Many organizations today have Diversity and Inclusion programs because “it is the right thing to do”. These programs however rarely seem to be at the forefront in the day to day operations. Afterall, managers have the “real work” of ensuring the productivity and profitability of the company, right?
As it turns out, diversity is incredibly important to a company’s bottom line. In fact, a study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse management teams were more innovative which led to revenues that were on average 19% higher.
Diversity and Inclusion programs can be incredibly valuable but they have to be more than just “ticking the compliance boxes” for an organization. You need to get real buy-in from your team. And you need to build a passion for the program in order for it to be sustainable and be a driver of your organization’s long-term survival.
My own experience
I still have a lot to learn about Diversity and Inclusion. I mean, I read articles, blogs, and listen to podcasts, but I still feel like sometimes I talk about D and I with as much passion as I talk about anything that I cognitively know is right, but haven’t actually experienced myself. Weird, considering the fact that in the past 20 years I have given countless passionate talks and written articles about my own experiences as a marginalized woman in the workplace. I was once really pissed off about so many things—many of which I let slide by for fear of retribution at the time they occurred. And then, that anger just…kind of…diminished over time.
So, what happened to me?
I remember back to one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, “The Big Chill”. In it, the characters, (former activist students who have now grown into middle-aged, successful career people) lament that they lost their passion for social justice somewhere between grad school and starting a family. Am I too comfortable to be bothered about what’s happening in the world? Are my days of using my anger about injustice to rile some kind of feeling in others… well… over?
The other day, I walked into my 16-year old daughter’s bedroom to say good morning before I jumped on the first of many Zoom calls. Her room was cluttered with the usual dirty clothes and abandoned sketches that she had been working on for school. Then I spotted it—a black and white watercolour of two hands of different colours intertwined. It stopped me in my tracks with both its simplicity and blatant message of equality and support. I asked my daughter if I could take it, and she agreed. Whatever prompted her to paint this will remain her private prerogative. But when I saw it? I felt a rumble in my soul and I’m using this rumble to keep me fueled for the fight that is not yet over.
Takeaways for leaders
Having a successful Diversity and Inclusion program begins with recognizing its true value – and that takes a shift in mindset. Such a program will not have any impact if it is approached with complacency. If it doesn’t move you to change, then the change will not happen.
Like me, you may need to find a source of inspiration – a painting – a conversation – something. Something to stir those rumblings deep inside. Because if your program doesn’t give you – or your team – that feeling, that “rumbling in your soul”, then frankly it wasn’t designed well, and you’ve wasted your money. But the right program? That can transform your organization in ways you’ve never imagined.
What fuels your passion for the fight for diversity and inclusion? Drop me a line. Let’s keep the soul-rumbling going.