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When was the last time you were the minority in the room? The last moment when you were so nervous that your palms were sweating -and you were looking around – sure that no one had anything in common with you. Diversity and inclusion initiatives aim to reduce and eventually eliminate the number of people who experience this feeling.
They are incredibly important concepts and the benefits of creating truly diverse and inclusive workplaces are beginning to gain traction in the corporate world. Unfortunately, as the concept grows in popularity, it also grows in overuse and D&I dismissed as the latest buzzword becomes separated from its true meaning and impact. For this reason, it’s so important to see it in action.
The comprehension of what diversity really means is what Team Dimension Data, sponsored by Deloitte, is actively addressing. TDD is Africa’s first ever UCI World Tour team and started its first season in cycling’s top ranks in 2016. It’s also known as ‘Africa’s Team’ due to its focus on helping bringing. African talent to the world stage of cycling. African riders indeed are drastically underrepresented at World Tour level in the pro peloton. Team Dimension Data has a goal to produce the first African world champion and this is evident in their nearly 50% African roster.
Nicholas Dlamini, from the Capricorn township near Cape Town, South Africa was competing in the Tour Down Under in his first race as a Neo Pro, as part of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka (TDD). This was the first race on the UCI Calendar for the 2018 calendar year. Nicholas was participating in his first professional race at the Tour Down Under and as part of our experience as sponsors and for our clients in Adelaide we got to meet with him, ride with him, albeit at a ‘leisurely pace for the Pro’s. What a great race! Nic shot out of the bunch on the second lap of the race but unfortunately quickly fell back some three or four laps later. Any new racer would have taken this as a huge set back but not Nic! Two days later he was out the front of the pro-peloton on the first stage of the Tour Down Under and won the points classification for best climber. Let me repeat that – he won the best climber out of the entire peloton on his first day of his first Pro race!
He worked hard over the next six days and held onto this coveted jersey all the way to the last stage. What an inspiration to his family -not to mention those from Capricorn – and his native South Africa . He stood proudly on the winners’ podium and rocked the climbing leader’s jersey on the last day of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
In addition to their ambitions for African cycling, TDD team also rides with an additional purpose: The Qhubeka #bicycleschangelives campaign. Their aim is to provide bicycles to people in Africa so families can travel to schools, clinics and jobs. This commitment to changing lives is one of the core reasons Deloitte sponsors the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka (TDD) team.
As a Director with Deloitte, I’ve been proud to be part of the conversations around the importance of diversity and inclusion over a number of years. I have actively tried to understand and connect with the experience or feeling of being a new starter in a foreign environment, the youngest person in the room or even arriving at a party under dressed and looking like you received the wrong invite! Being in Adelaide with our clients to see Nicholas Dlamini claim, retain and then go on and win the King of the Mountains jersey was a real moment of inspiration.
Witnessing the talent, dedication and potential of Nic, I also realised in that moment, that without continuous support and a commitment to develop talent from diverse backgrounds, his talent could have been lost to us. For sure Nic is benefitting from his place in the team but the team is equally benefitting in getting to witness his talent.
Whether it is a cyclist being given an opportunity at the highest level, ensuring diverse representation around an organisation or setting goals for your own team on a daily basis, promoting diversity and inclusion creates opportunity for all.
If you can take one opportunity in 2018 to develop talent and look for contributions from a diversity of sources, you may see a champion rise in your own organisation.
Alex Lord is a Director in the Advisory and Assurance practice of Deloitte and was present at the Tour Down Under as part of Deloitte’s global sponsorship of Team Dimension Data. You will see him riding down the Melbourne Blvd or ‘Beach Road’ on weekends living his own cycling dream.