Promoting diversity in the workforce has been gaining momentum for several years, but increasingly it’s clear that the practice also makes organizations more competitive and resilient, according to women in leadership roles in the payments industry.

“Having different perspectives within a company expands the overall vision, which can offset vulnerabilities,” said Archana Puri, Braintree’s head of product management at Braintree, Monday, during a Monday panel discussion at SourceMedia's annual Card Forum in Austin, Texas.

Puri, one of PaymentsSource’s 2017 Most Influential Women of Payments, joined several other honorees on a panel to discuss career development, mentorship and the effect of diversity on work environments.

Amy Parsons, Senior Vice President, Global Acceptance, Discover Financial Services
Corporate diversity is much more than appearances, said Amy Parsons, senior vice president of payments at Discover Financial Services.

U.S. Bank’s strong record of promoting diversity may even have helped the bank withstand shocks from the economic downturn that began nearly a decade ago, suggested Margaret Weichert, a principal with EY’s banking practice, who led the panel discussion.

“Promoting diversity can protect against risks,” Weichert said.

Racy Morgan, head of payment strategy and execution at U.S. Bank, sees the theory play out routinely at her organization where teams of employees with diverse backgrounds and points of view come together to design products.

“Because of unconscious bias, everyone has a tendency to design things that are familiar to themselves, but the way to offset that is to bring people together of different ages, genders and experience. That way you can make sure you’re designing products for everyone and differentiating your product from your competitors, at the same time,” Morgan said.

Diversity in the workforce runs much deeper than appearances, said Amy Parsons, senior vice president of global commerce at Discover Financial Services.

“Diversity is having people working together who have different backgrounds and styles, and bringing them together with a lot of respect and what we call ‘generous listening’ to gather really broad perspectives,” Parsons said.

As diversity becomes an operating principle, organizations themselves may be changing, suggested Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and chief operating officer of Chargebacks 911.

“Instead of a rigid hierarchy like a pyramid, our organization is relatively flat, and as a result it’s more agile,” Eaton-Cardone said. “The effect is that individuals have more opportunity to grow, and the organization can draw from a more diverse pool of ideas and interests than you might get in a more traditional corporate structure.”

Another way to promote diversity within organizations is to promote mentoring across different departments, said Kara Kazazean, director of payment services at Walmart.

Walmart encourages mentoring circles, which helps women expand their networks and build relationships with workers in different parts of the company, according to Kazazean. “I’m in payments, and I’m in a mentoring circle with people who work in I.T. and logistics, which is a great way to learn across the enterprise,” she said.