'Raising the voices of those who may not always be heard is critical,' says Claire Thomas

Fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity for a Satisfied Workforce
Claire Thomas is responsible for developing and implementing a strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across Hitachi Vantara through programs that reflect the diverse backgrounds, interests, and passions of their current and future workforce. Continue reading to learn her views on the significance of inclusion and diversity in an organization.

It’s really important that all employees feel seen and heard in order for everyone to have the opportunity to succeed.

Media 7 Could you describe what motivated you to pursue your current career path, and how did you enter this field?
Claire Thomas:
I’ve been with Hitachi Vantara for 11 years now in various sales positions as well as leading many Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives on a voluntary basis such as employee resource groups, mentoring circles and Corporate Social Responsibility. When the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer was created just over a year ago, I knew I wanted to go for it. My passion for the technology industry has grown over the last 15 years, alongside building inclusive environments and high performing teams, and I want to make sure all my colleagues have a sense of belonging and meaningful career. I also want to play a role in increasing the variety of people who enter the technology industry as it’s an incredible industry with a huge range of opportunities and career paths. By creating more opportunities in a high paying sector for previously under-represented groups, I can also play a role in closing gender and ethnicity pay gaps, as well as making sure the technology that is let out into the world reflects the society it was created in.
My role covers the business globally, which is around 11,000 employees in 35 countries. In each of these countries, DEI has a different meaning, so one aspect of my position is to make sure that our work engages all our employees while also feeling relevant for a global audience. It's a good challenge and something I’m committed to delivering on.

M7: Can you discuss how you prioritize innovation and experimentation in your role at Hitachi Vantara?
CT:
I always seek to innovate DEI at Hitachi Vantara by ensuring we’re constantly studying our data to review what we know about our employees and where there might be any obstacles. When we analyse our findings in this way, we ensure we’re developing our offering and support through the creation of personalised initiatives, like more specific trainings based on feedback and needs. We’re currently experimenting with a different style of leadership development program and an allyship program to raise the profile of gender equity for all.
It's essential to also keep in mind the bigger picture of innovation in DEI – the UN for Women made this year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. Currently, 259 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men, despite women being nearly half of the world’s population. We know at Hitachi Vantara that technology has the potential to help us create a better world for future generations – technology needs to be made for all, available to all, and inclusive of all to have the best possible impact, so we need to always be conscious of the digital divide and any steps that we can take to help to alleviate it.

M7: We are interested in learning about how the Dublin Tech Summit aims to create a diverse and inclusive environment for all attendees. Please share your thoughts on this?
CT:
It’s so important to ensure everyone feels a strong sense of inclusivity at events, and it’s a relatively easy lift for event organisers to implement changes to help people do so. As a starting point, including options for pronouns for attendee badges can help to make people feel welcome as soon as they step foot into the event. Furthermore, allowing attendees to bring their children – perhaps especially those with children aged one or younger – would also allow those on parental leave to attend the event and stay up to date with industry news and conversations, meaning that they still feel they are part of the conversation.

Organisers should also take care to consider the spaces which may be needed – for example, ensuring appropriate accessibility requirements are provided, such as disabled access and facilities. Access to gender neutral toilets and the provision of a safe space for people who may need to pump breast milk, feed their child, or have time for prayer away from loud auditoriums, could also be welcome ideas.

Looking to the talks themselves, it could be an idea to commence each session with a short introduction where attendees are asked to be respectful of each other with all questions welcome, and stating that speakers have the right to decline to answer anything they’re not comfortable with. For any attendees who may be visually or hearing impaired, including the provision of an interpreter in the country appropriate sign language, or using closed captions and larger format text, would insure they benefit from the industry insights and have their needs catered for. During Q&A sessions, having a dedicated person to monitor who in the audience asks questions would also guarantee that there is balanced representation from everyone in attendance. Even simply providing an option to submit anonymous questions enables those who do not want to ask in person to gain insights and have their thoughts heard. Finally, a simple but crucial suggestion: regular comfort breaks! It's important to help accommodate peoples’ needs, as well as catering for those who may need to carry work commitments. It's touches like these that ensure attendees are comfortable throughout events and which can help to build an inclusive environment.

