This week I was asked to sit on a panel talking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. One of the questions from the audience was “What does good look like when it comes to diversity?”
This is a great question, and really gets to the heart of the problem with so many diversity strategies. What does good look like? Well, it might look like 50% men and 50% women, the target Accenture have recently announced they are aiming to achieve by 2025. However, research suggests that in fact having 30% women on a senior team represents a tipping point at which the benefits of diversity are realized. So should we be aiming for 30%, or 50%? To what extent should boards and businesses represent the community in which they exist? Should all London-based businesses be aiming to have a 60-40 split between white and non-white staff, reflecting the ethnic make-up of the city?
But things are yet more complex even than these questions. Diversity specialists Gardenswartz and Rowe define diversity as being much more nuanced than we perhaps tend to think. In their model, diversity spans four dimensions, which they term Personality, Internal Dimensions, External Dimensions, and Organizational Dimensions. In this scenario, then, achieving diversity becomes even more difficult, as so many of these dimensions are invisible (unlike gender or race, which most of the time can be identified visually). So if this model is right (and I think it has a lot of merit) and so many aspects of diversity are invisible, how do you know if your organization is truly diverse?
For me, this is why a shift in focus from diversity to inclusion is so important. Visible diversity is an invaluable first step and we should not underestimate the importance of role models. But this visible diversity can only ever tell a part of the story; the level of cognitive diversity in organizations so often goes unrecognized. And to counter this, you need genuine moves towards inclusion – you need to recruit talent with a range of views and personality types; you need to allow this diverse workforce to have a voice; and you need to actively demonstrate, from the top down, that difference - and even disagreement - is not just tolerated, but celebrated.