Kim Lonas

PCR June Life in the Channel with Exertis’ Kim Lonas

Exertis appointed Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Lead, Kim Lonas earlier this year. In this newly created position, Lonas will drive the development of Exertis’ Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategy. We caught up with Kim to find out more.

The creation of this new position within the company is a show of Exertis’ commitment to making diversity and inclusion a core part of its corporate culture. Lonas will play a key role in actively encouraging broader cultural and positive change with particular focus on how the business serves underrepresented groups and ensuring every voice is heard. Here’s what Kim had to say.

Hi Kim, please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background within the channel?
I began working at Stampede, based in North America, in Human Resources roles, before the company was then acquired by Exertis three and a half years ago; meaning that I’ve been with the business for 6 years. Over the last year my role has evolved to having a heavier focus on diversity and inclusion. I’ve always been an advocate of women in the industry, their education from an earlier age, and driving demographics.

I have also been working on wider D&I initiatives for our parent company, DCC, for the last year before being considered for the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Lead.

Congratulations for being appointed with your new role at Exertis. What does this mean to you and how do you plan to drive the development of the company’s D&I strategy forward?
My first goal is to understand the individual needs of the 21 different companies, which form DCC Technology, and I am excited to ensure that our support for each individual business is thorough and tailored to drive change in each.

Some of our companies have hundreds of employees and others have less than 20, so each are at a different stage in their journey, and various differences will also reflect varying ideologies in what diversity and inclusion means for our people across the business. My goal is to create programmes that meet the needs of all.

How will you actively encouraging broader cultural and positive change with particular focus on how the business serves underrepresented groups and ensuring every voice is heard?
Something I look forward to creating is monthly content with different focuses on relevant D&I topics to enhance knowledge, broaden education, and the paramount role which D&I takes in all businesses, not just ours.

I have also completed various certificate programmes to ensure that I am officially trained in as many components of D&I as possible.

With a previous background at Exertis, how have you driven the company’s D&I agenda and what benefits have been gained from being a contributing member of AVIXA’s Diversity Council?
AVIXA started a Diversity Council just a few years ago. I joined in its infancy and learned so much from participation. I highly suggest anyone interested in D&I to join different organisations to broaden your understanding of the many layers of diversity.

Early on, I worked on the Education Committee to help create the AVIXA Mosaic Scholarship and helped support the initiative for their 1st diversity survey. Today I am involved with the diversity council’s executive committee and am currently working to support Frank Padikkala, Diversity Council Chairperson’s key initiative to expand the council’s global efforts.

Please could you tell us more about being a co-lead for DCC’s Inclusion & Diversity project workstream and co-chair of the AVIXA Women’s Council of Western New York?
In early 2020, as a result of our global HR forum, six key workstreams were agreed. I was selected to jointly lead DCC’s Inclusion and Diversity workstream with Karen Birch, Head of HR for FloGas Britain, a DCC company. We have representation from a wide variety of business on the workstream, which gives a range of perspectives on D&I initiatives within the business.

Our focus has been on creating shared direction and commitment on key initiatives that have the most impact on affecting cultural change. Our focus has been about ensuring our workplace cultures are enriching and empowering for everyone, where people can be themselves at work.

The AVIXA Womens Council of WNY is about supporting and empowering women who work in the technology and AV industry. We have four co-chairs from four different companies within the ProAV industry working together. Covid stalled many of the in-person initiatives we had planned. However, we are moving forward with quarterly events in 2022.

Why is your new role such a crucial role to achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace?
I believe my role is only one part of achieving a more equitable and inclusive workplace. The diversity & inclusion programmes we create in the next year will lay the foundation for the more diverse and inclusive company that we will become tomorrow. However, diversity and inclusion must happen at all levels, our HR community, managers in all functions and at the senior leadership level. To achieve a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, D&I has to be embedded in our culture.

Why was this role created?
As a business we are dedicated to ensure that diversity and inclusion continues to be core to our strategy, and the evolution and progression of our organisation’s journey warranted a focused role to enable that development.

The creation of this new position within the company is a testament to Exertis’ commitment to make diversity and inclusion a core part of our corporate culture.

Do you think there is enough currently being done within the channel to encourage diversity and inclusion?
There certainly is a strong business case for diversity and inclusion to warrant a need for more to be done. The most obvious disparity in the channel would be based on current gender demographics. However, diversity is more than gender. It’s ethnicity, disability, mental health, sexual orientation, neurodiversity and so many others. We would need a comprehensive survey of every company within the channel, small and large, to learn about their demographics and D&I programmes to truly gauge if enough is being done.

Why is there a need to encourage broader cultural and positive change at Exertis and within the channel?
If we constantly strive to encourage broader cultural and positive change, we will have a positive impact on our people and our business. As it relates to people, our teams will be happier. We will improve job satisfaction, increase employee morale and allow for more creativity. As it relates to the business, we’ll attract more talent, outperform our competitors and increase profits. Just as this applies to Exertis, it would apply within the channel.

On an international scale where are the major challenges in D&I?
When looking at D&I from an international point of view I’ve found that not every country presents the same forward thinking. For example, some countries still have laws in place that would prohibit certain diversity initiatives from being considered. We want to make a difference while being mindful of differences in culture and the laws that are in place.

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