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D&I: Diversity does NOT equal Inclusion

I would like to invite you to stop for a moment and consider what comes to mind when you hear Diversity & Inclusion? D&I?

It’s one of those phrases that is so well known, it has become a singular word.

What does D&I mean to you?

But how often do we stop to think about what it really means.

  • Is it succession planning or a talent attraction tool?

  • Does it stand for equality? Fairness?

  • Or maybe even unfairness?

  • Which emotions come to the surface for you?

In my experience, Diversity does NOT equal Inclusion, and I would love to share a story with you about how I came to this conclusion.

Set up to succeed, or set up to fail

A few years ago, I was meeting with a colleague. This colleague was a young, smart woman of colour. She had just been promoted!

At face value, this was fantastic news. She brought so many new experiences and perspectives with her to an organization that was working towards increasing diversity.

But in reality, things were more challenging than expected. This was her first leadership role. Despite her lack of leadership experience, she now led a team where every person was white, male, and older than her.

So, in addition to the pressure of wanting to succeed in her new role, she needed to win over a skeptical team while covering for 1 team member who was booked off for burnout.

Last but not least, she had a baby on the way with extra family care responsibilities soon to come. To me it felt like too much work and too much pressure for 1 person to manage on her own and quite frankly I was worried for her.

She had been promoted into an especially challenging role, and not given the necessary support she needed to succeed. It felt like she had been set up to fail.

If she failed, all the doubters around her, the ones who believed that a young, foreign women couldn’t lead their team, or the ones who believed that a new mom should stay at home with baby, would have their biases confirmed.

For me, this is Diversity WITHOUT Inclusion!

This is an example of how we can often start with good intentions, but not take into consideration everything needed to succeed.

Are we dropping the ball on Inclusion?

Let’s take a moment to look at how diversity differs from inclusion:

  • A diverse workforce is one that hires and promotes people from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of experiences.

  • Inclusion is about creating an environment, where people feel welcome and valued…where they belong.

When newly promoted women don’t succeed, and don’t stay in their role or with the company, our instinct is to consider where to lay the blame.

And this blame often lands with the women themselves, that they lacked motivation, confidence, or the right network.

That they were too quarrelsome, or not strong enough. That family commitments got in the way.

My own personal realization that this is NOT a female topic was anything but straightforward.

Through my own experience of returning to work as a new mother and watching my career stall while younger men jumped ahead, I started focusing on where we can support women.

I was in the struggle of finding myself and fighting for myself, and my perspective had narrowed.

D&I is NOT a female topic

What I didn’t realize is that while women are often missing out at work, fathers are often missing out at home. More than anything, we are missing balance in the family.

According to the 2021 Gender Intelligence report by Advance and HSG, up to 77% of all family care responsibilities are shouldered by women and full-time is still king in management.

The data shows that almost half of all promotions happen in the age bracket 31 – 40 which coincides with family prime-time.

The reality for many women

If we return to the strategy of hiring and promoting women to increase gender diversity, I would like to ask the question again:

  • What do we need to ensure that they succeed, that they stay?

  • How can we create a workplace where they feel they belong?

Because while we might continue to encourage women to lean-in to their careers, it’s quite simply a numbers game.

Working full-time (because apparently, they must do this to proceed in management) and shouldering most of the family care responsibilities is just too much of an ask for many women, and they step back, or they step out.

So, what can organizations do?

Get creative around management roles

Instead of asking how we can change women so that they can succeed in management, consider how can we change the management roles so that women can succeed in management.

There are so many interesting new options out there, with job sharing and top sharing.

  • And do we really want to continue with 70 hours work week for management?

  • Even for men?

If you believe that a management role requires a full-time employee:

  • How do you know this is true?

Asking this question could be the first step to change.

Empower fathers to make time for family

While this might feel like a private matter, it is actually a professional matter! A full-time is king in management approach means that men are too scared to reduce their workload to take on more family care responsibilities.

What are organizations doing to support fathers in the workplace?

I am reminded of a statement by Nelson Mandela:

"It seems impossible, until it is done."

  • How long will we hold onto our way of working?

  • How long will we say: choose between work and family?

  • How long will we say that management needs to work full-time at the expense of our mental health?

There is an opportunity today for organizations to be the trailblazer. To set the bar higher. And they will be the ones who succeed in this new world.

Article written for spoton


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