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Breakout Presentation

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Presentation Details

The focus of the session is on the importance of 4 key aspects that are critical to driving progress and being serious about diversity:


  1. The definition of diversity needs to be in the widest sense. It is not one-dimensional based on characteristics or visible cues, it needs to a take into account diversity of background, experience and thinking. An organization is not diverse if everyone looks the same. It is also not diverse if everyone looks different but thinks the same. We need to reframe our definition.

  2. Diversity without inclusion is a fail. It is not enough to have diversity in your workforce. Of course, this is a critical step. However, if those diverse individuals are unable to progress, if they feel suffocated, have no voice, lack recognition and have no platform to influence or drive change, then you may have a diverse workforce, but you will not have an engaged, thriving and productive one. This is why diversity can never be about quotas or about having notional members of a team to tick a box. We have to create an inclusive environment that supports individuals to thrive. And we have to measure and understand how we test that inclusion is happening - I will reference our inclusivity dashboard that was created to this end.

  3. Data is critical - we need to use it to tell stories, show patterns, identify actions and measure progress.

  4. Leaders play a critical role through their actions and their allyship. We need to be structural in our approach - being diverse by design. We must also get comfortable with being uncomfortable — deliberately bringing together diverse teams and allowing our thinking to be challenged. In this last section we focus on allyship and the importance of action.

After this session, you'll know:

  1. A reframed definition of diversity that you can take back to your organization and reset the conversation for the future.

  2. How you can use data and shift the focus of data from measuring diversity to measuring inclusive.

  3. An inclusive leadership model that leverages allyship and focuses on action.


Speaker Bio:

Prior to becoming the Chief People Officer at World Education Services, Abbie Cowan served as the Global Chief Diversity Officer for Atos, a global technology company with 112,000 employees across 71 countries. Abbie was responsible for leading the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy across the organization to drive an inclusive culture and deliver sustainable, positive change. Abbie is focused on programs and initiatives that engage people, clients, and partners, creating an environment where diversity is celebrated, and individuals can thrive.


Abbie is a member of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is a certified executive coach and mentor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Warwick and a master’s degree from Birmingham City University. She is an NLP Master Practitioner and a graduate of executive leadership programs at HEC Paris and INSEAD.

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