Zappeion Megaron, Athens
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Kalimera sas. Stavros, Minister Michailidou, Governor Patoulis, distinguished guests and speakers, I’m delighted to be here at the Diversity in Business conference in order to take part in an important conversation that businesses across Greece, and around the world, are having every day. And I especially want to congratulate my friend Domna for the Greek government’s support to this event.
Ensuring fair and equal opportunities in the workplace is essential to the success not only of local economies. It’s also the key ingredient to the health, prosperity and well-being of our societies.
President Biden has expressed his personal commitment to working with Greece to pursue sustainable economic growth in the wake of the global pandemic. And a very important part of fostering that growth is ensuring a workplace culture in which all employees, including women and underrepresented minorities, feel safe and supported.
At home in the United States, President Biden signed a Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World. This memorandum reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ communities worldwide and to building coalitions of like-minded nations to fight discrimination.
In my own institution, the U.S. State Department, Secretary Blinken instituted a new Diversity and Inclusion policy to ensure that our entire Department is built on trust, collegiality, teamwork, humility, and sincere respect for our colleagues.
In short, our State Department must look like America. We know that Greece is committed to the same worthy effort and we must continue to work together to promote diversity and inclusivity efforts as a cornerstone of our shared democratic values.
We cannot expect to advance America’s and Greece’s interests around the world without a workforce that proudly and accurately represents all of our citizens. We can reach higher levels economically and politically by educating ourselves on a continuous basis about the needs of our workforces and by more actively seeking to have all levels of our companies and governments reflect the full diversity of our societies.
But this is not only about our values, it’s about the bottom line. A recent Harvard Business Review article points out that an increased focus on diversity directly correlates with an increase in financial success.
This Harvard study found that the more similar the investment partners were in terms of gender and race, the lower their investments’ performance, averaging 11.5% lower in the success rate of acquisitions and IPOs. The effect of shared ethnicity was even stronger, reducing an investment’s comparative success rate by 26%.
Thriving in a highly uncertain and competitive environment requires creative thinking when it comes to strategy and recruitment, and diverse collaborators are better equipped to deliver this. In this regard, I’m glad to see some of our top American companies sponsoring today’s event, including Pfizer, Deloitte and Accenture.
The U.S. Embassy is also very proud of the partnerships we have built here in Greece to advance diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
For instance, we partnered with an outstanding Greek NGO, Women on Top, for a State Department initiative to promote opportunities for women’s economic rise. This two-day forum united female tech entrepreneurs, along with Greek and American tech experts, to discuss opportunities available to women, leveraging the growing accessibility of cloud technology. Participants in this event included seasoned tech professionals and entrepreneurs new to the Greek tech sector.
Our Embassy has also supported diversity and inclusivity roundtables conducted by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce. At one recent event, we heard from American industry leaders like Microsoft and AbbVie Pharmaceuticals about the best practices they are using to build a more diverse workplace here in Athens and their steadfast commitment to support and promote traditionally underrepresented professionals.
Through our public diplomacy programming, we fund educational and training opportunities throughout the year that focus on women, refugees, and other underrepresented groups to develop tech, entrepreneurial, and other job skills and to encourage greater political representation. I am exceptionally proud of these programs such as our recent TechCamp in Thessaloniki, CodeGirls, and Women CANdidates with Women Act, to name just a few.
I am also very proud of our Embassy’s efforts responding to the educational needs of young refugees here in Greece. Beginning in 2017, the U.S. Embassy has provided more than $700,000 in scholarships to over 150 refugees in Athens and Thessaloniki to resume their courses of study. In partnership with the American College of Greece, the American Farm School, and Anatolia College, we’ve helped these individuals obtain degrees in diverse fields, including business, tourism, and farming technologies. Most of these young people remain in Greece today and are active contributors to the Greek economy.
Representation matters. The visibility of diverse leaders matters, both internally and within an organization for employee recruitment and retention, and as a reflection of corporate values. Both our societies have work to do in this respect, but change will come if we are dedicated to improving the diversity of our organizations and to building a better and more inclusive future for our people.
In closing, I want to thank you all for your commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace as we work together to build a better future, one defined by greater equality, greater opportunity, and greater prosperity and fulfillment for all.