Increasingly clients ask me to link my work in gender to a wider inclusion and diversity agenda. Diversity and Inclusion is clearly a hot topic for them. So to help them and find ways to embed gender in a wider diversity and inclusion programme I have started to read up on Diversity & Inclusion over the past 2 years, and now work more with partners that do have experience with inclusive leadership and building inclusive organisations. I am hearing from them that we should embrace diversity and inclusion and that it is really important.
But I am not a person to just follow a trend, I need to know it for myself. I need to see it with my own eyes. And all this talk about inclusion has made me wonder. Why is Diversity and Inclusion such a hot topic? Why do we need it now? Where has it come from? Why do we suddenly need to teach people something as basic as treating their fellow human beings with respect?
Is Diversity and Inclusion a hot topic because we have become better people?
Perhaps now that we no longer have to worry about food and security and our organisations are doing well, we are moving up in Maslow’s pyramid and can worry about something less basic such as including everyone. Perhaps we are indeed increasingly becoming nicer. After all, we’ve abolished slave trade, and we are keen to signal we no longer kill animals and are vegetarians.
Is it because we are more self-focused?
Perhaps it’s the opposite and we have become more self-focused? Perhaps we always used to be fine working in teams with people from different backgrounds, but we have become set in our ways and we now need someone to teach us how to work with people that are different from ourselves.
Diversity and Inclusion is a hot topic because our world has changed…
I believe it’s none of the above and that it’s a bit more practical. I believe that now that travelling is so much easier and the world has become a global marketplace, communities are more diverse. We no longer live in a village where we know which family each person in our communities belongs to. I grew up in a village where that was the case, and that’s only 45 years ago.
We now live in communities where people have not grown up together and don’t share the same education and experiences. That makes it harder to understand someone else’s behaviour. Why are they wearing a headscarf? Why do they feel the need to change their gender? Why do they not join for an evening social in the pub? And when it’s harder to understand someone it’s harder to work together. It’s harder to see what they contribute, especially if they contribute in a different way than you do.
That’s why we need to put more effort in. That’s why we need to learn about diversity and inclusion. We need to learn to be more open. We need to learn to be more curious. We need to be less offended when someone else is curious about our background.
…and we need the talent
Working together all starts with conversations, learning about each others’ experiences and inviting someone to join that you usually wouldn’t invite. It may take more effort -from both sides- but eventually we need to. Because there are now so many people that are different from us in our communities, and we need them. We need their talents to help us deliver products and services that work for everyone – including those that are not like us. We need their talents to help us do the jobs that make us a prosperous society.
So I am learning. I am exploring. Often getting it wrong – painful – but that’s how you learn. But I need to. Because my world has changed. Has your world changed?
The result of my journey into Diversity and Inclusion is a partnership with Voice at the Table. Jointly we have started a Diversity & Inclusion Academy to help D&I professionals to have more impact. To find out more about The Big Fish Academy and to attend one of our events, please click here