DEI: Not just a change in policy but a change in mindset
The Diversity and Inclusion agenda has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Today, the dynamics and scope of diversity at the workplace have evolved beyond gender disparity to truly reflect the makeup of the society that we live in.
As we take this agenda forward, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practitioners across the globe are advocating the importance of building a level playing field by employing diverse talent and creating equal access to opportunities. I want to call out the difference between Equality and Equity… While equality treats everyone the same, regardless of need, equity is all about fairness and providing people with resources and opportunities they need, depending on their specific circumstances. This is the change in mindset that helps build empathy and allyship across the board and creates a culture where we all feel we belong and can succeed because of our differences.
While DEI policies play a key role in strengthening the culture of the organization, they also offer a competitive advantage in the external marketplace. Having said that, for these policies to be effective, they need to be internalized and leaders and managers need to change behaviors and think differently from what they have been accustomed to. I have seen that when leaders and managers embrace diversity and intentionally make it a business priority by integrating it into the core values of the organization, it sets the tone for the rest of the organization to follow suit.
It is often said that ‘managers manage change, but leaders create change’ by role modelling inclusive actions and behaviors, inspiring and empowering their teams to contribute to their fullest potential. Whenever I think of leaders who made their mark in history, Nelson Mandela always stands out for me as a leader who believed that a single person could be a catalyst for change. His dedication, courage and sacrifice helped shape the world around him!!
One area of concern that might arise when organizations decide to improve their diversity representation, is the danger of it becoming just another data point. Now, don’t get me wrong – while it is good to set goals and hold oneself accountable for the same, organizations can get caught up in a web of just chasing numbers. Important to note that one must not lose sight of the employees, who are the most important asset of any organization, irrespective of gender, ability, sexual orientation, race or religion. Organizations need to appreciate them for their unique contributions and invest in their development and retention.
I’d like to end by saying that while diversity is rightly held up as a key differentiator in organizations, it’s the inclusive practices that change mindset. However, equity is like the glue that binds all of the diversity and inclusion together and makes the real difference at the workplace.