healthcare. Even with a well-publicized rise in public race-related discrimination, we must also consider that during lockdown, with a shift to work from home models and greater reliance on digital communication, the already pervasive business challenges of harassment, discrimination, and bullying have changed vector to online.

From Vault Platform’s perspective, in order to preserve the integrity of our system — due to the sensitive and possibly litigious nature of what we help businesses track and resolve — even we don’t have visibility of what is going on in an individual customer’s instance of the platform. Yes, we can see ‘activity’ but we can’t tell what that activity is. But combining that top-level insight with what our customers have revealed to the customer success team, we’ve seen that around 75% of our customers have had activity on their instance in the last month, and the lockdown period has been the highest level of activity we’ve ever had on the overall platform. This is reflected in terms of individual customers’ activity as well (stakeholders have told us they are seeing more reports for example).

So, not only can we surmise from this that employees are speaking up more, but we’ve seen customers positioning Vault Platform as the speak-up tool in their own internal initiatives around equality, diversity, and inclusion.

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?

There are many studies out there that show that businesses that cultivate diversity and inclusion benefit commercially and the main reason is that by hiring people who don’t look like you and think like you, you are able to see things differently and access other opportunities.

What’s interesting at the moment is that public sentiment is changing quickly in favor of more support for inclusivity. For example, when the Supreme Court extended protections to LGBT employees in June, a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that 90% of American adults agreed with the motion.

There is also a generational shift, with Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials most commonly expressing the wish to work for an employer whose values reflect their own. There’s also a clear rise in activism centered on corporate behavior that demonstrates that employees are increasingly willing to translate this trait into action. This presents a dilemma for employers, who must balance the potential damage to reputation and the employer brand with the reality of creating value for shareholders. But if they are to avoid public declarations of hypocrisy, employers need to be clear on the values they hold — and live them. Again, companies will be judged by their actions and not by their words.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. 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.

Businesses must remind employees of your organization’s discrimination and harassment policies and ensure that these are adapted and appropriate for a remote-first culture (i.e. how they apply to discrimination across messaging apps) and that they apply equally.

Encourage a speak-up culture: stigmatizing issues (such as with race-related discrimination) can be challenging for employees to report at the best of times. An ‘open-door policy’ or an anonymous mailbox might not be the most accessible or engaging ways for employees to come forward. So without effective reporting tools in place, many will suffer in silence. These people may also relay their bad experiences to their colleagues. Around 10% or so may actually leave the business instead and others may find their voice elsewhere — like social media or in the press.

Managers should be reminded of their responsibility to identify and actively prevent discriminatory behavior. Statistically, employees are more likely to mention an incident to a manager or a colleague than they are to report the incident via a hotline or to HR. But action, in this case, relies on the training and process to be robust enough that the incident is properly escalated. In some cases, a direct manager may also be the perpetrator, so it’s preferable for employees to have access to a tool that can escalate their report effectively and confidentially.

Employees may experience or witness harassment or discrimination by a third-party such as a supplier, customer or visitor. Although the employer might not be liable for race discrimination, for example, it is their duty to protect the employee and to have tools, processes, and training in place to support this. Some of our customers, such as M&C Saatchi have really demonstrated that with a home being the new office, they want to extend protections to employees WFH because in some cases home might not be a safe place. They’ve been using Vault to discretely support employees in domestic abuse situations.

Legally speaking, employers will typically only avoid liability in the event of a discrimination case if they can show they have taken “all reasonable steps” to protect employees and the requirements and legislation is getting tougher. The implementation of an effective reporting and resolution tool helps enterprises meet this requirement by offering employees a solution for reporting sensitive issues that take place in person or digitally.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Businesses everywhere are focused on making significant investments in a cultural transformation that will make the organization more successful — whether that’s financially, or in terms of being more attractive as an employer. Ethically sound, diverse, inclusive organizations free from discrimination. It’s a beautiful vision and maintaining that utopia is going to be hard work.

What we’re seeing in terms of activism and protests is people who are tired of the platitudes and the constant response that companies are already doing something. What’s important is if companies are doing the right thing and not just anything.

This unequal system has been going on for too long already and the supposed ‘solutions’ have never been effective. Employees the world over know this, they know the tools and processes don’t work. Now is the time for employers to acknowledge this and do something about it, or if they haven’t yet acknowledged this now is the time to wake up. If movements like MeToo and BLM have shown us anything it’s that employee patience has run out and there is a growing appetite to fight for accountability out in the public domain — on social media and in the press.

Companies should, and some do, want to hear from their people about what’s really happening on the ground. They want to get a head’s up on problems before they grow out of control. These are the forward-thinking companies that will continue to evolve and be successful, both commercially and ethically.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.vaultplatform.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/netameidav/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/vaultplatform/
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