My _____ Story: Join hosts Funda Kalemci and James Anderson as they sit down with guests Steve Dowse and Leanne Plumbe to discuss their experiences as NIQ fully integrates their Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.
Head of Portfolio within Enterprise Applications at CCS under EIT
Steve is a passionate advocate for neurodiversity. Drawing from hiw own personal experience, including 3 neurodiverse children and his own late-life diagnosis, he is a dedicated evangelist for fostering not only awareness but also unconditional acceptance of neurodiversity. As one of the European ADEPT leaders, he will strive to enhance understanding and support within the community. Away from the corporate arena, Steve loves for travel and live music concerts, a perfect combination whenever possible. He is also a film enthusiast and self-proclaimed cooking failure.With almost 30 years of marriage and three grown-up children the household is not without its share of mischief, thanks to his two troublesome Bengal cats that add a touch of liveliness to the family dynamic.
Leanne has been working at NIQ for 7.5 years, during that time she has worked in global and regional roles across project and product management. Leanne is currently Product Director for NIQ’s Consumer Panel Service in Europe. She has worked with our ERGs for the last 4+ years. She is passionate about making the workplace somewhere that everyone can truly be themselves. Being able to contribute to a the DEI work that enables a workplace environment that fosters understanding, acceptance and inclusion is truly one of the most rewarding elements of working at NIQ. Leanne is British living just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace! She’s married with two children and spends most of her spare time with her family and their two golden retrievers. She enjoys reading and is an avid ‘DIYer’ having renovated two houses and is currently renovating their 400 year old thatch cottage.
Jake Conlin: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast belong to the individuals who share them and do not necessarily represent NielsenIQ. Note that this podcast discusses sensitive topics that may be triggering for some. For more information specific to this episode, see the episode description. Hi everyone and welcome to My Blank Story, a core component of NielsenIQ’s DEI Learning series, Me & You. My name is Jake Conlin. And if this is your first time tuning in, then let me tell you what this podcast is all about. In a nutshell, it’s about stories, your stories. We think stories are important because when we tell them we open the door and allow others to see the experiences that shaped us that challenged us and helped us grow. By doing this, we can create a culture where open dialogue is encouraged and we can have a space to discuss important topics in a transparent and courageous manner, so minimize that e-mail tab, view your chat and take a little break to listen to a NielsenIQ story.
James Anderson: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of My Blank Story and NIQ DEI podcast. My name is James Anderson and I am one of the hosts of the program and I’m a senior analyst on the analytics side for manufacturing here in the Toronto, Canada office and I’m joined on today’s episode by my co-host Funda.
Funda Kalemci: Hi, James. Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for tuning in. I am Funda Kalemci. My pronouns are she and her. I am the global leader for DEI and well-being at NIQ.
James Anderson: And today, I guess Funda we have a couple of really exciting guests that are going to talk us through one of the subjects that’s been very much on our minds over the last few months. Over the last year, do you want to talk a little bit about that and then introduce the guests for us?
Funda Kalemci: Sure. Just months, James, it’s been my life for the past 10 years. So today we are going to talk about our ERG, our Employee Resource Groups. I have been a part of our employee resource groups for the past 10 years. I’ve been an ERG member, leader and now I oversee the program overall, so it is super close to my heart. And I am so happy to have two wonderful individuals on the podcast today with us to talk about our ERGs, our transition in the past six months or so, and we’re going to hear from them so, these two fantastic individuals are Leanne and Steve. I have the privilege to be working with them very closely, but I want them to introduce themselves. Leanne, do you want to go first?
Leanne Plumbe: Thanks very much, Funda, and thank you for having me here today. So hi everyone, I’m Leanne Plumbe, pronouns she/her. I’ve been with NIQ for nearly eight years now. I’m a product leader in the CPS side of the business so very exciting time for us at the moment. I’ve actually spent the last kind of six, maybe seven years of my time at NIQ working with the ERGs, both across WING, recently with ADEPT and I’m really excited to be getting involved with PRIDE. So thank you very much for having me here today.
Funda Kalemci: Thank you so much, Leanne. Next up is Steve. Steve, go ahead and introduce yourself. I have a zillion questions for you after that.
Steve Dowse: OK, cool. Thanks. Hi. So I’m Steve Dowse, pronouns are he/him. I’ve been at GfK now for five years, 30 years in tech. Basically, I’m a passionate advocate for neurodiversity, and I’ve worked as a chair on Fast Forward at the UK Group. Drawing from my own experience, including three neurodiverse children and my own late life’s diagnosis I guess I’ve formed into a dedicated evangelist for fostering not only awareness, but also acceptance for neurodiversity.