Read more: Q&A with Charles Southwood, Vice President, N. Europe and MEA at Denodo


Culture change or building an inclusive culture is everybody’s responsibility and is very much defined by the actions and behaviours of every individual within the company.

M7: How do you ensure that your company is fostering an inclusive culture, and what measures do you take to ensure that all employees feel valued?
CT:
It’s really important that all employees feel seen and heard in order for everyone to have the opportunity to succeed. I’ve worked on several initiatives with the goal of creating an inclusive culture – creating safe spaces or a number of communities through our Employee Resource Groups, bringing in partners like the Equality Institute to provide opportunity to learn about being LGBTQ+ without asking our LGBTQ+ community to do the education, sharing lived experiences of under-represented groups through our DEI speaker series to create empathy for others and sharing my own personal stories to show that it is ok to talk about things that some may find uncomfortable if the objective is to help people learn about others’ experiences. We work with people managers to equip them with skills to have quality conversations with their teams and make connections with each individual. I personally think the relationship between a manager and a team member is that best way for an employee to feel valued.
We’ve recently started our gender equity program to make sure men have a voice in our DEI work. They too need to feel safe and empowered to advocate for their female counterparts and themselves, which we are supporting through our workshops and e-learning resources with Catalyst on Men Advocating for Real Change. Additionally, we’re co-creating an allyship program with Token Man Consulting and Potentia Consulting, led by our Women of Hitachi employee resource group (ERG). Our Rainbow Connection LGBTQ+ ERG also supports this program by providing us with additional insights around gender equality, which is essential to ensure that we’re always switched on to the unique experiences of all individuals.

M7: How do you assess the successful outcomes of your diversity and inclusion initiatives, and are there any metrics used to track progress?
CT:
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to measurement, so we explore a range of avenues. We firstly use general data capture on a centralised HR information system to understand current levels of diversity by function, country, seniority among other things, and measure progress. It’s important to caveat that these metrics present facts on representation and don’t necessarily capture the less tangible markers of progress: for example, are our employees happy? To supplement this effort, we also encourage employees to take part in surveys, which allow staff to share their thoughts and recommendations. We calculate a DEI index on an annual basis based on answers to eight questions.
We also conduct regular listening circles for small groups and often use a theme to tailor the conversation around events such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Pride. We’ve found these to be invaluable opportunities to simply listen to everyone’s views and understand how our colleagues feel we have progressed as an organisation.

M7: What are the most effective methods for training managers and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues?
CT:
Learning and development is a key priority for me this year. To understand the most effective methods for training, I’d recommend studying the data available to find out where the barriers or gaps are, and tailor trainings accordingly. I personally feel like smaller group training, where there is opportunity to discuss topics in a safe environment, is more effective than online learning, though I appreciate there is a balance between cost and scale to be found for organisations. Storytelling is also critical for me as we absorb so much more through stories than data alone.
It’s also important to review and update trainings regularly. We're constantly developing our learning platform which includes trainings on things like inclusive leadership and bias. Employees are also encouraged to deliver feedback on these sessions, so we can continue to improve them as time goes on and ensure they align with our colleagues’ learning styles.

Read more: Q&A with Charles Southwood, Vice President, N. Europe and MEA at Denodo


DEI is an increasingly important topic across the world and needs to become a standard operating procedure.

