Diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) is clearly a hot topic right now. We see companies proclaiming their successes, we see leaders, institutions and cultures being outed for their prejudices but are all our stats, training programmes and recruitment drives working?
To some extent I am sure they’re having an impact but I can’t help but feel that until we make it truly personal that we are missing something really important.
Do you remember a time when you felt left out, overlooked or even ignored? Someone had a party, and you weren’t invited. Or you went to the party but hadn’t been asked to help plan it, even though you had some great ideas. Perhaps you arrived but left hungry because you were the only vegetarian at the BBQ.
We’ve all been excluded – we have all felt the shame, fear, embarrassment that it brings. And it is this kind of visceral human feeling that I believe we need to reconnect with if we are going to create real change. We need to reconnect with our humanity for ourselves as well as others.
This feeling has been demonstrated over the last 12 months through the Black Lives Matter movement, which has profoundly impacted many people in society. Quite often those in minority and under-represented groups are connected with feelings of exclusion, whilst those running the DE&I initiatives are slightly more removed from the emotion.
So often when businesses want to change, they create measures, put together a business case, plan a host of activity, collect data and, the more we do all of that, the more we disconnect from the bottom line.
The bottom line is we need to help people reconnect with the emotion behind diversity, equity and inclusion – particularly the inclusion. To be someone who demonstrates empathy with one of their team who isn’t included in a conversation.
Someone who asks questions about another person’s identity in a suitable way to help them understand a different lived experience. Until we take time within our schools and organisations to help people be empathetic and curious, I fear we will be driving disconnected project plans on DE&I for years to come.