How this leader has taken the diversity and inclusion efforts at Dext on a unique path

Many companies may take a classroom style approach to educating their employees about diversity and inclusion. Ella McCann-Tomlin, Director of Development and Diversity at Dext, decided to take a different route—appealing to people’s love of arts and culture to help them see the world through a fresh perspective.

Ella McCann-Tomlin, Director of Development and Diversity


BYP: First I must say, I love the rebrand. I think it’s timely, it’s great. The world is moving so quickly—and the name Dext, alluding to dexterity or what’s next, it’s great... It’s innovative and invites creativity as well. And sometimes, the name of a company can affect the type of talent you attract. You’d be surprised. 

Ella McCann-Tomlin: Of course! I joined in 2012 as a fairly recent grad, and when the recruiter gave me a card with the name Receipt Bank, I thought, “I’m not interested in this.” It made me think of finance and bookkeeping—and you’re right, a name paints a full picture. I think [as Receipt Bank] we did a good job of selling a vision to [potential hires]...but the name certainly wasn’t doing us any favors, I don’t think. I’m really pleased with the name change. I’m all for it. I like that it’s not as literal.

Ella McCann-Tomlin hopes that this new branding as Dext will paint a picture of a more innovative and exciting brand to help attract talent that can add fresh perspectives to their team. 


BYP: What was the vision for Dext to partner with BYP? What did Dext want to get out of it?

McCann-Tomlin: I started my current role around July 2020, and one of the first priorities was to get a picture of what the company looked like from a diversity and inclusion perspective. So we did a survey. This was the starting point of us wanting to come at the diversity strategy from a data-driven place. Obviously, I had a sense of what our challenges were. And, you know, brown people and women often tend to have more of an acute sense of what the DEI challenges are in an organisation. But I didn’t have the data to back it up. And what the survey told us was the key areas where we needed to be doing a lot better. I don’t think we had a toxic environment, but there was nothing consciously being done [to improve diversity and inclusion]. So what the survey told us was that first of all, underrepresented people across the board felt less of a sense of belonging than others. There were some key areas in terms of diversity where we clearly needed to do better. And that drove the initiatives that got us in touch with BYP. 


BYP: When it came to your diversity goals, how did Dext hold itself accountable?

McCann-Tomlin: I was a bit nervous about doing this—but we’ve got a diversity landing page, and we put our targets on that page. I thought, “What if we don’t hit these targets?” They’re very public and I knew it would be difficult to hit them. But two people who joined recently told me that they joined, in part,  because we had the targets on the website. And so that’s confirmed to me that a big part of hitting the target is committing to the target. We’re more likely to hit it because we’ve stated it publicly, and that was part of what I wanted to happen. 


BYP: That’s great. Can you tell me a bit about the Diverse Voices Book Club? 

McCann-Tomlin: Each month, the Book Club, by popular vote, selects a book we’re going to read, and we often engage with related media content beside it. For example we read The Color Purple and we listened to the 1619 podcast. We read Natives and watched Small Axe, the Steve McQueen mini-series. There’s an emphasis on race, because based on the survey, we know that race and ethnicity was an area we were weakest on. But we also try to be inclusive and to engage with content about a range of social issues. We read Disability Visibility and watched an accompanying Netflix documentary. And this month we’re reading a James Baldwin novel to bring in LGBT+ perspectives. It’s created a nice space for people who may not work together closely to connect and to meet each other where they are on their DEI education journey. 

We’re trying to change minds, ultimately. These books that we read are written from the voices of people who experience life in different ways. I think that’s how you open people’s minds. Not through mandatory training, but through consuming more challenging art, perspectives, stories, etc. If we make something fun, social, and creative, people who might think, “Oh this seems challenging, I don’t want to go to that thing,” might be more likely to participate. That’s the aim.

To learn more about Dext or to apply for their available roles please visit their BYP jobs board here.

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