M7: How can we involve employees from diverse backgrounds in the decision-making process and make sure their voices are heard?
CT:
Raising the voices of those who may not always be heard is critical. If you are in a leadership position, being aware of your surroundings is an essential tool to understand whether you have the level of representation you need. Stop and take notice when there may be group thinking occurring. Where there is diversity of thought, make sure everyone can contribute by encouraging all to have a say, speaking up if interruptions happen and following up with anyone who may not have contributed to see if they want to contribute outside of a larger forum. Lead by example by being respectful and open when people disagree with ideas, show that it is ok to think differently and create environments where healthy challenge is normal and valued.
I have been working on a talent development program on storytelling and public speaking with Ginger Leadership Communications. Thirty of our high potential employees will be spending the next six months honing their skills and then delivering a TED-style talk on any topic they wish to our leadership. The aim of the program is to give people the skills needed for authentic, impactful communication, so that when they speak, others want to listen.
What are the best practices that can ensure an inclusive culture in different kinds of industries?
For any industry, it’s important that building an inclusive culture is not seen as a HR activity. Culture change or building an inclusive culture is everybody’s responsibility and is very much defined by the actions and behaviours of every individual within the company.
I’d recommend companies find culture champions who role model the values of the organisation every day, look at the barriers that may be in place to creating inclusivity specific to your sector, encourage behaviours that reflect the culture you want and quickly address behaviours that do not, and get input from your employees on what an inclusive culture needs to look like for each of them.

M7: As you are committed to improving diversity, how does a position like Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer help to make diversity and inclusion a standard operating procedure rather than an afterthought?
CT:
DEI is an increasingly important topic across the world and needs to become a standard operating procedure. I’m part of our leadership team at Hitachi Vantara, so sometimes the simple fact that I’m in the leadership meetings helps maintain focus on DEI as part of everyday work.
I think the specific actions taken by the CDIO influence how much DEI becomes part of a standard operating model. If you’re intentional about embedding DEI into core people processes, such as hiring, performance, promotion and pay, and measure progress, DEI will become a natural topic of conversation over time. If you speak in the language of the people who run your business functions and understand how DEI can contribute to their objectives, then prove the value for each individual, DEI will become standard. And celebrating people’s successes, progress and willingness to learn can also encourage others to engage more in DEI.

M7: In what ways can a CDIO establish collaborations across multiple business functions and ensure alignment with the objectives of the HR department?
CT:
Establishing collaborations with other functions – particularly when it comes to any joint DEI action plan – needs to work for all parties, as well as aligning with the objectives of the respective HR departments. Typically, this would mean working with functions on DEI action plans that are specific to their area of the business and developing tailor-made strategies, rather than having one centralised strategy that governs all business units in exactly the same way. Building relationships with peers and an understanding of their responsibilities and objectives is critical. It’s also important that insights are shared during the process of implementation –reflecting on what has and hasn’t worked in order to find more suitable solutions moving forwards is very valuable.

ABOUT HITACHI VANTARA

Hitachi Vantara, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., guides our clients from the present to the future by addressing their digital challenges. Together with every client, we apply our unparalleled industrial and digital capabilities to their data and applications for the benefit of business and society. Hitachi Vantara is trusted by over 80 percent of the Fortune 100 to help them develop new revenue streams, uncover competitive advantages, reduce costs, improve customer experiences, and deliver social and environmental value. To Know more about Hitachi Vantara please visit, https://www.hitachivantara.com/

