In this bonus episode of the IBC’s Changemaker series of Podcasts, Paramount Global’s Wincie Knight speaks to Nadira Tudor about how now is the time “to think about the power of weaving inclusion and belonging into the fabric of your organisation,” and how it’s done - the right way.

The interview with Knight, SVP Global Inclusion, International Markets, Paramount Global, was recorded live at IBC2023 in Amsterdam, where she drove home her message: That to get people to buy into the vision of inclusion, employees need to feel comfortable “speaking truth to power.”

Knight redefined the notion of ‘increasing diversity’ into one simple goal: ensuring you have a workplace that is inclusive and is it fit for purpose. She suggested that breaking down barriers starts with sending responsibility back to the leaders: “Hold leaders accountable for creating an inclusive environment. Ensuring they are equipped to understand the value of an inclusive workplace, and what they can do to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and can thrive.”

Inclusion is Here to Stay

Answering the familiar pessimism that D&I is just a box-ticking exercise that comes in and out of fashion, especially with the relatively recent and overdue surge in media coverage on racial disparities, Knight proudly announced that Paramount “doesn’t see it as a trend.” She added: “It’s at the top table – we don’t talk about diversity - we talk about inclusion. To ensure that we create a culture at Paramount where everyone feels included…Being your authentic self is so important.”

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IBC Podcast bonus episode: Wincie Knight

She advised that all organisations follow suit, with the world waking up to louder, new and imperative voices, in the content stream as well as the workplace, she emphasises the privilege of being able to champion those voices for others, as a role model to be your authentic self. But to ensure that no one is left behind, she cautioned: “It does take time, it doesn’t just happen. You have to feel comfortable, you have to have the right environment, you almost need the have the OK from the top to tell you that.”

Lead with Curiosity

Knight gave credit to her leadership position at Paramount for the opportunity it has given her – which can influence other leaders - to ensure these inclusive spaces are created within the core of an organisation. She alluded to the five pillars set out by the office of global inclusion, strategies for an inclusive workplace, specifically:

- Leadership engagement

- Workplace initiatives

- Content diversification

- Employee Investment

- Community linkages

She spoke of Paramount’s employee resource groups, which have been crucial in keeping the organisation ahead with inclusion. The groups give an insight into the lived experiences of employees.

Listen to IBC Changemakers podcast bonus episode: A conversation with Wincie Knight, Paramount Global now!

“The Pillars allow us to champion inclusion in all assets of the business – we weave it through those pillars.” She added: “Our employee resource groups (are) there to help us be smart as an organisation… A catalyst to let us know how employees are feeling… We need people to tell us what are the barriers for you as a woman, as a black person, a parent, as LGBTQ+, as a young person starting out in a career.”

She explained that the resource groups “monitor on screen and off screen to see how people really feel.”

Eyes on the Road Ahead

Knight relayed that keeping a focus on inclusivity and growing as a future-focussed business means keeping an eye on intersectionality, exemplifying that “to create an environment where every woman can feel like they can reach the top – the job is not met just because one woman is (at the top).”

She summarised: “It’s never a done deal, we’re on a journey.” She doesn’t see it as a straightforward journey either; the pace, the direction, the mass of those involved can alter; because “there’s always going to be people who don’t feel included,” adding that organisations must continue their journey of inclusivity, and employees must “hold leaders to account.”

The Aesthetics of Accountability

But what does this accountability look like? How does an employee or a leader get to a stage of ensuring these environments are created and maintained within their workforce? Knight has an answer, a message to other leaders:

“You can’t lead inclusion if you are not comfortable speaking to people who don’t look like you. So you better get curious and better understand people in your organisation.”

Making inclusivity a priority, whether that’s gender equality or LGBTQ+ career progression, means leaders thinking about whose voice is missing, in the decision making as well as the content creation. As current audiences demand diverse content, leaders should be asking ‘what can we do differently to create content that relates to them?’

Answering attitudes that diverse talent is just not there she urged: “Look harder. Think about talent in a different way… Innovation can only be curated if you allow that authentic piece to happen – take the risk.”

The Numbers Say it All

Knight referenced the data gathered by Paramount, and claimed that she sees the data as an anchor to work from, to show the organisation if and how inclusivity goals are met, “We are not afraid of the data – we let the data guide us to do better.”

She recommended other organisations use their data in the same fashion, because “if you don’t have intent to do better, you’re never going to do better… Make people OK with being uncomfortable. Then think ‘what can we do differently?’ and then you come through the other side.”

After all, the crucial role inclusivity plays is not just about creating more interesting and relatable content, it’s about allowing everyone to feel they belong, that they are a part of something meaningful, and have a piece of a future where no one is ashamed of who they are. As Knight puts it: “Everyone should be proud of who they are. We want to make sure in our content we are reflecting our audience – which is, by nature, diverse.”

Listen to IBC Changemakers podcast bonus episode: A conversation with Wincie Knight, Paramount Global now!