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Building A Workplace Free Of Inhibitions

Surefire way to bring diversity of experience, thought, and creativity to your work environment

Michele Bodda
Michele Bodda
Workplace Free of Inhibitions

When I started with Experian nearly 25 years ago, I was at a point in my personal life where I was still embracing all the aspects of who I am and how these truths would show up in my professional life. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to realize I could be myself without worrying how I would be received or fear of compromising future professional opportunities.

While tensions over our differences still divide us, corporate America is doing better at embracing diversity, and understanding the quality of decisions that are made when diverse voices are at the table. It’s a privilege to have spent my career with a company where bringing your whole self to work is not only OK, but also expected.

Inclusion is important, but belonging is what we need to strive to achieve. To best serve potential borrowers and create a more equitable path to homeownership, we have to be deliberate in this quest. We have a responsibility to build a more inclusive industry, and this starts with building great teams within each of our organizations.

Imagine if everyone in your business felt as safe as I do to bring their whole selves to work. The mental and emotional energy our teammates spend sheltering aspects of their lives that make them who they are saddens me. If they were empowered to bring their diverse experiences to the table, could they bond with others quicker, positively affecting team performance and achieving goals faster? Could they help someone else know it was OK to be fully themselves and watch them confidently come into work every day?

Bring More Perspectives

The answer is yes, and the benefits of building diverse and inclusive teams goes far beyond this. By embracing and celebrating diversity in our workforce, we can bring more perspectives to the table that influence the solutions we bring to market to create real business and consumer impact. Our industry directly influences people’s lives and our teams need to represent the consumers we serve.

Let me give you an example. We recently deployed a survey to compare the homeownership experiences of Black, Hispanic and white consumers. Not knowing where to start is the number one stated barrier for Black and Hispanic consumers who aspire to own a home. Consumers reported a lack of discussion about money and credit in general while growing up — a sentiment that rang especially true when it came to homeownership. Many are unaware of reliable sources of trustworthy information. At the same time, our research showed that 58% of Black and Hispanic consumers who were denied a mortgage do not know what they need to do to get approved in the future.

Our research reinforces the importance of knowing your customer, understanding their journey and meeting them where they are. We need diversity of thought, background, and experience on our teams to bring those voices to life.

Whether you’re a business leader or an individual contributor, there is one surefire way we can all foster the growth and development of more inclusive teams:

Be Mindful

Whether it’s your ethnicity, religious background, gender identity, or something else, in one way another, there are things we all sometimes hide from the world. Creating a workplace environment that encourages people to be freed from their inhibitions starts with helping people feel safe. This can feel challenging considering every day there are headlines making many of us feel unsafe, but there are steps leaders can take to make it better, including:

  • When you see something, say something. The people who need to hear your message the most are listening.
  • Be an ally/advocate: An ally isn’t someone who just lets other people be who they are. An ally can become an advocate by speaking up, and by showing up.
  • Actively seek diverse candidate pools when recruiting. Do you make sure there is representation within your business that others can look to and see examples of themselves in key roles to aspire to?
  • Pay attention. Do you avoid important religious holidays when scheduling meetings?
  • Recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate significant markers for various communities. October 11 is National Coming Out Day. This is one example of a meaningful opportunity to create a safe space and celebrate a friend or colleague that is showing up authentically.

When employees bring their whole selves to work, they are more productive, more innovative, more committed. I’ve watched that play out at Experian over the last 25 years. I can think of countless voices throughout our organization who have stood up and said “let me tell you what I think would matter most to consumers like me” — and those voices have changed the course of how Experian shows up in the world. Those voices have inspired us to put consumers at the center of everything we do and they’ve helped us create solutions like Experian Boost and Experian Go that help consumers build their credit so they can have access to the financial utility they need to thrive.

By allowing people to be their authentic selves at work, we can build teams capable of dreaming more, becoming more, and representing the communities we serve so we can better meet their needs. 

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine September 2023 issue.
Michele Bodda
Michele Bodda,

Michele Bodda is president of housing, verification solutions and employer services at Experian.

Published on
Sep 18, 2023
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