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‘When diversity and culture come together, brilliance and creativity follow’

14 Nov 2019

Ann-Marie Clyne, vice-president of human resources at Mastercard in Dublin, explains why the company’s Intercultural Day is her favourite time of the year.

As many studies have demonstrated, two of the most concrete pillars for cultivating a content and creative workforce are diversity and inclusionIf companies really want to attract and retain great talent, it’s imperative that they review their policies around culture and environment. 

It can be tricky to get right, but according to Mastercard’s Ann-Marie Clyne, it’s crucial for ensuring “that all employees feel empowered to contribute”.  She spoke to us about her experiences cultivating inclusion at different points of her career, from Nairobi to Moscow, as well as the company’s annual Intercultural Day.

‘We don’t want any employee to compromise on their uniqueness to come work at Mastercard’

Can you tell us a bit about your career background?

My current role is vice-president of human resources at Mastercard. I’m responsible for leading HR activities at our Dublin tech hub. I came to the organisation through an acquisition in 2008 and since then I have played a key role in the growth and development of the Dublin tech hub, which has seen significant growth, particularly in the last 18 months.  

Previously, I was responsible for driving HR efforts to establish the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi, and I have also completed assignments in Sydney and, most recently, Moscow.   

Three women are smiling into the camera in front of a wall showcasing diverse cultural elements.

Mastercard colleagues celebrating the company’s Intercultural Day. Image: Mastercard

Can you give us some details about the Intercultural Day at Mastercard? 

Intercultural Day is my favourite day of the year in Mastercard. I love learning and experiencing different cultures, and there is no better way to do this than spending time getting to know our colleagues. We don’t want any employee to compromise on their uniqueness to come work at Mastercard. When diversity and culture come together, brilliance and creativity follow.

The diversity and skillsets of our people underpin everything we do. This is how we define and drive the culture of decency that makes us a place where the best people want to work.

We have people from 43 nationalities based here in Mastercard’s Dublin tech hub. Our cultural diversity is a strength which we like to celebrate and that’s how we came up with the concept of Intercultural Day.

Throughout the day, we host various workshops aimed at showcasing different cultures and bringing our people together. From henna body art to cooking demonstrations, and Bollywood dancing to Irish language lessons – Intercultural Day has it all! 

Why are events like these important for businesses? 

The influence of diversity, inclusion and belonging leads to a winning culture with decency at its core. That’s our standard at Mastercard because it sparks passion and pride to do our best work.

What are the biggest diversity and inclusion challenges facing your industry right now? 

Many companies define ‘diverse’ teams by narrow definitions, including only gender or ethnicity. This definition needs to evolve to include the characteristics, personal and professional skills, and life experiences that we can and cannot see about a person.

The presence of diverse brainpower alone is not enough. It’s also critical to create an open and inclusive workplace environment, so that all employees feel empowered to contribute.

While many companies have policies and practices to protect against outright prejudice or discrimination, ingrained and unconscious cultural biases can be more difficult to overcome and address.

A group of colleagues are smiling into the camera and holding flags of different countries in an office setting.

Mastercard colleagues celebrating the company’s Intercultural Day. Image: Mastercard

In your opinion, what does genuine diversity and inclusion in a company look like?

At Mastercard, inclusion and diversity are about more than bringing together people with different backgrounds. It’s an understanding that when we create meaningful connections, inspire acceptance and cultivate a culture where we all belong, we are a better team – one that makes better decisions, drives innovation and delivers better business results.

A company should be a place where people can bring their whole selves to work, and where everyone’s voice is heard.

It’s also about hiring talent from non-traditional backgrounds. For instance, on our data science team, we have a musician, an artist, a writer, a DJ, a singer, a graphic designer and a dancer.  

What key strategies are you using to ensure diversity and inclusion are prioritised in your industry?

Aside from our Intercultural Day, we also offer such benefits as flexible working, enhanced maternity and paternity leave, and gender equal recruitment slates.

Our business resource groups promote diverse thinking and welcome all employees. These groups include, for example, Pride, the Women in Leadership Network, and YoPros (young professionals). 

We also make sure our senior leadership team is proactively speaking about diversity and inclusion at industry events, both in Ireland and abroad.

What is the one thing you think HR teams should stop doing, or start doing differently?

I believe HR teams should hire for potential and consider hiring from non-traditional backgrounds and cultures.  

We should not always take the easiest or the quickest route when hiring. By opening up our minds to differences in talent and culture, creativity and brilliance will follow.

Do you have any advice or top tips for companies on how they can begin to become more diverse and inclusive?

Be curious with your employees – listen to them. The greatest ideas come from within.  

Intercultural Day was not originally a HR initiative, it happened as a result of a team of multicultural employees coming together and trying out something a little bit different.

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