Here we are, just moments away from a new year -- and a new decade! As many of us do every year, it's time to consider what's next for us, reflect on our goals, and set resolutions. 2020 is here and the future is NOW!
This year, I've decided to think about the future of DEI and set my goals accordingly. Ten years from now, what are the changes I hope we'll see in the field? How can I help move the dial forward? What is the story my clients will tell about their DEI journey? This list offers food for thought for organizations seeking to grow their DEI capacity and establish themselves as leaders.
1. Equity + Inclusion = Diversity (TM). Many organizations start their DEI journeys with a focus on diversity. However, diversity can only be sustainable if barriers to access are removed (equity) and once people are able to access opportunities, they feel that they belong and that they are valued within those spaces (inclusion). Another way to think about this is that equity is what brings people to the table and inclusion is what keeps them there. If we want to have meaningful dialogues about diversity, we need to turn the discussion on its head. At Boldly Inclusive, we believe this is the magic formula that unlocks true diversity and it's the direction we need to take to make this happen.
2. Inclusion First (TM). The strongest organizations will start their journeys with inclusion. Inclusion First simply means making sure the inside of your organization matches the outside. In order for customers and clients to feel they are in inclusive spaces, internal stakeholders must also feel safe and welcome -- and this is true particularly in design and decision-making processes -- so they feel a shared sense of ownership over and accountability for DEI outcomes. They need to feel they belong in order to cultivate that feeling for others.
3. More attention to Intersectionality. Within Canadian corporate contexts, we are often most comfortable with broader categorizations of difference. A great example of this is seen in gender representation. Though we celebrate the advancement of women in leadership, there are many who remain invisible within such campaigns and their experiences are overlooked. We frequently see this when analysing pay equity for broad groups of women and men for example. While the gender pay gap in general has been narrowing, we know from the disaggregated data, that it remains significant with little change for certain sub-groups: indeed, the income gaps experienced by Black, Indigenous and certain racialized women, as well as for women with disabilities are much wider than for white women without disabilities. We cannot have meaningful dialogues about inclusion when we do not allow ourselves to have courageous conversations about how whiteness, patriarchy and ability for instance, shape our understanding of the norm and the ways in which we measure success.
4. We address workplace toxicity. In recent months, we have heard numerous reports in mainstream media about toxic workplaces in Hollywood, professional sports, public and non-profit sectors, and even among the most reputed socially responsible organizations. With greater awareness, the backing of social media, and a culture of protest, I imagine that more stories will come to light. Going forward, leaders will need to be inclusive, accountable and self-reflective in order to be successful. This is not only for the good of the organization, but also for the wellbeing (and retention) of its people.
5. Training will be part of DEI solutions, and not the solution itself. Organizations in crisis often seek out diversity training as an early step in addressing issues. Learning and development can indeed help build awareness, but without having a big picture goal of how DEI can support business goals, awareness is where the learning ends. Ideally, foundations should be set, for example, by strategic goal setting and doing a cultural audit to assess readiness before determining how training can help make your organization more effective -- otherwise, you will be taking a scattershot approach to learning and development.
6. Traditional training will not be the only option. Emphasis will shift from general DEI training to capacity-building that is functional and applicable to day-to-day work. Interactive workshops will be customized to meet diverse internal stakeholder's needs, leading to relevant and actionable learning. Inclusion coaching with leaders, one-on-one or in groups, will also support implementation and change management, while helping to deal with the emotional nature of this work.
7. We will no longer be afraid to talk about race. Race is an uncomfortable topic for many people, and a common way of addressing it is to deny it. Often I hear, "I don't think it's because of race but..." before diving into a topic that is clearly about race. There's a self-protective mechanism that kicks in around conversations about race, but that mechanism does more harm then good when it supresses meaningful dialogue about how we can do better and be more inclusive. It starts with reintroducing the concept of racism so that it is no longer seen simply as individual, and but also regarded as systemic. Interactive coaching and workshops can help with this deeper dive, especially as it requires a process of learning how the systemic biases that we don't always see can exclude certain groups if we don't actively challenge them.
8. Inclusion will be a core capacity for staff. Leadership will cease to see inclusion as simply an HR concern residing in its own silo. Instead, it will be deemed critical to healthy, innovative and resilient organizations, with a reach that extends across the organization. Recruiting and building staff with strong capacity for inclusion, will foster a competitive strategic advantage within the organization. When this happens, inclusion will no longer be "what we do, but a way of doing" that comes naturally to staff and aligns with organizational values.
9. Changing how we report success. The snapshots we've used to capture representation will be not be sufficient in showing the true achievements of DEI in an organization. Today, public institutions and agencies are increasingly examining disaggregated data to learn about gaps and opportunities in service, and I expect early adopters in the private sector will increasingly be taking this approach as well. Multi-year comparisons, as well as comparisons to National Household Survey data (or other national demographic data sets) will also reveal insights about what's working and what's not working. Furthermore, with rising attention paid to story as a means of communication, I believe storytelling will be a key modality for learning and reporting going forward.
10. Beyond making the case for DEI. We will no longer need to make the case for DEI because we already know it! As stated earlier, there are more than enough white papers outlining the benefits of DEI to recruitment and retention, to organizational effectiveness and overall performance, to client experience and loyalty, to managing risks from financial to legal. Many of us know why DEI is important, but we don't know how to implement it in our organizations. And change is hard! I feel that in 2020 the tide will shift to a focus on the skills necessary to successfully manage and implement organizational DEI.
*I'll return to this post periodically to assess these predictions and discuss new trends and opportunities in the field -- I can't wait!