Diversity and inclusion: why we need to invest in ourselves and take action to drive change

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diversity and inclusion

A few weeks ago I spent a day at a diversity and inclusion workshop. It was through my work with the CIPR and it was a great opportunity to reflect both as an individual and as an industry.

In the last 18 months, I have invested more time to learn about diversity and inclusion. I’ve attended events, read books and now have completed this more formal workshop. I still have more to do, but I’m committed to spending the time to become an ally and drive change in business.

The day was hosted by Project 23 and Elaine Dela Cruz and Gary Rayneau co-facilitated the conversations and discussions with the group. Throughout, there were several words or phrases that stayed with me:

  • Identity and how it is linked to diversity and inclusion
  • Validation and what that really feels like
  • Consistency in action
  • Individual – we cannot generalise anymore
  • Oppression was mentioned more in the day than in anything I have read to date
  • Societal evolution is a phrase I’ve now used several times as it’s important to accept change
  • Intentional with everything that we do
  • Emotional labour is important to be mindful of
  • Unearned privilege is the distinction – unearned is the bit we often don’t talk about
  • Listen, think, reflect and take action

One of the big things I took away from the workshop was the importance of identity linked to diversity and inclusion. While I understand the importance of intersectionality (how everything is linked together and why you cannot just focus on one area of diversity and inclusion), I hadn’t tied this to identity. I hadn’t considered the importance of identity as a whole and how much that matters.

Societal evolution is also something I had thought about but not articulated. Thinking changes and evolves and conversations with different generations both at home and at work demonstrate just how much. What’s important is that we see it as evolution. There is a lot of work being done by activists in this space and for me, there is a need to be mindful of what is evolution and what is driven by an activist agenda – especially in a world where we are more connected than ever. I also think there have to be safe spaces for conversations and education – something that I think is still missing for many people I’m talking to.

I’ve spent time discussing the word “privilege” since the workshop. The exercise we did around this was excellent and felt uncomfortable at times. It has left me wondering if the word privilege is the right one. Is it actually a loaded word that leads to people reacting negatively? The importance of unearned privilege – where advantages are given based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, wealth and so on – was a helpful learning for me in how privilege exists in society.

I share this because I think there is always more to learn and understand. I asked my LinkedIn community to share resources around this topic and while there were some responses, there were nowhere near as many as I had hoped. The suggestions are at the bottom of this blog.

For organisations around the world this topic is high on the agenda. Most recently, we’ve provided consultancy, a bespoke workshop and recommendations to enable an organisation to build a robust strategy around DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) through reviewing existing activity and upskilling the team to become more confident in this space. I worked with Advita Patel, who is part of our collective and co-founder of A Leader Like Me, which helps underrepresented women and non-binary people of colour progress further in their careers and achieve their leadership goals. The client told us:

“Jenni and Advita were methodical in their approach and did a fantastic job of coaching us through the thinking and actions we need to take. We’re now in the process of presenting the findings to our senior management team, sharing what DEIB means to us and how we’ll adapt our strategy around it. It really made us question what it means if we say we’re inclusive and equitable.”

The list of resources from those who responded to the poll is below if you’re looking to understand, think and reflect. Through learning, no matter what form that takes, we can drive change to make organisations a better place to work.

Listen:

ABCDEI – a podcast that aims to break down macro change into baby steps that every organisation, leader and manager can incorporate

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown with Aiko Bethea on Inclusivity at Work: The Heart of Hard Conversations

Follow (Instagram):

@everydayracism

@afuahirsch

@novareidofficial

@bcwlindsay

Watch:

Enslaved on BBC iPlayer with Afua Hirsch and Samuel L Jackson

Read:

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

The Good Ally by Nova Reid

The Power of Privilege: How white people can challenge racism by June Sarpong

Diversify by June Sarpong

Me and white supremacy by Layla F Saad

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