Today is the final day of Diversity and inclusion week and I wanted to take the time to discuss why Diversity and inclusion is so important in today’s professional world. During this blog, I’ve spoken to two very experienced professionals about what Diversity and Inclusion means and why it’s so important. For me, Diversity and Inclusion means more than just ticking a box, it’s about making sure that we are not restricting potential talent from our organisations with our ingrained natural bias.
What is Diversity and Inclusion?
Diversity and Inclusion is simply about allowing people to be themselves by appreciating what makes them different and ensuring that they have a place at the table of your team/project/organisation. The social commentator Verna Myers articulates it well when she says “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”. In some projects that I have worked on, it has been invaluable to have a diverse group of team members around as it gave us so many perspectives to consider during risk workshops and enabled us to plan more effectively.
When we talk about Diversity and Inclusion, you might think that I’m just talking about gender, ethnicity or sexuality. I’m not: It includes socially varied backgrounds, single parents, disabled colleagues; people with different life experiences that can approach things differently and contribute. Nowadays, our societies are packed with people with differing experiences, perspectives, ambitions and views. This shouldn’t be limited to ‘outside the workplace’ and can make our organisations and projects much better and more enriched. Take a moment to think about your projects and organisation. Are you diverse?
Why is Diversity and Inclusion so important?
Not only has there been a massive rise in modern racism, homophobic and transphobic incidents causing conflict in the workplace but for the first time we are experiencing directly the impact of an aging workforce and having more than one generation in the workplace. All of this means that we need to adjust and reevaluate how we look at our roles in the workplace and within our organisation. The best, most successful and creative working environments are the ones that welcome everyone’s thoughts and people feel able to share ideas.
In order to understand and motivate all those we engage with, we need to embrace Diversity and Inclusion. There’s actually mounting evidence to support the fact that the more diverse and inclusive an organisation is, the better the profitability, customer care, employee welfare, creativity and innovation, talent management and so on. You can also argue that in a world that’s becoming more polarised, it’s helping to try and redress the balance. I have seen first hand the benefits of having this inclusive environment and for me the biggest indicator of its success was the retention rates of our employees and team members and feedback provided in both formal and informal feedback rounds. Being able to open a dialogue with our colleagues in a non judgmental and critical manner enabled us to become stronger, more effective team members and colleagues and our ability to empathise with others showed that we could really have a productive discussion with each other.
I find it encouraging how many organisations are now working on looking at the diverse pools of talent that are available to them and the merits that this can bring to their organisation.
I’d like to thank both Lydia and Helen for providing their inputs and teaching me a lot during our chats about Diversity and Inclusion!
Lydia is the Corporate Communications Manager for British Telecom working in London, UK. She’s the Chair of the BT Pride Network and has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2019 “Women of the Future Awards”.
Helen is a Lead Consultant supporting organisations on their unconscious bias and focused leadership support.
When I was asking them for inputs for this article, I was surprised by listening to their stories at how much unconscious bias remains in organisations and how there remains to be a real lack of self awareness around culture and values, especially at the Senior level of organisations.
One thing that I’d like to bring from this blog post is to encourage all of you in your positions to look at where you can be more mindful of your unconscious bias and what you can be doing to make sure that you are more diverse and inclusive. This could include things like making your teams more diverse or petitioning your organisation to look in different talent pools for their vacancies. If everyone does something small, we can make a big difference!