Today, I was asked to speak on some of the roadblocks to Diversity and Inclusion, and provide some concrete actions. It naturally got me thinking, and I came up with 7 roadblocks (there are more I am sure), and a few concrete actions that any of us can put in place. So, I thought I would share it here for those who are interested in making a difference in the world.
When I refer to diversity and inclusion, I am talking about race, gender, physical challenges and sexual orientation, perhaps there are some I missed.
Firstly, here are a few of the roadblocks that I thought of
1. The narrative: Who is telling the story? Historically, it has been told by white men, abled-bodied and presumably straight men. Where are the other voices and perspectives? The story is fundamentally flawed because there are huge gaps. Any story that you read told through the lens of one person is skewed and potentially an inaccurate representation of the complete truth.
2. Gatekeepers: Who are those decision-makers that are keeping the old-guard in place? Think about the social clubs, societies, old boys’ clubs.
3. Biases: We all have them, unconscious bias, confirmation bias and so forth. This does not excuse us, but we need to take responsibility to learn and become of ways in which these biases play a role in our life.
4. Micro-aggression: This is encountered on a daily basis. Sometimes it may be unknown, and sometimes it is on purpose.
5. Mindset: What are those mental models that need to change? For example, the scarcity mentality of not enough.
6. Culture: At this moment there is an increase in the polarisation of society. We have seen the rise of BLM, and white supremacy, and neo-nazi movements. How can we have conversations that can increase diversity, inclusion and belonging.
7. Not having a personal why: Why is this important? Seeing this as a handout, or helping the others, instead of seeing it as a social and business imperative. Research has shown that businesses are more successful when they have a greater representation of race and gender in teams and board level.
Some concrete suggested actions:
- Changing the narrative: We need to be curious about the truth of others, which includes the perspectives and stories of others.
- Practice passing the microphone.
- Stop interrupting when others are speaking.
- It is so important that you build relationships with people that are different from you. Not to prove that you’re not a racist, sexist, ageist, etc, but because you can break down so many barriers just by developing one real friendship.
- Become aware of what micro-aggression is, and how you may be unknowingly practicing it.
- All growth involves unlearning and relearning, be prepared to be uncomfortable, be humble when you get this wrong. This is part of the process. There are a lot of books, talks and resources out there, listen and read about the other perspectives. Read, and learn more about some of the terms. Here are a few to know about: diversity is about inviting in people that have not have been part of the conversation. Inclusion is giving a space to listen to them, and include them. Belonging is creating a space where diverse people can feel safe and comfortable in sharing their opinions, they should not have to conform to your expectations, i.e. a woman does not have to behave like a man to be a good leader. Advocacy is being aware that through your identity, you have an advantaged position, and using that position to advocate for those who have not had the same advantaged position.
- Representation: When you’re hosting talks or events, make sure that you have a good representation of speakers. I saw recently a panel of doctors talking about women’s issues, and not one female doctor represented. They were called out by many who saw the promotion of the event. Representation within your family and social circles. Does your circle of friends, society, neighbourhood, and organisation have a representation of people of colour and gender, and other people not like you? If not, is there something you do to change that?
As a psychologist and coach, I know that real behaviour change occurs when there is a shift in the heart, or to word it differently when you’ve gained enough incongruence as well as insight to change your perspective. In order to do this, you need to reflect on two things.
Firstly, find the why for you. Why is it important to have a more diverse and inclusive world?
Secondly, and this is the bigger and deeper question that we all as a society, need to reflect on. We need to redefine the concept of ‘enough’. For far too long we’ve been taught and accepted the concept of getting an endless amount of money and possession, and we chase after it all our lives, never being satisfied! And as long as we have this mindset, we can never learn the essential lesson we all should have learnt as children: to share. We keeping buying a lot of things, to impress people we don’t even like! This flawed definition is standing in the way of working together and doing good in the world. And yet research shows us that it is not wealth that brings us happiness, joy or meaning. It is purpose, community and belonging. If there is one thing that the Covid-19 crisis has taught us it is this: We need much less that we thought to be truly happy.
Finally, I want to challenge you with a question I ask all my coaching clients: What is the smallest step you can take today, that will result in a big shift?
What is the smallest step you can take today, that will result in a big shift?
About Racheal: Racheal is an Organisational Psychologist, and Executive Coach, having worked with leaders internationally, she focuses on equipping and building strong, resilient leaders. A strong believer in the power of diversity she also works with developing women in leadership, and hosts a podcast called Women’s Work talking with women in leadership about their learnings and journey, as well as providing mentorship lessons to listeners. She has created an online platform for bite-sized learnings for leaders, along with a team of experienced leadership experts.