Inclusion Resources, February 2023 – Staying accountable for inclusion efforts

Two and a half years ago, we saw a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, following George Floyd’s death. This horrific event started what seemed like a change in the tide, with organisations across the world making public commitments to antiracism and by extension, inclusion across all intersections of society.  What could be a true transformative business movement, is seemingly frittering away as a moment.

The process of fostering inclusion is not easy. It requires hard truths to be brought to the surface and full audit of current systems and activities before any progress can be made. This process provides a real lesson in how entrenched biases are, whether they are deemed to be unconscious or not, and how some people within these organisations resist change, no matter how positive the potential outcome. Some organisations have fared better in making such positive changes than others.

Whichever way you look at it, the general appetite for accountability and commitment to inclusion and diversity seems to have waned over the last two and a half years. On the matter of antiracism, Natalie Morris wrote in the Metro: “From speaking up when you encounter racism in public, to setting up initiatives to empower ethnic minority members of your workplace, or interacting with news, literature and campaigns that oppose racist ideologies, it was heartening to see colleagues, my wider friendship groups, and even high school friends on Facebook, engaging with this kind of behaviour. But two years on, I can feel us hurtling backwards. Progress that was seemingly being made in the immediate aftermath of the BLM protests is now being undone, and I fear we will end up in an even worse position than where we started.

The clients we work with at MMCS are continuing to reach out to us, to help them on their way to demonstrating improvement to achieve inclusion for everybody. Our aim is to keep shining a light on all aspects of intersectional inclusion and addressing areas of bias and exclusion within the workplace.

The following excerpts and links provide information and resources for building and continuing your commitment to inclusion.

Is making a business case for diversity the right thing to do?

It has been repeatedly proven that focusing effort on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion overall has a strong business case and a direct positive effect on profitability, as McKinsey have consistently stated in their 2020 report:

Diversity wins is the third report in a McKinsey series investigating the business case for diversity, following Why diversity matters (2015) and Delivering through diversity (2018). Our latest report shows not only that the business case remains robust but also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time. These findings emerge from our largest data set so far, encompassing 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies. By incorporating a “social listening” analysis of employee sentiment in online reviews, the report also provides new insights into how inclusion matters. It shows that companies should pay much greater attention to inclusion, even when they are relatively diverse.”

Read more here.

On the other hand, why should Inclusion and diversity have to pass a business case? This excerpt from a Harvard Business Review article states: “Compared to those who read neutral messaging, participants who read a business case [in corporate messaging regarding diversity] reported being 27% more concerned about stereotyping and lack of belonging, and they were 21% more concerned they would be seen as interchangeable. In addition, after seeing a company make a business case, our participants’ perceptions that its commitment to diversity was genuine fell by up to 6% — and all these factors, in turn, made the underrepresented participants less interested in working for the organization.”

So, what to do instead? The HBR article goes on to say: “Our research shows that the fairness case, which presents diversity as an end in itself (i.e., a non-instrumental framing of diversity), is a lot less harmful than the business case… But there’s another option that may be even better and simpler: Don’t justify your commitment to diversity at all. Across our studies, we found that people felt more positive about a prospective employer after reading a fairness case than after reading a business case — but they felt even better after reading a neutral case, in which diversity was simply stated as a value, without any explanation.”

Read more here.

You can look at it this way: what further justification do you need for inclusion when it is simply a core value shared across the business, when it is simply the right thing to do?

Avoiding performative action and looking at your company culture

We are all aware that there are some organisations who, at best, will post on social media when various awareness events such as Black History Month (in February in the US/October in the UK) or International Women’s Day, or Pride, and do little else. If that’s the case, a deep look into your company culture is a vital step in your company’s progress. And if needed, the culture needs to shift to avoid mere performative displays and make every single employee feel as included as they wish to be.

A Gallup article delves more into organisational culture, stating, “Simply gauging objective measures of diversity or equity doesn’t get to the heart of the matter – the daily encounters and interactions of individual employees.

We may all experience the same workplace, but that doesn’t mean we all experience the workplace in the same way.

Read more here.

Gather data and let that be your guide

While inclusion efforts did seem to kick up a gear in 2020 from the outset, incidents of bias and discrimination still occur regularly.

Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of Black employees experienced racism in 2021, a report by Pearn Kandola has found.

The Racism at Work in the UK report revealed that three quarters (74 per cent) of employees thought that racism was a problem last year, a rise of two percentage points from 2018.

The report, which surveyed 1,203 UK employees, found that while over half (52 per cent) had witnessed racism at work, only one in five (22 per cent) reported the incident to management or HR. A quarter (28 per cent) said they took no action following the event and of those who didn’t report it , two in five (41 per cent) said this was because they feared the consequences.

Read more here.

If you need to gather data and don’t know where to start, then this CBI article, “Data strategy and transformation must link to business goals”, is a good place to start.

Data can identify gaps in your inclusion strategy and policy making and will help companies to set appropriate priorities in filling those gaps.

Keeping up the momentum

Whilst collecting data and building a robust inclusion strategy is vital, it is equally important to remain accountable and ensure your strategy and key milestones are adhered to.

Building a diverse and inclusive environment begins when all leaders and managers are on board. Their commitment is essential in sustaining this positive culture change in the long run.

In fact, it is the leaders’ job to educate and empower the rest of the team.

Read more here about how you can sustain inclusion efforts, including using training, anonymous feedback, and systemised review and communications processes.

Allies that champion inclusion and commit to raising the profile for underrepresented groups are also vital to making inclusion sustainable. However, as the below excerpts from a Fortune article highlight, this requires a delicate – yet achievable – balance within your company culture.

The backing of dominant group members can render DEI issues seemingly more credible or legitimate, and thus worthy of support, resources, and attention from higher-ups. Moreover, without the support of dominant group allies, members of traditionally marginalized groups can encounter cynicism and lower support when protesting DEI issues, as they’re seen as being purely self-interested.

At the same time, that very same power of dominant group members that helps them bring attention to DEI issues can also undermine the extent to which they are seen as effective allies. For instance, male allies who try to exert a lot of influence in workplace advocacy groups created to advance women’s cause can encounter negative attitudes…

 Allies can also use their structural power to amplify the voices of marginalized group members while playing a more subordinate role in joint presentations and meetings. Allies can further demonstrate their willingness to learn and course-correct from mistakes, by requesting marginalized group members for feedback and advice after instances of helping.”

Read more here.

More helpful resources:

The Diverse Minds Podcast – Leyla Okhai, CEO of Diverse Minds speak to leaders in the fields of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing about how to increase your understanding and make positive change.

TED talk: How to get serious about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, from Janet Stovall – In this candid talk, inclusion advocate Janet Stovall shares a three-part action plan for creating workplaces where people feel safe and expected to be their unassimilated, authentic selves.

Coming next month, we will be curating an anti-racism focused list of resources.