This last year has been catalytic for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. There has been an acceptance for quite a while that EDI are just ‘the right things to do’, and obviously, I agree. However, to be impactful equality, diversity and inclusion need to be firmly established as a business/mission critical issue for each organisation. Many places have a decent story to tell in terms of their efforts on and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. They may well have made significant investments over the years and it is important we celebrate progress and success. But let’s look at some facts:
- The UK Gender Pay Gap – for all employees the gender pay gap in April 2020 stood at 15.5%
- The ethnicity pay gap stands at 23.8% in London in 2020. Possibly, we don’t know for sure as the government haven’t yet seen fit to make this a mandatory reporting requirement, but we all know it’s there!
- The imbalance in the UK workforce across so many sectors. People of colour and women more likely to be at the bottom of on organisation than the top. The Snowy Peaks as christened by one report about the NHS.
- The multiplicity of evidence that shows that those that are in minorities often are having a far less positive experience where they work, feeling less valued and less recognised. There are so many sources of evidence- take a look for example at https://www.bitc.org.uk/race/ or https://www.stonewall.org.uk.
These issues all exist as real challenges that every business leader needs to address now. They all show that our businesses/organisations are inefficient and unfair. These are not theoretical problems. These equality indicators affect a business/organisation’s attractiveness to its customers, the quality of its products or services, its ability to attract and retain staff and increasingly, as we see the world waking up to the nature, danger and egregiousness of systemic inequality, a business/organisation’s very licence to operate.
My proposition to you is that equality, diversity and inclusion must form an integral part of every single one of an organisation’s decision-making processes. This requires 3 elements –
- the right- or as I call it the ‘intentional’ mindset,
- clear and specific knowledge
- emotional intelligence.
An ‘intentional mindset’ recognises you don’t generally get anywhere without focus and drive. Organisations must apply those characteristics and behaviours to their inclusion goals.
If individuals are unsure what is needed or how to do it – then they must do what they do in other circumstances. Get expert help and/or learn and increase their breadth of knowledge. Those that are successful in life have gained knowledge and then applied that knowledge repeatedly. They have practiced. If you don’t believe me have a read of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
Knowledge – get clued up!
I am a massive Shonda Rhimes fan. Recently watching an episode of the brilliant Grey’s Anatomy, colleagues discuss an incorrect diagnosis of an east Asian patient. This resulted from the standard of care being based on white men. Miranda Bailey, (one of my all-time favourite characters)
Says – ‘if the protocol is wrong, read, learn, educate yourself and change it’.
This in a nutshell is what leaders need to get. You run your organisation, you have the power to make change and fix things that are not working. You didn’t get to where you are by being helpless so don’t let any equality, diversity and inclusion issues be treated with any less determination.
This ‘knowledge point’ has become more evident and accepted in recent months since the murder of George Floyd and the worldwide protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. It has always been something I found curious and frustrating.
People are prepared to go to school for a hundred years to be a doctor or lawyer. The concept of continuous professional development is well accepted. When new regulations arrive, GDPR for example, we invest in ensuring everyone is aware and knows what to do. We ensure that people get a briefing when they start in a new place on how to exit the building if there is a fire. Yet, for these fundamental points about society and human behaviour that impact so many we don’t have the same work ethic. There is almost a sense of it happening by magic. That no real effort or learning was needed. Even worse, if something is needed it should come from those in the minority, those who ‘needed’ the help and support.
Thirdly, comes emotional intelligence. Its probably the most important as it can help you figure almost anything out. By emotional intelligence I mean understanding the interplay of human, behavioural, emotional, and power dynamics. How these impact practice and organisational effectiveness at a macro and micro level. Understanding this and working out how to combat unhelpful cultures and behaviours and reinforce positive ones all requires emotional intelligence. Just in case you are not sure what that is, here you go – paraphrased from Psychology Today:
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence includes skills in relation to emotional awareness, the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions and the ability to harness those emotions.
Many organisations have been ignited to accelerate their action particularly around race inequality – my inbox is full of recruiters and requests to speak as proof. My firm belief is that transformation relies on everyone in the organisation taking responsibility and understanding what is needed.
That means the default and lazy behaviours need to be overcome. One common one is the tendency, that if it comes with any sort of EDI label you send it off to the EDI team or the ‘staff network’. Those resources and people are important and play an incredible role in your organisation. The EDI professionals can provide the
foundations, the wiring and the plumbing, the expertise, guidance, process and infrastructure. Staff networks provide valuable insight into staff or customer voice and help build your internal community and belonging.
Together they can provide the tools and create the catalyst, but they can’t ‘do it’! EDI isn’t something a single person, team or business unit achieves on its own. An organisation will only really see inclusion success if the leadership brings it to life for the whole community. That leadership needs to embody inclusion and embed it throughout their organisation so that every member of the community knows they are serious. Where everyone believes in those leaders and understands the part, they play individually in making it happen then there will be movement. This ‘line of sight’ is an ordinary part of any staff engagement strategy and is often not as well understood for EDI purposes.
Leaders need to consider how to show that they see themselves as accountable. They need to learn to properly listen to those in their community and hear their different experiences and critically show how succeeding in achieving equality diversity and inclusion goals is truly something they want and are determined to do