Most of us live in such a small, sheltered bubble. We like to think that we understand what diversity is, what inclusion means, what ethics really are, but the reality is that most of us have unconscious biases influencing us. Our brains make assessments of people and situations without us even realising. We can judge a person on their cultural background, their physical appearance, their gender, where they live – all based on a set of beliefs that we’ve formed during our upbringing, through media representation, or through the different social environments we’ve been exposed to. It might be a positive assessment, it might be a negative one – either way, these biases can lead to discrimination and poor decision-making in the workplace (and beyond). Talented people miss out on opportunities, or less-qualified, less-deserving people get promoted to positions where someone else might have been a better fit. From a business perspective, organisational performance suffers, with research showing that the most diverse companies are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers in terms of profitability.
So, what do we do about it? Our leaders may be sitting around talking about exclusion, racism and lack of diversity, but some of them haven’t experienced such issues for themselves. The danger of proximity is that, when we’re trying to make decisions from our own point of view, we’re not necessarily understanding the whole picture. People might say: ‘I’m not racist’ or ‘Of course I believe in the importance of diversity’, but are they just talking the talk? There’s a big difference between ‘not being racist’ and being ‘anti-racist’ – believing in diversity and actually making it happen.
For anyone in a position of leadership, it’s imperative to ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I having the right conversations with the right people?
- Am I getting myself out of the way?
- When I say I’m curious to learn about diversity and am committed to an inclusive work culture, am I really?
- Am I finding ways to have the conversations that aren’t being had?
It’s not just leaders who can make a difference. In this powerful TED Talk (09:28), writer and advocate Melinda Briana Epler suggests strategies that any of us can implement to become a better ally to people who might face discrimination.
There's so much proof in favour of diversity in the workplace – whether in terms of culture, gender, background, knowledge, experience or skills – it creates a balance of voices and contributes to greater diversity of thought, innovation and creativity. So, what are you doing to make this happen?
– The Coach Place Global
Image by @Clay Banks
This content is the intellectual property of The Coach Place Global and not for distribution or reproduction of any kind. For further detail please refer to our full terms and conditions.