How many times have you heard the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, automatically associating it with women and gender politics. It’s a pretty common association in Australia, given all the media analysis of women’s participation in everything from politics to AFLW.
I want you to stop and think about what does diversity really mean to you? Why should it even matter? How do you think about it in your day to day?
Think about the last time you felt different. Uncomfortable with a situation. A time, where you felt left out or excluded. How did it make you feel? There have certainly been times when I have felt vulnerable, anxious and isolated due to feelings of exclusion. Unable to speak out, hindered by my surroundings.
On the other hand, I have felt the privilege of oblivion. I have followed the crowd on one or more occasions, feeling safe and grounded. No doubt, many of us have experienced both extremes.
Diversity comes in a myriad of forms, shapes and sizes. Ethnicity, gender, age and disability, scrape the surface. The obvious, outwardly overt reasons to exclude someone. Yet it’s the deeper dimensions of diversity traits, those that sit below the surface; often harder to see, that can often be overlooked without a second thought. Traits like values, life experiences, education, sexual orientation, political views and beliefs can all contribute to how you view your world.
The advantages to diversity in the workplace are plentiful. It has shown to facilitate businesses by improving ethical and good, decision-making within teams. Increase brand and reputation amongst customers and competitors. Provide a competitive advantage for talent attraction and retention. Maintain employee engagement. And has also shown to have improved links to safety and innovations gains.
So why is it so difficult to implement? Diversity is known to create conflict early on within teams. Often these uncomfortable situations are avoided at all costs because most people think they will remain this way permanently. It is in fact, quite the opposite. Although uncomfortable to begin with, diversity has been shown rewards of productivity over time. At the opposite spectrum, homogenous teams can remain static and inhibitive.
We all want to talk-the-talk with regards to diversity but we’re generally not walking it. Why? Because our evaluations are typically unconscious. We all have bias. Whether it be affinity bias; the feeling of relating to someone who is like minded is common and most natural. Alternatively confirmation bias; having views confirmed rather than challenged, can result in information and evidence been discounted. This being largely reflective of our social media foray.
Biases can be filtered through priming or stereotyping. What are we inadvertently expecting when we meet new people? Are there situations where we group think? Are we playing to perceived assumptions clouding our judgement of reality?
What can we do to change this? How do you ensure you don’t give in to bias? It’s as simple as becoming aware. It is important that our workplaces and the people in them, grow and learn to become places that are safe and where people can experience true inclusion. Question, Listen and Start the conversation. Ask yourself, what cultural-add is going to occur with this decision? Is the mix being challenged?
Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to get people’s thoughts on the matter. Play a point of devil’s advocate. Think about all the possible solutions. Put your view last in order to reduce the potential of priming and encourage openness.
How many people have felt safe to challenge you and your perspective lately? How are you cultivating change?