Diversity & Inclusion: What's Your Point?

One of the very first activities I have all clients and task forces complete is to answer the questions, "Why diversity?" and "Why now?" It's important for the client and for me to understand why we are undertaking this massive task of increasing diversity and improving inclusionary behaviors. Diversity and inclusion is no small feat. It takes time, commitment, money, and a willingness to change processes, procedures, and norms. Diversity and inclusion is not something that is ever complete! There is no end point nor a level of perfection. For most organizations, even the level of what would be considered 'acceptable' is still very far away. But why the sudden focus on diversity and inclusion?

The responses I see range from emotional stories of being excluded despite intellect and experience, to stories filled with fear of being ostracized for not making diversity and inclusion a priority. One thing's for sure, everyone has an opinion! The good thing about diversity is that we are all different, but because we are all different, it's difficult to settle on one reason why diversity is important. When was the last time you had to make an important, life changing decision? If you've ever bought a house; bought a car; went on vacation; gotten married; gotten divorced; or even changed jobs, you had to take many factors into consideration. How much money will this cost? How much money will this generate? What will be the impact of this decision in the next 5, 10, or 20 years? Is this a like, love, or hate? All of these things, and more, are important to consider before taking the next step towards commitment. Most factors fall into one of two categories, emotional or data, but are vital to the sustainability of the final decision. You wouldn't go on a vacation to a place you hate just because you could afford to go! Nor would you finance a car that is $20,000 outside your budget, even if it's your dream car! Both the emotional case and the business case must agree in order for the best decision to be made. The same is true for diversity and inclusion.

The Emotional Case for Diversity and Inclusion

What's your story? If you are an intersectional employee or leader, you may have a story highlighting your courageous battle to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia, or a host of other biases or discriminatory acts. These stores are powerful in persuading others to take up a cause or to maintain momentum. Think about the telethon for Jude's Children's Hospital. Every 5 seconds, there is a story about a kid suffering from a horrible disease that could be cured with your small donation of $100. These stories move us to action and give us a glimpse into the struggles other people nedure and overcome. The emotional case for diversity and inclusion is what attracts and engages leaders and advocates, however, it isn't sustainable. When times get hard and sacrifices must be made, the emotional case for diversity and inclusion isn't enough. That's why the emotional case must always be accompanied by the business case.

The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion

What's the impact to your specific business? Many leaders struggle forming and articulating the business case for diversity and inclusion that is specific to their industry, organization, and even the project. You must be able to show why diversity and inclusion will help the organization reach its goals faster and more efficiently. I was working with a client whose goal was to improve customer satisfaction. No, customer service is not my area of expertise! However, when developing the business case for diversity and inclusion, we tied it to a significant improvement in customer satisfaction. The client's audience was mostly women, primarily white and African American, and between the ages of 24 and 40. The organization's leadership team? Older white men! Um, hello! We need women at the table to provide a different perspective!

Increasing diversity and inclusion for the sake of getting greater numbers cannot be the goal. Diversity and inclusion is the vehicle in which we achieve organizational goals faster and more efficiently. Spend more time on the impact specific to your business. A questions leaders don't spend enough time thinking about and answering is, "Who needs to be at the table to help us achieve this goal?"

Combining the emotional case for diversity and inclusion with the business case specific to your organization is key to sustainable change!

What You Can Do

Your organization is full of intersectional employees who have a story to tell. Capture these stories and relay them to leaders, stakeholders, and clients. These stories will get people involved and invested from an emotional level. At Decide Diversity, we call these "Spotlights on Intersectionality". Many organizations house these stories on their website, in marketing material, and at leadership meetings.

Don't forget the facts. Having a variety of perspectives at the table has never caused an organization to lose money! Calculate the return on investment to determine the benefits diversity and inclusion bring. In the early stages of the journey, it may be easier to determine what pitfalls the organizations will avoid because of the variety of perspectives at the table. It never hurts to get an outside perspective from an experienced diversity and inclusion professional to help point out additional benefits not readily apparent.

Continue the conversation at the Network of Intersectional Leaders!