By Delta Thailand SD Team
Bangkok, Thailand, October 21, 2022- The theme of this year’s annual Sustainable Development (SD) Week at Delta Thailand was Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at work with the slogan “Celebrate Unity in Diversity!”
SD Week 2022 featured a public panel discussion held in accordance with the UN International Day theme: End Racism. Build Peace. This discussion was moderated by a local sociology professor and LGBT issues consultant and joined by a famous LGBT community member and folk singer along with representatives from Delta.
Here are some excerpts of the lively and thought-provoking discussion held at the Delta head office:
Vitaya: What is “diversity” in your view?
Fon: When everyone can be themselves, proud to be themselves while respecting others’ differences. Think about our favorite (Thai) dish Somtum (green papaya/mango salad) if you just add sugar you will get a poor result. Even if you like sweet, it’s better to have a little sour and salty flavor and to mix it well. This makes a tasty Somtum.
Chinnaphat: To me, diversity means when everyone can freely express themselves. We are all born with this right! You may want people to respect your uniqueness but some people won’t understand you and reject your choices. But this should be respected too.
Supannee: At first glance, you can easily notice that we have different appearances, complexion, uniform colors or ways of dress. This is the easiest way to define the term “diversity”. In-depth, we have different ethnicity, religion and beliefs that define our choices and reactions to different situations.
Aonthip: At Delta, we see a variety of races, nationalities, languages and genders all working together. For over 30 years, we’ve operated in Thailand so our employees are now of different generations. Among Thai colleagues, we have people from the North, South, Northeast and Bangkok. In our organizational context, diversity also includes our functions, responsibilities, experiences, educational backgrounds and skills.
Vitaya: Have you ever worked or completed a project with diverse colleagues or teammates? Please share your experience including the pros & cons of diversity.
Fon: My career always brings different people like makeup artists, sound engineers, dancers and program managers who all have their own interesting characters, sexual orientation, skills and job functions. Many of our greatest hits have crystalized from such a combination of people in our teams.
For example, when we design a show for a specific site, we get points of view from our teams about what fans want to see or how to draw attention from all our target audience. Our team diversity usually leads to inclusiveness in our show design.
Chinnaphat: I’m in a technical role. In addition to Thai members from different regions, there are some foreigners on my team too. We have different work experiences, points of view and experiences that help to accelerate our technical advancement and problem-solving processes. While we do face a language barrier it’s not too big a deal.
Supannee: I’m lucky to have worked in a global company in Malaysia for years with diversity among colleagues. Being Muslim and using English for communication was something normal there. To me, there are no cons to working among diverse people. Learning and experiencing different cultures, thoughts, views and beliefs allows me to have more fun in my work experience.
Vitaya: When you work with colleagues with differences in nationality, religion, expertise, belief, sexual orientation; what is the proper action or mindset that helps create a smooth work experience and enhances efficiency?
Chinnapat: Previously, a number of companies rejected me because of my tattoos and not because my qualifications didn’t fit the position. But at Delta, our personal appearance is generally accepted as long as we can work.
I must confess that I frequently got weird looks in the past due to my tattoos. In Thailand, tattooed people are generally stigmatized as ex-convicts or criminal offenders.
When someone frankly asks me, I have the chance to politely tell that I’m not a drug addict or criminal. I’m just a body art lover. I’m lucky to have such open-minded colleagues who dare to have a frank conversation with me and after a mutual understanding, everything has been going well.
Supannee: I haven’t had any dilemmas during work hours but my lifestyle after work is different from many.“Why don’t you join our party and drink with us?” “In many parts of the world, Muslim people can come to work without a hijab and enjoy partying after work” These are questions frequently raised by my colleagues.
And that’s a golden opportunity for me to express my choice of being Muslim in a very rigorous way. It’s just my belief, my choice to 100% follow the Quran, dress in hijab and worship Allah’s kindness 5 times a day. I don’t drink alcohol although I’m still your supportive colleague. So talk more to understand more. It’s the simplest way to smoothen out any relationship.
Fon: We can be proud to be ourselves. Meanwhile, we should respect other points of view that differ from ours. People’s thoughts are something we can’t control. The only thing we can control is ourselves. So frequently check to ensure that the choices we make in our lives never harm anyone else.
Aonthip: I realized that at work I need to engage different groups of stakeholders in a respectful manner. I took off my piercings, stopped dyeing my hair and dressed professionally. Such a neutral appearance helps me look natural, reliable and easier to work with. I do not regard such physical changes to fit my work as a compromise because I can still be myself at home, at parties and at concerts.
Vitaya: When “freedom of expression” is every human’s natural right, what is the proper manner to express your individualism to the public or your colleagues?
Fon: I’ve been here for only one hour and I do appreciate Delta allowing your employees to freely express their choice of gender. Being LGBTQ+, I used to worry about the feelings of others. But as time passes, I just live my life with my girlfriend. People around me just investigate and realize this by themselves.
To the public, making a grand display or official declaration is not that important. I’ve never had to hide my sexual orientation but I don’t think it’s my responsibility to announce “Hello world, I’ve got a girlfriend!” I just live my life normally.
Chinnaphat: I simply prove myself again and again through timely and quality work. In public, I think Thai society is more educated about tattoo art.
Vitaya: Do you have any issues with your parents about your lifestyle?
Chinnaphat: My tattoos used to create issues for my family. They worried that no firm would give me a good job. But getting a good job here, earning my own living and supporting them stopped every question they used to have.
