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This article was originally published in the Acadiana Advocate on 9/8/2020.

At CGI, a strong belief in diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded in the company’s culture and operating principles. This philosophy extends to both CGI employees (called members) and external stakeholders.

“We believe we are stronger together,” said CGI human resources vice president, Jennifer Hilliard. “At CGI, we strive to ensure we are creating an inclusive space where all members feel valued for their unique talents and contributions. By elevating the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, we’ve been able to build a more creative and innovative workforce and our members are communicating their enjoyment of the work that they do. While our journey to create and maintain a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is never-ending, it’s  fundamental to our core values and embedded in the way that we work.”

Much of this work is led by CGI U.S. Diversity and Inclusion committees, which establish and champion nationwide priorities to support a diverse and inclusive culture.

Some key components of the work include:

  • Sponsoring programs and initiatives to build awareness and understanding how diversity and inclusion contribute to CGI’s business performance
  • Embedding diverse and inclusive practices for all CGI stakeholders, including business strategy, internal and external communications, client relationship management and workforce development
  • Promoting and encouraging an inclusive culture where members have equal access to opportunities that help them reach their full potential
  • Engaging CGI leadership in discussions and sponsorship of programs and affinity groups designed to promote learning, inclusion and engagement
  • Championing a work environment where all members experience respect and feel their input is valued and their voices are heard
  • Reinforcing, through stakeholder communications, that diversity and inclusion is a clear, prominent and inherent part of CGI’s culture
  • Partnering across CGI to share best practices and efforts around the world and to advance diversity, equity and inclusion on a global scale

Hilliard said one major advancement has been the implementation of listening sessions among CGI members. The sessions are providing an opportunity for open and honest dialogue for members to discuss their personal experiences, opinions and how we can be a better, more diverse and inclusive CGI.

“It’s important for us to listen thoughtfully with the purpose to understand, without assuming we know what is on people’s minds,” Hilliard said. “We’re finding quite a bit of information and suggestions that will help us be stronger together. We are focused on translating those insights into action and making sure we can turn good intentions into positive outcomes.”

CGI-mentored students in Congressional App Challenge
Students from the New Vision Leadership of Acadiana Team, mentored and aided by CGI employees, won the Congressional App Challenge for Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District.

Meanwhile, many CGI members are also working to ensure a diverse pipeline of new talent by working with high school and college students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That initiative began a few years ago when members in CGI’s Lafayette, La. center hosted a code and computer-building session as part of CGI’s corporate social responsibility efforts.

The one-day event was so successful that it spawned educational STEM camps specifically geared toward minorities, female students, students who are economically under-served and students with disabilities. In the first year, 450 students throughout the country participated in nine camps, with 80 CGI members serving as volunteers.

To continue those efforts, the company created STEM@CGI to allow members to mentor students who are under-represented in STEM, said Anne Swanson, who leads the program.

“The STEM camp is the flagship program under this umbrella, but we have increased the ways we reach students,” Swanson said. “We also have the CGI STEM Club, the IT Girl Challenge and the Congressional App Challenge mentorship program. Since our first event a few years ago, 800 CGI member volunteers have served more than 12,000 students at 133 events across the U.S.”

In addition, STEM@CGI is engaged in workforce development initiatives. Three CGI centers, including the one in Lafayette, participate in university capstone classes. In 2018, the Lafayette CGI center also launched a pilot community college internship program.

Swanson said it has been particularly gratifying for CGI members to see students so highly engaged in STEM activities. The hope is that the programs will create a pipeline for more future diversity in STEM careers.

“What’s really cool about it for me is that it’s a great reminder that technology is there to help us solve problems,” Swanson said. “We’re teaching kids that everybody can be an app developer because we all have problems that need solving.”

Hilliard said CGI is also committed to bringing in diverse slates of candidates for job opportunities. The company is strengthening its partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, as well as affinity and networking groups focusing on minority students at other universities.

“We’re also focused more on having diverse interview panels,” Hilliard said. “It goes back to individuals being able to see themselves here. That’s an important tenet of our culture. Our main focus is not just creating a more inclusive and diverse environment, but sustaining it as well. It’s not a one-and-done situation. It’s a garden that we have to keep watering so we can uphold it as a core principle of our company.”