How To Harness The Power Of Inclusion — And Why Doing So Is Essential

This article is part of a series of op-eds by CEO signatories who are part of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S. 

By Sasan Goodarzi, CEO, Intuit

In my experience leading teams and organizations, I have seen firsthand the power of inclusion. People prosper when they can fully be themselves; when they feel welcome and don’t feel any pressure to keep parts of themselves hidden. That spirit of inclusion allows us to have better conversations, feel good about ourselves, our jobs and each other. Ultimately, inclusion drives growth for companies because it creates an environment where innovation thrives.  

To understand why inclusion is such a powerful force, just ask yourself if there was a time in your own life when you did not feel included. Did you feel like you were able to do your best work? Were you able to reach your full potential? My guess is, the answer is no. 

In my own life, I experienced not feeling included as a child. My family fled Iran and came to the U.S. when I was 10. It was the height of the Iranian hostage crisis, and tensions were high. I remember like it was yesterday being bullied; being rejected and excluded at school just because of the color of my skin and where I came from. My grades tanked and I had to switch schools. I will never forget the crushing feeling of not belonging, though in the long run, I believe that the experience made me stronger. In fact, it played an important role in shaping the person and leader I have become. 

Today, I am honored to serve as the CEO of Intuit — and I am making it one of my top priorities to build and sustain an environment where employees belong. As CEO, it’s my job to maximize the potential of every Intuit employee, and I strongly believe that a culture of belonging, where everyone feels welcomed, is the best way to make sure that our company continues to grow and thrive. 

As part of that effort, I’m proud to have signed the CEO Action pledge, the largest CEO-driven commitment to advance equality and inclusion in the workplace. The pledge is an important means for Intuit to demonstrate our commitment to building and fostering a diverse workforce and being transparent about what we discover during our journey. The pledge also represents my personal commitment, and our entire leadership team’s commitment, to foster the type of organizational change needed to sustain equality and inclusivity. 

This is no small challenge. A recent study suggests that over 60% of employees “cover” their identities in some way. And even though research shows that the way to actually move the needle on inclusion is by articulating a business case for equality, setting clear goals, reporting on progress and then rewarding success, only 42% of businesses actually hold senior leaders accountable for making progress toward gender parity, let alone race and sexual orientation. 

We can do better. At the highest level of Intuit, including our board and C-suite, we’re now having these conversations. More than half of my direct reports are women, which models an ideal state for the rest of the company. We’re tracking equality metrics and holding teams accountable, including reporting these results out to our board. I’m holding my team accountable for fixing gaps in our talent pipeline, finding new ways to recruit diverse talent and ensuring we’re fostering an environment that’s safe, fair and inclusive. We’ve already launched programs to help re-skill workers who are returning from taking time off to care for family, and we are examining our compensation process to ensure it is fair and equitable. 

For all that we are trying to do inside Intuit, we also know these are larger societal issues that one company alone can’t fix. Which is why we’re looking beyond our four walls for ways that we can help drive change, as well. Our goal is a truly diverse workforce, not just for Intuit, but for all companies. It’s a bold goal, but we are investing in organizations such as Girls Who Code and Management Leadership for Tomorrow because we believe building a foundation of skills across historically underserved minorities, even if they never work at Intuit, will ensure a better, more inclusive tomorrow.   

The issues facing society around inclusion are not going to be solved overnight. There are no easy answers. Yet small steps like taking the CEO Action pledge and investing in equity are part of the journey we’re taking toward creating lasting change. I applaud the 700-plus other companies that have also taken the pledge along with Intuit. Because of the pledge, we’ll all be sharing more regularly and more transparently about what we’re doing to foster inclusivity and belonging for employees. We’ll share when something works well, and we’ll also share when something doesn’t work. The mutual goal is progress for all.   

We all have work to do. There are challenges ahead when it comes to fostering inclusion in both our companies and communities. Yet doing nothing is not an option. There are too many talented people out there with so much to offer the world who still feel they have to hide their full, true selves. We owe it to them, and ourselves, to do all we can to create a more inclusive world.