“Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice.” Michael Bach
There has rarely been a more important time to review the progress organisations are making on Diversity and Inclusion issues. HR has to be successful in driving this forward for the benefit not just of business but for the good of a wider society. This was acknowledged by Peter Cheese the CEO of CIPD in his press release last week.
The evidence is all there regarding the stats confirming that people from ethnic minority groups are more likely than their white counterparts to be unemployed, poorly paid and/or in less secure jobs. Their underrepresentation as senior board members (along with women and those from the LGTB+ community) is even worse.
Peter’s message included mention of the need for organisations to get clear messages out re D and I and particularly racism. He also stressed the need for clear and two-way communication as well as creating an environment of respect and sharing. Finally he cited the importance of committing to sustained action and change. Peter committed the CIPD to early production of resources for its members to support these goals and to ensure that relevant action is taken.
The CIPD’s Festival of Work included a conference session on the first afternoon on D and I. The CIPD’s Jill Miller introduced the Masterclass stating that it’s not just what decisions are made but how people are managed in organisations.
The first speaker Samantha West shared her personal transgender journey. With 30 years’ experience in the construction industry – which from my own personal HR experience is a very male dominated environment – changing from being a man in a senior management position was quite a challenge. This meant she had to undergo the stress of living a double life until having confided her situation to her companies’ HR lead she was promised support for her transition.
Samantha’s story feels particularly pertinent at present after J K Rowling’s unfortunate comments on Twitter. She had been frightened to take action fearing that she would lose friends family and maybe her job. In practice she had a lot of support with 250 individual personal messages from her co-workers. After her return from surgical interventions she felt a bit awkward at first but two years later she feels completely respected. She knows she has been lucky and that not everyone has had such positive experiences.
Samantha strongly feels the business benefits of her company’s approach. A person happy in themselves will have better mental health and be more productive. All the normal benefits of D and I apply with a better range of views to improve business decision making. Her recommendations include having a clear policy linked to business strategy with training (e.g. unconscious bias) and communications to reinforce these messages. Top level commitment she sees as important, supporting networks and supply chain management to ensure that the business doesn’t unethical practices in other organisations.
The second speaker was Winston Ben Clements who also started with his personal experiences as well as a short video sharing some key news items relating to D and I. His being of colour and disabled didn’t stop him from getting a job he liked but over time he didn’t feel fully engaged with the company culture. Winston made the analogy of comparing diversity as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and inclusion as fitting the pieces together. He sees inclusion as being more important than diversity – not just attracting a wide range of people but giving them a sense of belonging. He felt this was a message that should go beyond the workplace to other aspects of people’s life involving social interaction. He quoted Michael Bach “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice”.
Winston referred to the George Floyd instance by saying that America has a diverse population but fails on inclusivity. As had been his experience falling into more than one category could enhance the negative outcomes e.g. race and gender. He didn’t feel it all stems from employers but started with the education system. He finished by stating that an inclusive culture breeds resilience – most important right now.
Acacia Learning can support you and your organisation with CIPD accredited training course modules on diversity and inclusion as can our partners Oaktree Training with non- accredited leadership management short courses. Both can be delivered live online and tailored to your organisation’s specific requirements. Check out our programme of training courses >