Kristine Maciolek Small is a member of the Pennsylvania Diversity Council Board of Directors and the Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Talent Management at PPL Corporation.
What obstacles have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
I have been a practicing lawyer both in private practice and in-house for over 19 years. My career has taken many twists and turns during almost two decades and I have found success and fulfillment during each stage of the journey. Along the way, opportunities didn’t present themselves on a gold platter. I had to be deliberate in taking on challenging projects that weren’t necessarily in my lane. I had to be persistent when others doubted my abilities. I had to be bold and raise my hand for assignments that would mean hard work and late nights but, in the end, would be personally and professionally fulfilling.
When there is an obstacle in my path, I assess whether I can climb over the wall or when I have to step around the wall in a new direction – but continuing to run into the wall over and over is not an option.
What does diversity mean to you?
To me, diversity is more than a word or a statistic that can be measured. We each have unique characteristics that make us diverse. I believe diversity cannot stand on its own, it must be coupled with inclusion, which is an appreciation and respect of others’ uniqueness. That is the philosophy that guides me and that I bring to my role as a diversity leader for PPL.
I think it’s important for all leaders to make diversity and inclusion a personal endeavor. Over the past several years, I had a couple of opportunities that expanded my view of what diversity means. In 2015, I was presented with an opportunity to become a founding member and leader of PPL’s REACH business resource group, which is the company’s employee-led group focused on supporting individuals with disabilities in our workplace, in their families and in the community. Until I was encouraged to get involved with REACH, I chose not to identify myself at work as a person with a disability. I have Multiple Sclerosis and through REACH and the self-identification process, I started speaking openly about having MS. I now help raise awareness for MS in my company and community.
Secondly, I was a fellow in a year-long program called the Leadership Council for Legal Diversity. The program focuses on the development of self in an effort to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. It also encourages others to become advocates and allies for diversity issues. I now apply these lessons beyond the legal profession.
These opportunities have given me the platform to talk about diversity issues and naturally led me to a career focused on advancing diversity and inclusion company-wide.
Why is diversity critical to business success?
Diversity in the workplace is not just critical, it is a business imperative. The research is undeniable – ethnically-diverse companies are known to be 35 percent more likely to earn above-average revenue and gender diverse teams are 15 percent more likely to earn above-average revenue. Opting out is not an option.
There is a steep penalty for companies that do opt out of diversity. They will underperform in relation to their peers. In recruiting, their talent pool will be one-dimensional, and they will have trouble building a pipeline of leaders for the future. Quite simply, I believe that if your company fails at recruiting, retaining and promoting the top talent from different races, sexual orientation, gender, physical ability or veteran status, then you are sending this talent to work for companies that do have a diverse and inclusive culture.
What is your vision for inclusion and diversity in the workplace? What steps are you taking in that direction?
Diversity is so much more than just a word at PPL — it is one of our core values. The multiple perspectives that employees and suppliers of all races, backgrounds and life experiences add to the organization are immeasurable. We believe that these multiple perspectives foster innovation, productivity and mutual respect and lead to better company performance.
PPL launched the “We Are Together” effort as an expression of this commitment. In a video, PPL employees demonstrate that diversity is more than skin deep. That everyone has unique circumstances, characteristics and experiences and when we each seek to understand these qualities it leads to meaningful relationships, greater understanding and, ultimately, a more inclusive, respectful workplace. You can view the video at https://www.pplweb.com/inclusion-and-diversity/
We also have leaders and employees who are behind our diversity efforts and we have a great culture but work still needs to be done. We are now identifying the exact improvements we need to make through thoughtful metrics and careful analysis. This past year, we launched a diversity dashboard that provides a detailed look at our workforce including sourcing, hiring, promotions and separations at various career ladders in the company. This tool has allowed us to identify and target specific areas for improvement as well as highlight our successes.
Finally, we are focused on implementing tangible policies that make PPL a more inclusive workplace, such as improving parental leave benefits by granting employees up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave, providing for adoption reimbursement, and allowing employees more flexibility to use their sick time when faced with family illness or injury. Improvements like these have helped PPL earn accolades as a Best Place to Work for LBGT Equality and a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion.
What advice would you give others in building a more diverse workplace?
A commitment to diversity and inclusion starts at the top. Leaders need to make diversity a priority and a continual focus. To achieve this, you need buy-in. PPL’s CEO signed the CEO Action for Inclusion and Diversity pledge and committed the company to fostering a more inclusive environment by having courageous conversations, dispelling unconscious biases and sharing best practices.
For diversity to remain a focus, companies need to be accountable and have clear goals and metrics to gauge progress.
Finally, I challenge other companies at the beginning of their diversity journey to couple inclusion with diversity from the start. Teams with high diversity and high inclusion scores outperform teams with high diversity but low inclusion by 1.4 times. So early and consistent incorporation of inclusion with diversity is integral to success.
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