Supannee: Overwhelmingly, I believe that my way of dress says what I need, what I can do and what I can’t do already.
Vitaya: If you are confident with your way of expression, yet someone shows his/her disagreement with you. How will you ease the situation?
Chinnaphat: At the workplace, it’s easy. Be a disciplined employee and achieve your department targets with quality. As long as I can work according to my job description, which meets my compensation package evaluation, or even go beyond the team’s expectation to fulfill my tasks, then people’s disagreement with my lifestyle can be disregarded.
Supannee: Again, I’m so lucky that I never face such opposition.
Aonthip: Previously, I just thought it was my right to express myself frankly and didn’t care about others’ comments or feedback. Such an approach would be fine when I worked alone. But when I joined another team for the last nine years, I needed to collaborate.
I start accepting that every person has got the right to think and mentally judge me because of my outfits, hairstyle or whatever. Those who work with me now are busier with statistics, data analysis and logic sets and they don’t have time to care about my appearance. At work, knowledge and responsibility speak louder than anything.
Fon: I face public comments about my relationship like it’s kind of a waste for a beautiful woman to not get a handsome rich man. I’ve often heard something like this during my 19-year relationship with my partner.
But on the other hand, I think that being with a dishonest person, a man that just wants a beautiful doll by his side or a boorish mouth breather would be more of a “waste”. We just let our stable relationship happily go on and let them see our happiness.
Vitaya: What is considered “equity” at the workplace?
Aonthip: At Delta, we have over 17,000 employees in different work functions with different specialties here daily. People often think “equity” is “equality” but if we want to promote “equality” then our job, gender, backgrounds, skills and expertise should be the same with the same expectations. However, “equity” should be something more “fair” that fits different expectations of employees according to their unique needs.
For example, we have a breastfeeding corner for every mother at Delta. Every employee here over 10 years is eligible to get Delta employee awards. Every parent can apply for the Delta Family Education Fund and vegetarian employees have a vegetarian menu in our canteen. That’s what we regard as equity.
Now I’ve heard some production employees ask “Why can’t I dress freely as office staff does? I should have the right to express my fashion sense. This is not fair!” Let’s go back to the definition of “equity” without bias. It’s agreed by all that every production and technical worker should work safely accordingly to Delta’s “Zero Accident” target and must have ESD and PPE (personal protection equipment) checks before starting work. Your unisex uniforms are actually part of the daily PPE to mitigate machinery, electrocution and knife injury during working hours.
Vitaya: How does employee diversity help an organization grow sustainably?
Fon: From what I’ve seen in my audience and passerby today, I appreciate Delta for allowing your employees to join such an activity. I see that Delta employees are allowed to be themselves. Such a harmonious and respectful environment should encourage employee participation which leads to inclusivity in the business plan.
Moreover, the way the company respects or listens to your employee’s feedback reflects the way you respect or listen to your customer’s expectations. This brings us back to the example of Somtum again. Listening to your employees is the best way to design a yummy Somtum seasoned with proper sourness, saltiness, sweetness and chili that fits a consumer’s taste. If you sell tasty Somtum that satisfies diners today you will be able to keep selling your Somtum in the long term.
Supannee: In my field, to design an effective marketing campaign with proper channels and content; we have to understand our prospect’s needs and behavior. In addition to research and investigation, another way to understand what our prospect is looking for or even test the effectiveness of our design is to collect comments from our diverse colleagues. So in conclusion, collecting diverse points of view is an effective factor to create a value-add strategy to drive our business.
Vitaya: If diversity really matters to an organization’s sustainability, how should a firm promote diversity and respect?
Aonthip: Obviously, as a multi-national enterprise we embrace diversity as part of our daily operations. However, previously corporate diversity was from the management’s viewpoint and only based on the data we have. Now we look forward to promoting DEI with more inclusivity by learning about our employee’s expectations.
We are opening various communication channels and increasing engagement for our employees and stakeholders to provide their input including their needs and expectations. Such honest and genuine feedback should help us to provide the right investment into the right areas to deliver a happier workplace for everyone.
We encourage all of you here to communicate more with us. Meanwhile, we are developing a company DEI policy, communication and related activities to actualize DEI promotion at Delta. In addition, the company is benchmarking our DEI work with our peers and competitors by participating in world-leading initiatives like the DJSI, MSCI etc.
Vitaya: As a human, how can we simply participate or promote diversity and respect for each individual in society and in our daily lives?
Chinnaphat: Accept the truth that we all are from different backgrounds, social contexts and experiences that shape us as individuals. Be kind. Respect each other.
Supannee: Thinking or believing in something different isn’t a confrontation. Colleagues may question your beliefs/identity but this should be regarded as a golden opportunity to understand each other better.
Aonthip: Just as you protect your rights, privacy and identity you must also protect those of others. Yes! Understanding and respect are essential for creating a peaceful and sustainable society. As you respect others from your heart, please do not forget to express it through your words and your supportive and friendly action.
Fon: While others cannot force us to be someone they like, we also cannot force anyone to feel the same way nor be someone we want either. If we expect people’s respect, we should pay respect to others’ views too
After the comments by the panelists, the moderator wrapped up the discussion by sharing key findings from his initial DEI investigation of Delta employees at different sites.
Special thanks to all the panelists for sharing their honest opinions and all the Delta employees who joined our public discussion at SD Week 2022.
We look forward to using the 2022 SD Week and our initial employee engagements as a springboard to further develop the Delta Thailand DEI strategy and actions. Let’s all continue to Celebrate Unity in Diversity!