Diversity & Inclusion Hopes — not predictions — for 2019

29 Jan

Ihave just returned from a great Diversity & Inclusion Leaders conference, which was chaired by the fantastic Charlotte Sweeney and in her opening remarks she expressed disappointment about the many articles and social media posts she has read about diversity and inclusion predictions for 2019. In her own blog post at the beginning of this year she wrote:

I have to be honest and say that I have become tired and disappointed in some of the predictions I have read. Many predict the obvious such as Gender Pay Gap Reporting will be high on company agenda’s in the UK. Some push that little bit further to state that some of the conversations that have been lacking, such as ethnicity and race in the workplace will take more of a prominent stage in the diversity & inclusion debate. I have yet to see an honest prediction that states ’this can be really tough work and in an ever changing environment it will be great if we continue to have the platform to discuss these issues and progress this work throughout 2019.

Instead of writing a “predictions” article like the rest of us she brilliantly wrote an article outlining her three “hopes” for diversity and inclusion this year, which were:

  1. That business leaders listen to the diversity and inclusion debate and respond with action;
  2. That companies take calculated risks, try something different and step outside their comfort zones, and;
  3. That companies are more transparent and truthful about what’s really going on in their organisations.

I am part of the guilty party! Earlier this year I too wrote my predictions for 2019. Whilst I will keep my original predictions and article online I am going to reframe some of them as my hopes for this year in this article.

Man writing on a glass screen with colleagues looking over his shoulder

Hope #1 — Business leaders hire a dedicated manager to rollout their D&I strategy

I know that more and more businesses are paying attention to the importance and value of diversity and inclusion in their workforce (which is fantastic to see). However, businesses often expect somebody in HR to be responsible for diversity and inclusion for only part of the week and alongside their other role. I hope that businesses see the value in having somebody dedicated to diversity and inclusion by creating a diversity and inclusion manager role in their organisation (and this role needs to be backed up with appropriate budget, resources and leadership accountability).

A herd of bison’s blocking a road

Hope #2 — A focus on the individual (rather than the group) and removing career impediments

I “predicted” that diversity networks (groups of people with affiliations) will increasingly collaborate with one another to promote intersectionality. I hear and read often that millennials don’t want to be put into boxes or may identify with several groups. For instance, I am disabled and gay and have a West Country twang after a few drinks. Do I join the LGBT network? Do I join the disability network? Or do I join the cider drinking club? Do I have the time to join all three? I do believe that diversity networks are important (for instance, I got a lot out of being part of the BBC disability network and sharing experiences with fellow disabled employees).

My own personal experience in the workplace is that disability is often at the bottom/the last thing to be considered in a diversity hierarchy. Yet, one in seven of us (and it’s the world’s largest underrepresented group) have a disability. So rather than focusing on one group at a time (by writing a gender balance plan, followed by your ethnicity strategy, followed by your LGBT action plan, followed by your social mobility strategy, followed by your disability action plan et cetera et cetera) I hope that organisations will just focus on what an individual needs to thrive in their business. It really isn’t about “fixing the women” or “fixing the disabled” but rather identifying the speed humps and roadblocks that each individual faces in reaching their full potential and removing these impediments from their journey.

green and black rope

Hope #3 — A focus on systemic not unconscious bias

My original prediction about systemic bias still stands but with a small tweak to it. I originally wrote:

There’s been a lot of talk in 2018 as to whether unconscious bias training and education is effective or not. There’s been some unintended consequences as a result of rolling out such training. Imagine that you find out that you have a small bias against disabled people. How might that affect your hiring and promotion decisions? Whilst I think it’s important to raise awareness of our biases (it’s human nature — we all have them) I think it’s more important to lift the lid on systemic bias. For example, regardless of bias in the interview room are certain applicants not getting through your screening calls due to academic thresholds, are Job Descriptions too abstract (affecting autistic candidates say) or you’re putting working parents off by not including an agile/flexible working statement in job ads. You can attract and hire a more diverse workforce if you remove systemic bias and implement new cutting edge tools like GapJumpers’ blind auditioning software. In 2019 I believe more organisations will put effort into identifying and fixing systemic bias.

So I would like to update the last sentence to say “in 2019 I hope more organisations will put effort into identifying and fixing systemic bias”.

There you have it — my three hopes for 2019, which are that businesses:

  1. Recruit a dedicated manager
  2. Focus on the individual and remove any roadblocks and speed humps in their way
  3. Focus on systemic rather than unconscious bias to help people flourish

I would love to hear your hopes for 2019 so please do leave comments below.

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