James Anderson: We’re so happy to have both of you join us today and we’re really looking forward to hearing your stories and experiences thus far as we as we work to fully integrate our ERG program.
Funda Kalemci: We certainly are, James, and I want to remind our listeners who are tuning in to this podcast for the first time. We have actually merged with GfK in the past six months and that’s what James was talking about we’re fully integrating our ERG programs between now one company, so. I want to start with Steve. Can you? Because I know your background in the DEI world at GfK and you were one of the leaders in our UK Fast Forward team. Can you just give us a summary of how that experience was for you?
Steve Dowse: I got involved very late 2022 and into 2023. I was fortunate enough to be the head, or the chair, of the Fast forward Group. Historically that that was created about five years ago to tackle the disparity in gender, in pay gap, but it evolved over the period of time to cover ethnic diversity, LGBTQ, gender, menopause, disability and diversity, mentoring and cultural calendar. So it really did evolve, and it was a privilege last year to see and to help facilitate those groups of people who volunteered, kind of bringing awareness to the wider audience, i.e. the employees of the company, to mark events to bring in guest speakers, webinars, specialized documentation. So that’s what the Fast forward group evolved into and it’s a really good junction now, that everything that they’ve learned, those individuals can grow into the ERG groups and bring a wealth of knowledge that they’ve, you know, they’ve amassed themselves, but also to learn and to collaborate with their colleagues at NIQ as we move forward as a joint company.
James Anderson: And Leanne, I was also wondering if you want to tell us a little bit about your experience as an ERG leader. Is it similar? Is it different than what Steve just described?
Leanne Plumbe: Sure. So definitely there’s some similarities in there, right? So initiatives that we’ve worked on both locally from my perspective in the UK, but then also regionally and globally. There’s definitely some similarities in there. I guess my personal experience and journey over the last kind of six-ish years with the ERG’s is it’s been really interesting. I’ve seen our ERG’s grow and change over that time. From being very locally led and now we’ve got a real structure to the programs. And now having worked across WIN and ADEPT and worked with the local initiatives. It’s been really rewarding to see that growth, to help see that understanding and awareness grow as well. So definitely as I talk more to Steve, I hear more similarities. There’s definitely going to be things that we can learn and grow from each other. And I think that’s one of the things that I’m most excited about as we come together in the ERGs.
Funda Kalemci: Thank you so much, Leanne. Thanks, Steve. Both of you, thanks for sharing those experiences. But now, as NIQ, we are now turning a new leaf where we are fully bringing our DEI programs together under one umbrella – that is our Employee Resource Groups. I’m curious, what are you both looking forward to as you step into your new leadership roles? Steve you are going to be taking up Europe leadership for ADEPT and Leanne, you will be taking up Europe leadership for PRIDE. I want to hear your expectations, your aspirations. But Leanne, if you can also touch upon leading different ERG’s. You have been one of our role models in allyship, because you started off in WIN, which is our women Employee Resource gGoup. And then you stepped in to ADEPT, which is our people with disabilities, Employee Resource Group. Now you’re walking into PRIDE, which is our LGBT Employee Resource Group. But if you can focus on that as well, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Leanne Plumbe: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Thanks, Funda. So I’m really passionate about allyship. And for me, the biggest part of that is learning and educating myself. And then also being that conduit and being able to help other people learn and grow their awareness and ultimately get to a point of acceptance. So it’s been a journey for me. There’s been times when I can draw upon my own experiences. So from being within WIN, being female myself, there was things that I could definitely resonate with and I could draw on those experiences. But then sometimes there’s aspects – so I think about the menopause awareness that we’ve been working on really recently. I haven’t personally been through the menopause, yet. I’m not going through it yet. So it’s a learning and a growth experience for me that helps me to educate myself. And I think as I have grown and I continue to grow and continue to learn, it also helps me to understand – how can we help others to gain that understanding and education as well? And that’s one of the greatest things about ERGs. I don’t necessarily think that you have to … I guess identify with that ERG to be a part of it. To be able to learn and to educate yourself and become a really great ally. And there’s so much that’s so rewarding through that in terms of personal growth as well. And for me that’s just been the best thing about being involved and continuing to be involved with the ERG’s.
James Anderson: And Steve, your thoughts?
