Diversity and inclusion

By Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina via greatleadershipbydan.com  Article

Diversity and Inclusion – Two Very Different Concepts

“To build an inclusive organisation, there are two main things you need to do.  You need to de-bias the systems that run the organisation, such as recruitment, pay, procurement, talent management and marketing.  And you need to lead inclusively.  Whilst both are important, leadership is the cornerstone, without which all the diversity initiatives in the world will be in vain.

When we think about how to reduce unconscious bias in organisations, we often think about systems and processes. We think about recruitment policies, or how we do performance evaluations, or flexible working arrangements. We anonymize CVs, do 360° evaluations, and make work flexibility the default. All of these techniques are extremely important in making the workplace more equitable. They help to level the playing field and reduce the risk that we are systematically favouring or penalising any particular group.

However, as important as these processes are, they are only one half of the solution.

Diversity and inclusion – despite that they are often discussed together – are actually two very different concepts.  Diversity is about the mix of people on your team or in your organisation.  Making sure you have the right policies in place really helps with this half of the equation.  It makes sure that a broad swathe of people apply, that marginalised groups are just as likely to make it through the application process as majority groups, and that everyone has equal opportunity for advancement.

Inclusion, however, is about making sure the mix of people we have works.  It’s about ensuring that no one, regardless of their background or identity, has to worry about hiding parts of themselves. In an inclusive workplace, everyone has equal opportunity and support to thrive.  While policies can help with this to some degree, the work of including people is mostly done through leadership.

The reason for this is that while policies can mandate the way we review applications, they can’t really mandate how we run a meeting, or how we create an organizational culture.  That culture is built through the behaviours exhibited by all who work there.  If people are making sexist or racist jokes or comments, whether in formal meeting settings or during casual conversations, that creates a less inclusive environment. It makes those people who are the butt of those jokes feel like they are misunderstood and that people will judge them based on stereotypes rather than for who they are as an individual and the work they do.”

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