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Kay Formanek - about her book Beyond D&I

Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

I was born in South Africa during the period of Apartheid, a system of legalized discrimination on the basis of race. I saw the anguish that comes from being excluded and denied the opportunity to freely deploy ones talents. This experience has shaped me and I believe therein are the seeds of my passion and my purpose: to liberate diversity of perspectives for the benefit of organizations and society.

Having studied Bachelor of Law & Commerce, followed by an MBA, I commenced my career in South Africa with Andersen Consulting, now Accenture at a time where the organization needed top rapidly transform itself in a fast-changing environment. I moved with Accenture to the Netherlands some 20 years ago and led our Life Sciences Practice and was sponsoring partner for our D&I work. I retired from Accenture so that I could pursue my passion and focus on diversity full time and founded Diversity and Performance (D&P). D&P is operating globally and supports organizations (whether government, commercial entities or NGO’s) who wish to find a new way to lead diversity: strategically, integrated, performance realization.

I am a global speaker on diversity, collaborate with some leading business schools on diversity and am author of the recently published book “Beyond D&I: Leading Diversity with Purpose and Inclusiveness”. The book will also be released in Dutch in the second half of 2022. Finally I am a member of Talent naar de Top, as board member for a number of organizations. I am a mother of 3 and live with my kids, cats and dog in Loosdrecht.

Kay Formanek

Why did you write this book?

Over the last 25 years, I have seen up close how organizations have struggled to lead diversity strategically and in the very core of their organization. So often diversity starts with big commitments, then becomes relegated to a side function and then degenerates to check-box ticking. People become cynical and despondent and doubt the real motives of the leadership of the organization by concluding that the diversity efforts are about window-dressing. The billions of $’s of investment (more than $8 billion alone in the USA per year just on diversity training alone) are not resulting in the desired results. Most organizations still have not converted their diversity commitments to targets, milestones, a diversity capability map and an investment plan, nor to real understanding and commitment within the organization, by all its people.

I wished to write a book that answer the “WHY”, the “WHAT” and the “HOW” of diversity:

WHY is diversity now a critical element of survival and sustainability for every organization? WHAT do we mean by diversity, what are the five elements of diversity performance and what are the 5 evolutionary stages for diversity performance? HOW is diversity realized through the 6 diversity capabilities that need to be in place and how is a diversity journey realized in practice. This book has been written to provide confidence to the leader by providing the research, the tools, the frameworks that will allow them to charter the diversity journey with confidence and courage

Can you tell what your book is about?

The book describes why there is a “perfect storm” around diversity in the world and how organizations can shift the manner of leading diversity in practice. Already we see this through the rapid grass roots movements around #MeToo and #BLM and #InequityfromCOVID. Especially the Generation Z, the most diverse generation to-date, are demanding more diversity, equity, sustainability, leadership and purpose.

Where before organizations have pursued diversity for compliance issues (quota, regulatory obligation) and the business case for diversity (more innovation, bottom line performance, access to talent, better customer insight, engagement and wellness etc), now stakeholders are demanding that organizations also pursue diversity for the societal case (advancing the SDG’s) and for the ethical case (right thing to do).

This book explains why sustainable diversity performance requires the integration of 5 element and not only 2: moving from D&I to diversity + inclusion + equity + purpose + leadership. When diversity is linked to the very mandate of the organization and the ambition for diversity is set out, then it is possible for organizations to identify their stage of diversity performance (there are 5 in total) and for that stage identify the proven diversity capabilities that are required for their stage of diversity performance. The book sets out 2 critical frameworks for leading diversity strategically, including the Virtuous Circle of Diversity Performance and the Integrated Diversity Capability Map and brings these to life applying the models to by multiple case studies and by relating the stories of courageous diversity leaders.

Who should definitely read your book and why?

This book is written for all those who aspire to be part of the change around diversity within an organization, whether the chair of a board, the board members, the CEO, the leadership team, the EDI Office, the HR leads, the managers, the EDI ambassadors, and every single employee in the organization. It is the hope that this book also becomes one of the critical reading books in business schools and universities. 

What is your own experience with diversity & inclusion?

I grew up in South Africa at the time of Apartheid and attended one of the few multi-racial boarding schools, understanding from close that our humanity connects us more than our diversity divides us. I saw up close a truly inclusive leader Nelson Mandela and how he went about transforming a country that was broken by racial conflict. I am the sibling to my sister who was born with a visible disability and I saw the extent to which opportunities were closed to her as lawyer because people saw her behind a stereotype of being “disabled” versus seeing her true potential. I moved to The Netherlands and felt what it means to come from a different culture and how one wishes to belong but does not feel a sense of really belonging. I have experienced the criticism of being a working mother. I have seen how tempting it is to hides one’s own diversity so as to fit into the dominant culture of an environment. I have witnessed how challenging it is to contribute substantially at the board room when one sits in an underrepresented group. And I have also seen the incredible impact of having men and women sponsors who lean in and support talent of diversity and stimulate the sharing of different perspectives. I have seen what can happen when leaders led diversity with conviction, courage and confidence.

More about the book

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