Steve Dowse: I guess I’m excited to find out obviously the culture and what’s happened previously in NIQ with your journey with ERG’s. I’m really excited about bringing the collaboration between the two groups together. I fundamentally believe you move forward when you learn from one another. It’s great to see the passion that people have got in the group. It’s nice to see that’s a shared feeling between the different companies, which is only good for the good of everybody. I think I’m really interested in the differences and the similarities that we have as companies and harnessing the best that both groups bring together, as we become one effectively. I’d be really interested to understand the range and the groups that different companies, sorry different countries and regions have. Because obviously there’s different policies and there’s different standards which each country has. And it’s about unifying that and collectively uplifting the experience for our employees and also trying to expand the reach. One of the things that I’m passionate about is getting the voices that aren’t heard – getting them to actually have a medium to say the things that bother them, which would make their existence at work better. And you know, looking and exploring into those types of areas. So early days for me, but it’s great to meet the new people and to integrate as one team moving forward.
James Anderson: So let me pick up a little bit on that, Steve. I know [that] we are bringing in some new ideas and changes, but with the ERG program structure is going to stay pretty much similar to what the NIQ group is used to. Now Leanne, I wanted to ask you, how do you feel the ERG leaders can really embrace those from the GfK side and ensure that their voices and new ways of doing things can be fully embraced.
Leanne Plumbe: Really, echoing what Steve said actually. So, we’ve got a really great opportunity to learn from each other and from [our] new leaders. So, whilst the structures might stay very similar or the same as we’ve got it today within NIQ, I really do think listening, learning from our new leaders and our new member base is going to help us become so much better than we are today, you know, having that collective voice and having so many more new thoughts and new ideas. It’s just it’s only going to make us better and just making sure from a leadership perspective. For me, inclusivity starts there, so making sure that the whole leadership team has a voice and just making sure that everybody feels comfortable, welcomed and that we can all voice our thoughts and our opinions in terms of how we want to go forward is going to help us build the best objectives for that ERG at a global and then a regional and then help a local level as well. So for me that’s the exciting part – being able to learn and grow from our new leaders that are coming on board. And I’m really excited to hear what GfK have done in the past as well. There’s so much opportunity there for us to learn and grow, because I’m sure they’ve done loads of great things that we perhaps haven’t thought about and there’s some great opportunities in there for us to be able to move forward and integrate.
Funda Kalemci: That is refreshing to hear, Leanne. Steve, I would then turn to you and ask the same question in a different way. You and I have been on a journey when it comes to making sure that our GfK colleagues have been integrated into the ERG Program and made sure that you know, we have this resounding message of, you know, unison, inclusion and all of that. What do you think we can do better to ensure everyone’s feeling included even further? And acclimate it to the to the Resource groups.
Steve Dowse: I think it’s a good point and I think with a merger of this magnitude, you know, human nature is where do I fit into this and not just professionally but with people’s support of, you know, activities such as Fast Forward, etc. and I think the active vibrancy that we see from people like yourself and the constant reassurance that actually it’s not anything that’s being lost, it’s actually the contrary to that, it’s the opportunity to grow it’s, you know, people’s reinforcement that the work that’s been done before hasn’t been lost, in actual fact it’s kind of a point of reference to help grow and evolve as a coming together. I think it’s continued reassurance, encouragement for people making sure that they have the right channels, the right links, the right people to approach if they want to be involved and to really, as I say, reinforce that message through. I think it’s becoming a lot stronger, the momentum’s growing and I think also where you’ll see integration of NIQ people and GfK people coming together, you know, people will feel that there’s more solidarity between the groups and I think that’s a great message to send down, so the technology that we have across both groups can be harnessed to, you know, point people in the right direction and I think that needs to be sustained for a period of time until we’ve fully joined technically and everybody has one place to go. Well we’re still, you know, getting our technology sets into one place, just make sure that people are steered in the right direction and you know, and I think myself and everybody involved in the ERGs will have a responsibility to keep on reinforcing that message because we don’t want to lose people on the journey, we just want them to join.
James Anderson: And now, stepping back just a little bit, I wanted to ask both. Well, Steve, you’ve begun to touch on it, but I was wondering, Leanne, what, what do you think…how important a role do you think that the ERG’s are going to play as we continue to integrate our two cultures together?
Leanne Plumbe: Oh, a huge role. So, I think ERG’s are really unique and special in that we have something common to unite over. It helps us to see and understand difference and accept difference, but also to see where we’re also similar, right? It helps to bring about the personal aspect of working in what is a global corporate company, at the end of the day. I do think it’s really important, from an ERG perspective, that we continue the communication[s]. I think we have a really great opportunity, within our ERG’s, to play that pivotal role of bringing everybody together.
Funda Kalemci: Steve, any thoughts from you?
