IWD 2023: Kimblian Batson — making an impact for diversity and inclusion

KIMBLIAN Batson believes that advocacy for diversity and inclusion is a decisive and conscious journey.

It is a journey that is driven by a passion for equity-based solutions that consider the diverse lived experiences of individuals and communities, and adapting services and policies according to these differences. By embracing equity, Batson desires to build a sustainable and inclusive future for all Jamaicans. In fact, this motive filters naturally into her current role.

As the diversity and inclusion (D&I) leader for PwC Jamaica, Batson is responsible for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the firm. This includes creating an environment in which people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives feel valued and included. She takes the role seriously and, despite wearing many hats — as tax partner, adjunct lecturer at The University of the West Indies, member of the tax committee at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (ICAJ), and her most important role as mother to two girls — Batson has carved out time to keep her commitments to her D&I leadership role.

She believes there is no better place to build equity and inclusion than in one of the most diverse countries in the world. In her own words, “Jamaica is a melting pot of cultures and people. Diversity is in our DNA, it’s echoed in our motto ‘Out of many one people’, and woven into our cultural tapestry. But when we talk about being truly inclusive it is something we must be intentional about — it doesn’t just happen. We must put in the work if we are truly to make a difference.”

She continues: “I always tell my colleagues that what they perceive as restrictions are only in their minds. If you extend that, we can achieve more when we all work together, both men and women. Men do this, in recognising the dual role that women play at work and in the home, by giving us that support so we can achieve our goals together. And women, in recognising societal opportunities and constraints and giving voice and action to seizing and overcoming them so that young women and girls may see the possibilities ahead of them.”

Batson isn’t just talking the talk. During the height of the pandemic when most of the PwC team worked remotely, she and her team of D&I council members pressed forward with several outreach and awareness activities. Among them were the showcasing of Jamaican culture and creativity through online activities, and the hosting of virtual conversations to discuss societal issues such as creating an inclusive environment in the workplace for persons with disabilities — which was led by Senator Floyd Morris — and balancing the gender disparity in the field of information technology.

Since the grasp of the pandemic has loosened, Batson and the D&I council have launched the firm’s disabilities scholarship programme, which awards an annual scholarship to Jamaican students living with disabilities and studying at the University of Technology, Jamaica or The University of the West Indies. The inaugural recipient, Laron Williamson, was awarded the scholarship during this academic year. More recently, Batson organised a virtual conversation with external speakers and PwC professionals around the Caribbean region to probe the phenomena of skin bleaching and colourism as part of the firm’s Black History Month initiative. Admittedly, Batson and her team have more work ahead of them but, according to her, they are more than up to the challenge.

For anyone keen on truly making a difference, she shares three areas of focus that are important for breaking down systemic barriers:

“We need to start by creating a safe space for women and men to share their experiences and perspectives. By actively listening to our people and taking their feedback seriously, we can build trust and create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture.

“Next, we must educate others about diversity and inclusion’s importance. This can be done through workshops, interactive activities, training, and other educational initiatives that focus on topics like unconscious bias, microaggressions, and the benefits of diversity in the workplace.

“Finally, forming alliances is one good way to build momentum and elevate your advocacy. By partnering with others that share the same vision of creating a more inclusive and equitable society we can amplify our message and promote collective action towards creating meaningful change.”

Batson is quick to add that even though there is a focus on International Women’s Day and creating space for women and girls, equity and inclusivity crosses all borders. The ultimate goal is to use her sphere of influence to create spaces to give everyone in the workplace and the broader society a voice.

“I believe that by creating a safe space for people to share their experiences and permitting them to speak their truth with compassion we can help to educate everyone about the importance of diversity and inclusion. It’s also critical that we advocate for policies that support vulnerable groups to promote a more inclusive and equitable world.”