DeimosIWD2024: How Deimos Martians Inspire Inclusion in a Diverse Inclusive Workforce

IWD — Under the #InspireInclusion theme, we highlight our team’s stories and the collective action we’re taking to shape a more inclusive future.

Ifunanya Okolie
Ifunanya Okolie

Administration Solutions Specialist

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As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we reflect on our progress towards bridging the gender and inclusion gap and the work still ahead. International Women’s Day is not just a momentary celebration, but a reaffirmation of our ongoing commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where every voice is heard, and every contribution valued. This year, under the theme — #InspireInclusion, we highlight the stories of our team members (Martians) and the collective action we are taking to shape a more inclusive future.

What does inclusion mean to you?

‘True inclusion means better teams, better culture, better companies, better financial returns, and a better, innovative world.’ – Paraphrasing Project Include’s definition of diversity,

Understanding and acknowledging that inclusion begins with ourselves — how we show up in our interactions with each other because there cannot be ‘better teams’ if we don’t make efforts to understand who makes up the teams and how they are different, yet so similar to us, we asked our Martians, ‘What does inclusion mean to you?’ 

In this conversation, the participants, listed in the order they appear, are:

  • June Barasa, Technical Product Manager, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Sarah Stanford, Head of Admin, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Mutindi Ikami, Senior Android Engineer, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Ifunanya Okolie, Administration Solutions Specialist, Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Biodun Chris, Senior Full Stack Software Engineer, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Gbolahan Allen, Senior Software Engineer, Ibadan, Nigeria.
  • Liza de Beer, Marketing Manager, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Shaunine Williams, Head of People Operations, Cape Town, South Africa.

June Barasa, Technical Product Manager, Nairobi, Kenya

‘Whenever I think about inclusion, I think about the popular saying “Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance” Diversity is about representation, but what’s most important is inclusion, which means involvement. It’s not just a matter of social justice, it’s a proven catalyst for problem-solving, innovation, creativity and most importantly growth of a business. Inclusion to me means that I have a sense of belonging that transcends our individual experiences and unites us towards active contributions for common goals. It’s about leaders harnessing the collective power of diverse voices to build a stronger and resilient team.’

Sarah Stanford, Head of Admin, Cape Town, South Africa

Sarah Stanford, striking the Inspire Inclusion Pose

‘For me, inclusion would be a common group where everyone is welcome regardless of not having anything in common. And I think that’s really important in today’s time where everyone has very different opinions, lifestyles, and ways of operating, and for us to be able to accommodate or acknowledge all of that is very inclusive. I hope more people, companies, and communities will incorporate this approach to inclusion in their daily lives.

I feel inclusion needs to go both ways. Every environment and the people operating within it need to be accepting or at least understanding of each other, whether we agree or not. And need to be conscious of this when dealing with individuals.’

Mutindi Ikami, Senior Android Engineer, Nairobi, Kenya

Mutindi Ikami, striking the 'Inspire Inclusion' pose

‘In my experience, I’ve had moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, so to me an inclusive environment is one where I can share my opinions, ideas and perspectives, reach out for and extend help even in moments of doubt because the team’s cultureand environment encourages everybody to do so.’

Ifunanya Okolie, Administration Solutions Specialist, Lagos, Nigeria

Ifunanya Okolie, striking the 'Inspire Inclusion' pose

‘I checked Google Translate for what inclusion means in Igbo, and Google Translate translated inclusion to mean ‘nsonye.’ And as an Igbo woman, I want to start from there. 

That I am a part of something and that I am not excluded, and there isn’t anything that is excluding me from events that I have chosen to be a part of. Inclusion means being a part of equal environments where diversity is embraced and everyone has access to the same opportunities. Inclusion means being respected for who I am, not just as a woman, but also as an equal member of society. Inclusion means being able to raise my hand and contribute fully as a woman who is a part of society or as a woman who is a part of a community or equal group.’

What does inclusion mean to you and how do you inspire inclusion as a man working in a diverse company?

