Diversity & Exclusion

Research studies have provided endless data on the significance of diversity in the workplace, detailing the deficiencies in enabling representation in the corporate environment to progress. Our societies are telling us that we must do better. In an attempt to explain the multiple facets of diversity, inclusion and all that it encompasses, companies have to consider the means through which these topics are brought to the top table in a manner that speaks to courageous leaders and keen listeners; whether it is supported by a business case, the moral imperative or is just a story to tell.

Though “Diversity” in the mind of many creates the notion of gender diversity and female empowerment, the term itself characterizes a specific assigned group, whether gender, ethnicity or generational diversity, to name a few. In all these areas of diversity a global corporate audience, and new generations of talent, are waiting for the balance to shift and show greater representation on many fronts. 

How can we satisfy a formalized diversity strategy and drive the importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) in an environment that is historically not diverse and where transition takes time? As D&I professionals across the world grapple with the changing demands of how to measure their DE&I programme effectiveness and set diversity targets, the resources to support them are in short supply and the factors preventing a more diverse and inclusive workforce persist.  

Perhaps for a moment we move from talking about formal Diversity targets until we address the behaviors that can impact them. The long game should be creating an inclusive culture through education, allyship and truly understanding what exclusion means and feels like. In its nature, exclusion implies that something is being prevented from happening. This could mean a culture where behaviours in the working environment do not allow for employees to feel connected, valued or enable them to actively participate in the journey of the team and the wider business. For many professionals, this can lead to a sense of isolation, low engagement and the desire to find better belonging which is a basic human need. In the corporate context, this can mean compromising on people performance, leading to higher attrition, and impacting on the fiduciary duties of management to their stakeholders. A company culture that keeps inclusion at its core, can allow companies to stand out, not just to their clients, but also to their people.  

Using Allyship as a Change Agent

Whether an individual can identify with the struggle of others or not, there is a place for acknowledging systemic and structural issues which individuals or groups of individuals in the workplace may face. 

The role of allyship is a fundamental way to turn the dial in driving a culture of excellence through putting people first and moving from employees “fitting in” to creating “belonging” and respecting differences. Allyship is one way to achieve change, leading corporates to realize the value of a diverse culture and enhance collective intelligence. The act of allyship is one where an individual understands their privilege enough to use it as a benefit for others. Working practices that drive inclusive behaviors can lead people to feel more connected to their workplace and the story to tell can move from what an organization has on its diversity report, to how they do it, where people across business and industries are change makers and agents for true inclusion. 

The long game

The feelings that come with different privileges can be a motivator on why people act as allies and drive the inclusion agenda forward. The vulnerability of exclusion is not to be ignored, it is to be understood and defied. Through allyship behaviors and advocacy, more people can be custodians of change, using their voice, and actions as the power to propel DE&I forward for upcoming, under-represented generations of talent, talent that itself will in turn fuel even further adoption and change.

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