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And this can only happen with simplicity at the core,” said Raj Verma, CEO, SingleStore. “This isn’t just a product update, it’s a quantum leap… SingleStore is offering truly transformative capabilities in a single platform for customers to build all kinds of real-time applications, AI or otherwise.” “At Adobe, we aim to change the world through digital experiences,” said Matt Newman, Principal Data Architect, Adobe. “SingleStore’s latest release is exciting as it pushes what is possible when it comes to database technology, real-time analytics and building modern applications that support AI workloads. We’re looking forward to these new features as more and more of our customers are seeking ways to take full advantage of generative Al capabilities.” Key new features launched include: Indexed vector search. SingleStore has announced support for vector search using Approximate Nearest Neighbor (ANN) vector indexing algorithms, leading to 800-1,000x faster vector search performance than precise methods (KNN). With both full-text and indexed vector search capabilities, SingleStore offers developers true hybrid search that takes advantage of the full power of SQL for queries, joins, filters and aggregations. These capabilities firmly place SingleStore above vector-only databases that require niche query languages and are not designed to meet enterprise security and resiliency needs. Free shared tier. SingleStore has announced a new cloud-based Free Shared Tier that’s designed for startups and developers to quickly bring their ideas to life — without the need to commit to a paid plan. On-demand compute service for GPUs and CPUs. SingleStore announces a compute service that works alongside SingleStore’s native Notebooks to let developers spin up GPUs and CPUs to run database-adjacent workloads including data preparation, ETL, third-party native application frameworks, etc. This capability brings compute to algorithms, rather than the other way around, enabling developers to build highly performant AI applications safely and securely using SingleStore — without unnecessary data movement. New CDC capabilities for data ingest and egress. To ease the burden and costs of moving data in and out of SingleStore, SingleStore is adding native capabilities for real-time Change Data Capture (CDC) in for MongoDB®, MySQL and ingestion from Apache Iceberg without requiring other third party CDC tools. SingleStore will also support CDC out capabilities that ease migrations and enable the use of SingleStore as a source for other applications and databases like data warehouses and lakehouses. SingleStore Kai™. Now generally available, and ready for both analytical and transactional processing for apps originally built on MongoDB. Announced in public preview in early 2023, SingleStore Kai is an API to deliver over 100x faster analytics on MongoDB® with no query changes or data transformations required. Today, SingleStore Kai supports BSON data format natively, has improved transactional performance, increased performance for arrays and offers industry-leading compatibility with MongoDB query language. Projections: To further advance as the world’s fastest HTAP database, SingleStore has added Projections. Projections allow developers to greatly speed up range filters and group by operations by introducing secondary sort and shard keys. Query performance improvements range from 2-3x or more, depending on the size of the table. With this latest release, SingleStore becomes the industry’s first and only real-time data platform designed for all applications, analytics and AI. SingleStore supports high-throughput ingest performance, ACID transactions and low-latency analytics; and structured, semi-structured (JSON, BSON, text) and unstructured data (vector embeddings of audio, video, images, PDFs, etc.). Finally, SingleStore’s data platform is designed not just with developers in mind, but also ML engineers, data engineers and data scientists. “Our new features and capabilities advance SingleStore’s mission of offering a real-time data platform for the next wave of gen AI and data applications,” said Nadeem Asghar, SVP, Product Management + Strategy at SingleStore. “New features, including vector search, Projections, Apache Iceberg, Scheduled Notebooks, autoscaling, GPU compute services, SingleStore Kai™, and the Free Shared Tier allow startups — as well as global enterprises — to quickly build and scale enterprise-grade real-time AI applications. We make data integration with third-party databases easy with both CDC in and CDC out support.” "Although generative AI, LLM, and vector search capabilities are early stage, they promise to deliver a richer data experience with translytical architecture," states the 2023 report, “Translytical Architecture 2.0 Evolves To Support Distributed, Multimodel, And AI Capabilities,” authored by Noel Yuhanna, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. "Generative AI and LLM can help democratize data through natural language query (NLQ), offering a ChatGPT-like interface. Also, vector storage and index can be leveraged to perform similarity searches to support data intelligence." SingleStore has been on a fast track leading innovation around generative AI. The company’s product evolution has been accompanied by high-momentum growth in customers and surpassing $100M in ARR late last year. SingleStore also recently ranked #2 in the emerging category of vector databases, and was recognized by TrustRadius as a top vector database in 2023. Finally, SingleStore was a winner of InfoWorld’s Technology of the year in the database category. To learn more about SingleStore visit here. About SingleStore SingleStore empowers the world’s leading organizations to build and scale modern applications using the only database that allows you to transact, analyze and contextualize data in real time. With streaming data ingestion, support for both transactions and analytics, horizontal scalability and hybrid vector search capabilities, SingleStore helps deliver 10-100x better performance at 1/3 the costs compared to legacy architectures. Hundreds of customers worldwide — including Fortune 500 companies and global data leaders — use SingleStore to power real-time applications and analytics. Learn more at singlestore.com. Follow us @SingleStoreDB on Twitter or visit www.singlestore.com.

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Hitachi Vantara, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., guides our customers from what’s now to what’s next by solving their digital challenges. Working alongside each customer, we apply our unmatched industrial and digital capabilities to their data and applications to benefit both business an...

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