Inclusion is not just for women. Everyone has an important role in making and ensuring inclusive steps, and everyone benefits when they do. We asked two of our Deimos men what inclusion means to them, and this is especially to drive the conversation of inclusion deep within the teams to foster a sense of community, confirming that inclusion is everyone’s responsibility.

Biodun Chris, Senior Full Stack Software Engineer, Nairobi, Kenya

Biodun Chris, striking the 'Inspire Inclusion' pose

‘Inclusion means making people or a set of a group or subset of people feel seen without making them feel different. Because if you want someone to feel included, you don’t want them to feel like they are different in the first place. You want them to feel recognised, accepted, loved, and seen for who they are.

Allen Gbolahan, Senior Software Engineer, Ibadan, Nigeria

Allen Gbolahan, striking the 'Inspire Inclusion' pose

‘Inclusion for me means allowing people of all races and genders, who have been prevented from participating in an event/activity based on race/gender, a chance to do so without restrictions.

How do you personally inspire inclusion at work?

Sarah Stanford: 

‘For me, I have what’s called a ‘yellow energy’, so I naturally want to make people feel happy and relaxed. In a remote and pretty hardcore environment, being able to push this energy and share it with people when I liaise with them makes them feel at ease. And just to have these light moments at work every now and then, I feel goes a long way to making people feel welcome and part of the Deimos family.’

Allen Gbolahan

‘I inspire inclusion at work by treating everyone the same and I value every individual’s opinions.’

Biodun Chris:  

‘I inspire inclusion at work by being myself and expressing myself, and I think that is how we can inspire inclusion. By practicing just being you, and seeing people just listening, and being intentional in their interactions can inspire inclusion at work.’

What are your thoughts on how we can all contribute to a more inclusive environment?

June Barasa:

‘As much as there’s been a lot of work, especially in STEM to bridge the gender gap, however, we are so far from bridging the inclusion gap. It requires a lot of intentional effort, and open and ongoing dialogue that challenges and confronts biases that fuel stereotypes. It means amplifying the voices and visibility of women in Engineering, celebrating their achievements and putting diverse role models to inspire even more diversity within the organisation. I want future generations of women to look at Deimos and say, “I wanna work there when I grow up.”’

Sarah Stanford:

‘It’s difficult for women to speak about or express women-stuff, especially in a male-dominated environment. I would think the first step would be to educate male managers on how to be cognisant of their team member’s personal states and to encourage openness between managers and teammates.’

Mutindi Ikami: 

‘We can contribute towards a more inclusive environment by intentionally engaging and encouraging our teammates to share their feedback, opinions, ideas, and ask questions when they have them regardless of their roles, positions or levels in the team because everybody’s contribution is impactful and important towards creating innovative and successful teams.’

Allen Gbolahan:

We can all contribute to a more inclusive environment through the following ways:

By not discriminating against anyone, being available to mentor those who might be lost or confused in the space you are in, by speaking up when you see people being excluded or marginalised, and by giving time and money where necessary to help programmes that seek to help excluded groups.’

What self-investment are you most proud of?

Sarah Stanford: 

‘Time is the most expensive and most limited thing we have. So using it wisely is key. Being able to prioritise things that benefit oneself, and one’s work in due course, is most rewarding. For me in my role currently, taking the time to upskill about the cloud and making use of cloud platforms has been extremely beneficial.’

Can you share a personal experience when you felt particularly included or supported at Deimos, and how did it impact your work or outlook?

Liza de Beer, Marketing Manager, Johannesburg, South Africa 

Liza de Beer, striking the 'Inspire Inclusion' pose

‘Facing pregnancy complications, compounded by the uncertainty of the impending arrival of my baby, presented significant challenges. However, during this time, Deimos’ commitment to inclusivity truly shone through. From the CEO and HR to my direct supervisor and colleagues, everyone demonstrated genuine care and understanding, supporting me, not only as an employee but also as a mother-to-be facing a significant life event. Their understanding allowed me to reprioritise work, focusing on key tasks with less anxiety. This unwavering support solidified Deimos’ commitment to inclusivity, ultimately fostering loyalty, commitment and true brand love. They truly walk the talk, ensuring their employees feel valued and supported during life’s unexpected moments.’

