Interpersonal Catalyst & International Product Manager IMCD N.V.
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Diversity and inclusion: Waking up to your privilege to help tackle unconscious bias

As we enter the final part of this three-part series, 'the conscious employee meets the conscious organisation', we will now explore how we can become more conscious and reflective of our actions relating to diversity, inclusion and belonging.

23rd Mar 2020
Interpersonal Catalyst & International Product Manager IMCD N.V.
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I find the diversity and inclusion topic curious. By being here on this planet, we humans belong, are included and are innately diverse. So why does the issue exist?

It exists, I feel, because over multiple generations, if not millennia, of increased separation and lack of understanding of one another’s human experience, we now have what appears to be the most divided geo-political, global population in recent history. 

This is both a real challenge and opportunity for HR and people pros.

Consider that every ‘ism’ is thought-created and made-up by humans: sexism, racism, ageism and so on, which means they can be un-made by us too.

Putting ourselves into boxes

Rather than seeing ourselves as a singular human race, with every one of the 7.5 billion humans having equal value, those with power (historically white men) have designed structures to increasingly reinforce that separation and maintain the status quo.

  • Black

  • Female

  • Millennial

  • Italian

  • Degree

  • Married

The unconscious or conscious demeaning of our humanity into boxes is part of the challenge that we are dealing with and one that is regularly perpetuated by HR, innocently!

  • When did you last challenge / review your use of job descriptions and their value?

  • What does your performance appraisal look and feel like today? Is it fit for purpose and humane? Would you be happy to ask your children or spouse to complete it?

Acknowledging privilege and breaking it down

As a white male myself I did not see any of this until two years ago aged 41! I have been perpetuating the situation, innocently, for 41 years. 

Sharing jokes that I now see harboured micro-aggressions. Making callous judgments based on people’s physiques at the Olympics. Seeing an Asian driver pull across three lanes on the motorway and making a judgement, when of course any human could take that course of action. 

Two years ago I was that person, innocently and unconsciously. 

Because of my own shift in consciousness around this topic I see deeply and meaningfully how important this work is.

We have the evidence

Evidence-based decision making forms part of the updated CIPD profession map, yet despite the evidence being overwhelming in this regard, we still see a lack of effective diversity and inclusion efforts and intentional people-centric work design.

See, for example, this HBR report into belonging, this Beyond Diversity report from Wharton and this Catalyst report on gender diversity.

  • What if we prized understanding one another’s experience and the thinking that sits behind that experience? Would that move the dial more meaningfully?

  • What if there was a weekly lunch n learn where two colleagues shared their personal experiences, safely, of a) working at your organisation and b) of their experiences as a whole person at work and at home?

Asking ourselves questions like this are crucial to moving the dial on inclusion, diversity and belonging.

We cannot discount the lived experience of those that have had more made-up barriers to contend with, but we can all engage in this conversation.

It is all in our mind

Consider that every ‘ism’ is thought-created and made-up by humans: sexism, racism, ageism and so on, which means they can be un-made by us too.

To un-do these deep-held beliefs (and that is all they are, they aren’t real ‘things’!), whether consciously or unconsciously held, is the work we all need to be doing in both  HR and leadership roles and as individuals.

Seek inspiration and support

I have been lucky to benefit from the wisdom, courage and support of awesome humans such as Debra Ruh, Minda Harts, Tony Mildon, Rehana Begum and others who have all clarified for me the critical importance of consciously seeing each human as just that – equally human. 

We cannot discount the lived experience of those that have had more made-up barriers to contend with, but we can all engage in this conversation, every single one of us, to truly move the inclusion agenda forward.

The impact of these four DI&B leaders

Minda is a women of colour who has a great book called ‘The Memo’ and a podcast called #securetheseat. Debra has a wonderful book out called ‘Inclusion Branding’ focused on disability inclusion and hosts a podcast called Human Potential At Work, Toby who has been wheel-chair bound since birth has just released a book called 'Inclusive Growth' benefiting from his experience working in big consultancies and the BBC and Rehana has just finished working with the UK’s NHS in their transformation unit.

All four of these inspirations have joined me in conversation on the Value through Vulnerability podcast should you wish to learn more about them and their work.

#HumansFirst

In addition, an incredible open-sourced, self-managed movement called #HumansFirst is meeting twice per week virtually, headed by founder Mike Vacanti who has written a game-changing book which includes coaches, HR pros, engineers, sales people, sustainability experts and more.

A truly diverse and inclusive bunch championing the message that we all belong.

Reflective practice

Anybody that is kind enough to read this article has the same opportunity as I am having to learn from these and many other insightful humans who are laying the foundation for a more humane, inclusive world where everybody belongs.

 I am optimistic. Some reflective questions to check-in:

  • Could you create an intervention that allows that understanding to be shared?

  • Do you work with or have friends that look and think differently to you? 

What next?

As you have read this article, I wonder what thoughts or questions have been emerging for you.

What are the perceived barriers within yourself or your organisation to accelerating a genuine, humane inclusion strategy? Time? Money? Apathy?

Accountability

I truly hope that your consciousness level is high. What will you do now?

  • If you work in HR or in leadership, will you run some experiments / internal workshops to help people safely share their lived experience so that we can learn from one another and build more empathy and understanding, thereby creating powerful platforms for collaborative change?

  • If you work in HR or leadership, and on a personal level, what can and will you do to help move the dial on inclusion, at work, home or in society?

What are you thinking and what are your thoughts?

I truly hope that this 3-part series has proved of value and offered some helpful reflective questions and space to reflect.

I am always keen to receive challenges, feedback or other reflections, so until next time, stay conscious and keep making an impact.

 

 

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