The former Wimbledon champion stressed that diversity is a
business necessity and that, increasingly, customers want to do
business with a workforce that represents them.
Speaking this morning, she said: "First, diversity produces a
cross-pollination of ideas, attitudes, and ways of thinking that
inspire creativity and productivity among employees at all levels.
Bringing more views to the table results in better products and
better client services.
"Second, diversity is good for productivity within a company and
businesses as a whole. Third, we know if we find that common
ground ... if we treat all employees with fairness, dignity, and
respect ... we nurture that high level of teamwork required to meet
goals. I love being a part of a team that is diverse - diversity of
style, background, education and functional expertise. It can be
exhilarating. Sometimes teams can be magic.
"So diversity means better teamwork, something I know a lot about
from my tennis days."
In her speech Martina also gave a moving account of the
challenging discrimination and oppression she faced - across a
range of issues from her sexuality, the cause of equal pay in
tennis and the need to escape the suppression of human spirit in
her homeland, Czechoslovakia. She acknowledged that achieving true
diversity is all about persistence, adding:
"I am very persistent and will always campaign for the cause of
diversity and fairness. It's not acceptable that so many kids are
being bullied at school for being gay. It's not acceptable that so
many people are victims of hate crimes in the streets near their
homes. And it's not acceptable that gay people still have to think
twice before holding their partner's hand in public. The bottom
line is that it's not about gay rights, race rights, women's
rights, it's about human rights.
"When I retired from being a tennis champion, I retired from
tennis, but I didn't - and never will - retire from being a
champion of human rights. Retirement would mean settling for what
we have now and that is not enough for me. I don't think it's
enough for you either. I think we are all in the same boat, pulling
in the same direction. The most efficient way has to be as one
Rob Day, Managing Partner of SJ Berwin, said: "We were
delighted to have Martina join us and give such an inspiring and
powerful speech. What is clear to us all is that, although we
cannot all be Wimbledon champions, we can channel our passion and
will to win so that we can all excel in what we do."