What’s stressing out Diversity & Inclusion Execs?

07 May

I reached out to my network of diversity and inclusion contacts (including D&I managers, HR Directors and senior business leaders) to get a clearer understanding of what is stressing them out when it comes to delivering on diversity and creating more inclusive workplaces. Here’s what I found:

Working under pressure: lack of time, people and funding

The main issue that diversity and inclusion practitioners feel is that they’re working under pressure. There is a general sense of a the lack of time, resources available and funding to deliver their work and meet high expectations. They are often having to deliver work with lots of red tape and fighting with organisational politics.

Lack of leadership engagement

Diversity and inclusion practitioners are struggling to get senior leadership buy in and engagement. Business leaders don’t fully understand why having a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace is important or business critical (think: regulatory, innovation, profit, workforce engagement).

Competing priorities, intersectionality and culture

Diversity and inclusion practitioners are struggling to balance competing needs and demands across an organisation’s workforce. For example, there is often a focus on gender balance at senior levels and other groups (for instance disabled people) feel left out or deprioritised. Such businesses are #Diverseish, which is beautifully captured in this video:

However, it was really encouraging to see that many of my respondents stress the importance of (and actually doing it) building an inclusive culture first to attract and retain a diverse workforce. There is a clear understanding in the importance of enabling intersectionality.

Intersectionality, n.
The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise. (Oxford Dictionary)

Velocity: slow speed of change and making an impact

The most striking finding from my research is the personal frustration diversity & inclusion practitioners (and business leaders) feel in not making a big enough difference/impact or and as fast as they would like. This is somewhat linked to the lack of senior leadership engagement, resource, time and funding above. But there is another side to this frustration. That is, people should understand that it takes time to build inclusive cultures and diverse pipelines of talent — change and success won’t happen overnight.

In summary, what keeps diversity and inclusion practitioners awake at night?

  • A lack of funding, resources and time to deliver their work;
  • Leaders not engaged in the topic and fully understand why it’s important to the business;
  • Competing priorities and demands across the workforce;
  • Change taking time and not making a big enough impact.

Over the coming months I will be focusing on these key challenge areas to see what solutions I can come up with to enable diversity and inclusion practitioners and business leaders to make the impact they want to see.

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