Lately, when news of an incident of bias, racism, sexism, homophobia, or ethnocentrism, for instance, makes the headlines – stirring commentary on social media and inspiring cross-cultural reaction, conversation, and debate – we often hear it expressed that such injustices are simply anomalous – that they don’t reflect who we “really are;” that such examples of discrimination do not characterize our culture – when in truth, such incidents are important indicators about our social and political national climate. While we may not be comfortable admitting it, as a nation, our investment in ideals of power and privilege, which perpetuate unjust and unfair systems and the very biases that inform discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes towards “others” is indeed well-documented. Although we may not want to accept the fact that we “really are” responsible for such systems because it may not be who we want to be as a culture, it’s important that we confront the documented truth of our history as well as our present if we want to foster a just, inclusive, equitable, and accessible society that is supportive of diversity.
As a D&I practitioner, consultant, and advisor, I am concerned when I hear clients proclaim that their organization doesn’t struggle in D&I-focused areas despite qualitative or quantitative data yielding concerning information about employee experiences which implicate that there are, in fact, clear challenges in this regard. Oftentimes, organizational leadership, supervisors and influencers find it difficult to accept the realities of the workplace experiences of their employees – especially if the data suggests, for instance, that groups which have been historically underrepresented in their professional fields of interest (such as women, people of color, or LGBTQIA+ identified individuals) express disproportionate levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace compared to their white, cisgender male peers. Still, no matter how difficult it might be to face the truth about the status of our organizations when it comes to performance in D&I-focused areas, doing so with the intention of taking proactive steps to address such challenges can be a leading factor in your business’ capacity to maintain or realize a competitive edge.
It is my responsibility to communicate honestly and with sensitivity to the clients I serve in order to support their intention to remain competitive in increasingly diverse markets, after careful assessment of their workplace environment, goals, policies and practices. Such communication isn’t always easy, let alone comfortable, yet it is always necessary and in the best interest of an organization’s brand. This often means calling much needed attention to any impediments or barriers (internally and externally) an organization might be facing which might adversely impact its ability to attract and recruit the most qualified candidates to key positions; support the professional development of a diverse workforce as well as effectively serve and support diverse clients, customers and communities.
Simply put, as a D&I consultant and practitioner, if I am to support the intention of organizational leadership and supervisory personnel in their efforts to set expectations and recommend strategies for improving the cultural climate, environment, and experiences of their workforce, for instance, which invariably impacts levels of productivity and investment among employees, and ultimately, the bottom line of their business, it means helping them to identify and confront the reality of the challenges facing them – both internally and externally.
For any organization, the first steps toward realizing progress in any D&I-focused area of performance depends upon the willingness of its leadership, decision-makers and influencers to accept what the data tells them about the status of their business in order to transform into the organization and/or brand it can be.