Steve Dowse: Yeah, I think it’s an opportunity to, kind of, reflect [the] society outside of work. You know, [the] opinions, values, trends that will impact our everyday life. I see the ERG groups as actually being a quite, you know, powerful voice to help individuals enjoy [their work]. It’s not just about sitting in front of a desk. You have to have the right accommodation. You need to feel valued, listened to, and I think the ERG’s add that. [They add] that momentum, and the capacity for people to give their voice and for the company to grow into a nurturing environment, not just professionally, but personally. And I think that’s valuable. You need to feel as if the company’s listening to you and [that] they’re going to make the appropriate adjustments for an individual or group of individuals because [it’s] only when you have that harmony, when you have that unison together, [that] the company will grow in the sense of its values, [and] its culture.
Funda Kalemci: Fantastic. Music to my ears. Thank you so much, both of you. There is one thing that you didn’t mention, Steve, or maybe I missed it, and that’s your personal motto on how you approach overall DEI, which is acceptance and awareness or rather awareness and acceptance. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you plan to infuse that into what you are going to do as an ERG leader.
Steve Dowse: Yeah, sure. So, I think awareness, right? [Or] knowledge of perception or a situation. Are you aware of a condition or [that] that condition exists – just talking about neuro-diversity for a moment. But [awareness], that’s completely different to acceptance which is the willingness to tolerate a particular situation or a difficult situation, to accept a condition which may be yours, or somebody else’s. It takes effort to defeat your misconception, right, and your opinions of it so that you become wholeheartedly accepting of it. And I think it’s really easy to “put documentation out there”, you know, or “this is a document.” [whereas] … actually feeling it, living it, and then having a community accept it, that’s a different challenge. And I think that’s one of the things I’d like to focus on in the group. Do we have the right level of awareness? Is it targeted? Is it meaningful? But then how does that evolve into acceptance? And that can be simply people’s [notion that], you know, you’ve done the job with awareness and people are becoming accepting. Or that can be something like a policy, if required, that, you know, the company’s held to account, to make accommodation for an individual. So, I think, for me, that’s something that is most passionate for me, and you’ll see that in my tenure across in ADEPT, but that that’s what I’m always mindful of.
James Anderson: And Leanne, over to you. I’m just wondering, same kind of thing. What sort of what kind of sneak peeks you might have for the ERG’s in the in the coming in the coming year?
Leanne Plumbe: Yeah. Thanks, James. So, I guess first of all, I’m really excited to see what Steve and the team are going to do with ADEPT. Having worked with ADEPT over the last few years, I am really genuinely excited to see how it continues to grow. ADEPT’S been on a fantastic, phenomenal journey over the last few years – starting from absolutely nothing to the huge member base that we’ve got now. And hearing Steve talking about kind of where his perspectives and thoughts are going, I think it’s going to be a really exciting couple of years for ADEPT. From a PRIDE perspective, I’m going to say…a really similar situation as Steve. I can’t really give any insight in terms of specific PRIDE initiatives at the moment. We’ve got our leadership kickoff call coming in the next week or so, so I’m really excited to take stock and hear from our membership; I’m going into ADEPT – sorry, PRIDE- as an ally. So, from that perspective, I’m looking forward to seeing how I can help with initiatives that will be needed and how we can form the goals for the year. But I would be amiss if I didn’t mention something that’s slightly outside – something that’s close to both mine and Funda’s hearts – which is our Menopause in the Workplace global initiative. So, we worked really, really hard over kind of 2022 and 2023 in the UK and Ireland business to gain workplace accreditation as a menopause-friendly workplace. We worked with Henpicked on that, and we’ve been working with a really great team over the last kind of…say, four or five months to start to bring to life a global initiative for bringing about education, awareness, acceptance, and support globally for menopause in the workplace. So, it’s going to be an exciting year for that. So, we’re very much looking forward to seeing what comes with that and all of the work that we’ve got planned ahead of us in 2024.
Funda Kalemci: You and me both, Leanne. I think that requires its own podcast episode.
Leanne Plumbe: Nice. Certainly.
Funda Kalemci: Thank you so much for all that work on that front. James, over to you.
James Anderson: Well, I just want to thank both of our guests today for sharing their time and their experiences with us here on the podcast today and look forward to all of the initiatives that are coming our way from both of you. Thank you.
Jake Conlin: Hey, y’all, it’s Jake again. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of My Blank Story . Tune in next time to hear more stories from the NIQ community.
Steve Dowse: (snippet during final music) Do we have the right level of awareness? Is it targeted? Is it meaningful? But then, how does that evolve into acceptance?
Leanne Plumbe: (snippet during final music) We’ve got a really great opportunity to learn from each other and from the leaders.
Steve Dowse: (snippet during final music) I’m excited to find out…obviously, the culture, and what’s happened previously in NIQ with your journey with ERGs.