The Personal is the Political is the Professional
Diversity and inclusion is not an option on the table, it is the only way to rebuild the ‘new normal’
I was a panelist at this year’s Lloyd’s annual Dive In Festival : that aims to bring more diverse and inclusive (D&I) practices within corporate workspaces across the globe. The panel session aimed at highlighting the unconscious biases that we continue following within our offices and how can we identify them. This post highlights some of the key points from that session.
- Diversity and Inclusion is still considered altruism
One of the challenges of D&I continues to be token representation. We have women on the board members or members from marginalised communities appointed to positions, only to look great on paper. The decision-making power still rests with the few men at the top. The way corporate world can move ahead is to consistently inculcate D&I practices, vocabulary and culture at every level of the professional hierarchy.
2. The D&I vocabulary needs to be expanded and adopted consistently
When we use the term ‘include’, most of the times, it comes from a position of power. “I include you,” denotes a certain power structure that governs who gets to be the part of the system. Similarly, someone in the position of power, is most often imagined to be a man. In order to successfully make a place diverse and inclusive, the vocabulary needs to rewritten and changed. And it must be adopted in everyday language as well as policy communication.
From recognising non-binary pronouns to making everyone feel ‘belonged’ rather than ‘included’ can go a long way in transforming professional behaviours.
3. Change emerges from leadership but that is not confined to the top
While change is often fast-tracked when decisions are made at the top, each one of us can be a leader in bringing D&I to our offices. Unlearning unconscious bias only needs one person to raise their voice, to make a note of an ignorant remark, to educate a colleague, to question privileges. If our office can become safe spaces where our personal journeys are respected, each one of us can become a champion of D&I. And this can then translate into actual policy changes.
4. Personal is the political is the professional
Our sexual, religious, ethnic, caste-based identities impact the contributions we make to every room we are in, and offices are not excluded from that. There is no wall strong enough to isolate us from that which makes us who we are, least of all office cubicles. When our identities are under threat, our very physiological response to work changes. It is time we fully embrace our identities and the impact they have on our work.
Share your personal journeys with peers, recognise that some of us do not have a level playing field, practise allyship, respect boundaries, educate yourself, judge less.
5. D&I is in the best interests of all corporates
Countless studies and research has time and again highlighted the results led by diverse teams. They eliminate confirmation bias, they allow for resilient business models, they bring the big picture, they also bring in the money. You also have the best ideas when you have the most collaborative and diverse minds on a project.
An all men team simply cannot make the best sanitary product.
As our world gets more and more interconnected, we are losing if we do not hire people from across the board. D&I is not an option on the table, it is the only way to rebuild the ‘new normal’. To move ahead as a civilisation that can thrive and not merely survive like it has so far. Homogeneity is a curse, diversity is a blessing. Choose the latter.