Maintaining diversity and Inclusion practices is important to most businesses who want to gain the loyalty of employees and trust of consumers. D&I training is becoming an increasingly popular trend in business, helping to align staff efforts with the organization's broader vision, strategy and practices in most organizations.
Diversity has taken several forms and shapes of evolution in the last few decades and today the word Diversity does not seem to have a lot of meaning without the word “Inclusion”. So the terminology now is “Diversity & Inclusion” – D&I. In my experience’ as a Diversity Officer of the company from my previous life it has been a constant evolution and exploratory journey that rises to bar of diversity from both understanding as well as implementation of best practices. Diversity gets looked upon as some kind of a quota or metrics that has to be measured against without looking at it more broadly as a culture change or a paradigm shift altogether. Few years back, I read about the European Union passing a resolution that all major corporations of the Union should ensure that it is being represented in the Board by 40 per cent of women, I thought it was a very bold and almost an impossible task to be able to achieve in the true sense.
Many organizations have tried to define diversity in different ways. My favorite quote about diversity till date is the one I heard in Upstate New York wherein a co-member form the New York State Diversity Council commented, “If we have a white male from Texas it is going to be great diversity here….” Translated in an Indian context it is like having a Sardarji amidst Madrasis in Chennai though it is the same gender and the same country and still so much of diversity right there…
While even making an attempt to define diversity and what it means to any single group can be as challenging as that, how can we have a Diversity strategy and align it with overall business strategy. That seems to be even more complicated and opportunistic at the same time. Am reminded of a classic incident working through Diversity and its implications for an organization from my previous life. I was invited to be part of an interview process wherein we were interviewing a senior woman candidate for a Communication position. The candidate had relevant experience, held challenging positions, highly qualified and was found to be fit for the job. In the interview debriefing, I witnessed the entire conversation going around how this person will manage day care for four of her children and whether or not we can trust her commitment to work and to travel and if it is the right candidate.
The evidence we had through the interview process was very clear that she had held very senior positions and had done a wonderful job in her previous roles, had been promoted steadily and showed signs of a high potential. Despite these strong evidences it was very strange how we got the conversation focused around the aspect of “day care” while assessing her candidature. As the Diversity expert in that group, I reminded my colleagues that we are talking about a candidate and a job and not necessarily a woman and a job. For a minute, there was silence in the room and then we started wondering if we would have had the same conversation if the candidate we were interviewing would have been a male candidate. We started evaluating some of the assumptions we had made as follows:
- In today’s evolved world, child care is still the primary responsibility of the woman
- That the bread winner and the primary income earner is the Man of the house
- Evidence that a woman has grown in her career having children and leading a normal life and a successful career history does not matter. She is still a woman and not dependable
- Unlike for a man, for a woman successful career history does not really matter, she still has to prove herself and her commitment to career
- As far as a woman goes, her technical capabilities are a “given” and her membership and loyalty is supposed to be doubly scrutinized
It was a great learning for all of us and went back to the debriefing process based on competencies, previous history and success factors etc like what we would normally do for a male candidate. To evolve as a truly global organization in this day and age it might be a good idea to identify some of the filters and “unconscious bias” that we are carrying that comes in the way of our creating a truly inclusive work place.
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