Written by Sonya Barlow, Award Winning Entrepreneur, TEDxSpeaker, Podcast Host, Independent Diversity Consultant & soon to be published Author. In 2020, she was named winner of the Most Influential Women in Tech UK, Women in Software Changemaker & Top 50 BAME Entrepreneurs under 50, 2020.
The research surrounds us. Businesses which have diverse & inclusive (D&I) working cultures are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors (Forbes) and 87% more likely to make better decisions (Harvard Business Review). However, research also suggests that companies which are not diverse or actively championing inclusive cultures are more likely to face discrimination and bias, as the most recent report in the BBC.
3 reasons why D&I still isn't at the top of your company's agenda
Why is it that we are still having to build a business case to justify D&I strategies in the workplace? I started designing and delivering workshops globally in January 2019. In the beginning, brands had no budgets to support the discussions and I didn’t know I could get paid. Slowly but surely, I started to realise the importance of these discussions on hiring, strategy and retention! Diversity is not a one size fits all approach, but fundamentally the foundations you need to grow a strong business. After 100+ workshops, I am able to summarise the three reasons why diversity and inclusion still isn’t at the top of your company’s agenda:
Senior management are still under the impression that their investment into "quick & tangible" outputs such as conference space, CEO breakfast meetings & merchandise has a "faster" Return on investment, than it’s people
Colleagues are afraid to share that they aren't educated in topics around diversity and inclusion, as it may make them "look bad" or "un-woke". Therefore, many find it hard to start discussions around the topics
Generally, definitions and thoughts around diversity and inclusion are misunderstood or largely mis-represented and so there’s little education around the true impact or value associated with these definitions
The discovery process
Before each workshop I share an anonymous discovery survey to understand the level of education colleagues have internally around the topic of diversity and inclusion. Through this process (and to my surprise) I've found the most misunderstood and challenging term is "Intersectionality", with 85% of the workplace suggesting they "don't know what it means" or aren't sure "how to use it in a sentence"*. It’s a shame that such a foundational term coined by a living activist is still one of the last things to be known or used within the workplace. This has led me to believe that many of us don’t know what we don’t know and therefore can’t be blamed individually, if the company isn't investing in our future.
Diversity and inclusion training should be mandatory every year, the same way health and safety or security is. "Intersectionality" is both misunderstood and challenging for 85% of the workplace*
The diversity, inclusion and equity dictionary
Given that we are required to have a sense of understanding for terms which have never been shared with us, here are the basic terms and definitions we should all know or be aware of. For each term, going forward I will share a short summary of what you can start doing today to implement real change.
Agent -Someone who promotes and enables change to happen within any group or organisation.
Allyship - Supportive association with another person or group.
Bias- Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
Diversity -Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. In a nutshell, it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different.
Equity - Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all.
Inclusion -Inclusion is an organisational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated
Intersectional - The interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
Power - Ability to act or produce an effect.
Privilege - A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group; an advantage that only one person or group of people.
What can you start doing today?
There’s no excuse when it comes to diversity, inclusion and the lack of education. Companies must invest in their people and education in order to increase their productivity and profits. Without a diverse set of people, it’s unlikely that you can truly hit the figures you want! Before we delve into the more difficult terms, I would encourage you to take each term and do your own research around the topic. Start a slack channel #diversityandinclusion and share what you are reading, listening and learning with your wider team. And schedule a 30 minute lunch and learn each month to discover and explore each term, it's meaning and how you can start impacting change. This way, involving the company in the change which is not required by one person, but by everyone.
How can I help?
My life’s mission is to create inclusive places and bridge the skills gap. Unfortunately, diversity and inclusion is also a skills gap which can be deemed to have one of the greatest negative impacts if not taught! Being a chan