Sarah Stanford:

I feel like this every day I am at work; I work directly with the CEO, and front of mind for him is that I am a woman and a mother, and he always considers this in setting expectations for my tasks and responsibilities. I feel it is a given that at Deimos, you as a person, comes first and no one questions it.’

What do you envision as the long-term impact of our inclusivity initiatives on the company’s culture and the tech industry?

Shaunine Williams, Head of People Operations, Cape Town, South Africa

‘It’s interesting to consider the impact of IWD initiatives as a member of an African tech company whose very mission and raison d’etre it is to ignite the magic of technology in Africa and to bring the technical prowess of Africa to the world. When I consider that African people are already at the heart of Deimos, my hope is MORE.

More of all the great things Deimos does to invest in Africa – more internships, more of our African-People-centredness and more passion for our very diverse client base.

Deimos has so many great things to reflect on and to celebrate, that my hope is for more of the same.

By nurturing our culture of inclusivity across our operations in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, and the UK, we do not want to just pay lip service and virtue signal. We want to ENABLE even greater technological innovation and creativity by leveraging our commitment to making space for everyone at the table.

Our commitment is to embrace the unique perspectives, experiences, and talents of every Martian within Deimos. As we continue to prioritise inclusivity in our hiring, talent development programmes, and leadership initiatives, we are paving the way for a more inclusive Tech industry where all voices are heard, valued, and empowered to contribute to meaningful change.

In the long term, I am optimistic that our inclusivity initiatives will inspire other companies in Tech to follow suit. To see Africa and her people. And to lead to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive ecosystem that stimulates innovation, drives business success, and positively impacts society as a whole. Together, we can create a future where diversity is not just celebrated but embraced as a fundamental strength of our industry.

Conclusion: A Call to Inspire Inclusion

Our celebration of International Women’s Month extends beyond sharing stories. It’s about the tangible actions we are taking to empower the next generation of individuals and engineers across the globe and uplift the women in our communities. Our initiatives, from partnerships with organisations like She Code Africa to our commitment to upskilling women, are steps towards bridging the gender and inclusion gaps in the tech industry.

As we share these narratives and insights, we invite you to join the conversation around inclusion. How do you inspire inclusion within your space? What actions do you think can further this cause? At Deimos, we believe in the power of collective action to drive change. Let’s interact, include, and inspire, not just this month, but every day, as we work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society.

Resources and platforms that provide insights on inclusion

Here are some resources and platforms that provide valuable insights on inclusion and offer ways for individuals and organisations to engage in meaningful conversations about diversity and inclusion:

  1. Lean In: Founded by Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In offers resources, support, and community to help women achieve their goals. It provides information on forming Lean In Circles, small groups that meet regularly to encourage and support each other in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust.
  2. International Women’s Day: The official International Women’s Day website promotes global events and campaigns around women’s rights and gender equality. It serves as a hub for sharing stories, resources, and ideas for action towards creating a gender-equal world.
  3. Project Include: Focused on providing companies with actionable solutions to make tech more inclusive, Project Include offers a set of recommendations for startups and tech companies looking to improve diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. 
  4. Catalyst: A global nonprofit working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women. Catalyst offers research, tools, and solutions to take action on gender equality and inclusion.
  5. Fair360 (Previously called Diversity Inc): Offers insights, data, and best practices on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Their website features articles, studies, and rankings of companies leading in diversity. 
  6. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT): Focuses on increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. NCWIT provides resources for individuals, organizations, and educators to support women’s involvement in technology.
  7. Best known for the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, offers resources, programmes, and communities to support women in technology and advocate for diversity and inclusion.

You can also invest in women by supporting organisations that empower women in your community. One of which is She Code Africa, an organisation that we are proudly affiliated with.

We invite you to be a part of this conversation. Share your stories of inclusion — How do you inspire inclusion within your space, and what actions do you think can further this cause?

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