Three Reasons not to bother with Diversity and Inclusion

Over the past seven years that I have been running Voice At The Table, I’ve heard all kinds of objections to the implementation of impactful Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.  And it’s true, Diversity and Inclusion may not be for everyone.  If you’re still thinking whether it’s something your organisation ought to get behind, here are my top three reasons not to bother with EDI :

1. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

If, like many successful organisations, you’re cautious about change because you think your business delivery is near perfect, then perhaps EDI is not for you.  After all, if there are no problems with your products or services, if you have a loyal market following and your colleagues appear happy, then there’s nothing to gain from introducing EDI.  Why should you introduce change into something that’s working so well?

I only have one question: is the way you’re currently doing business going to serve you well in the next two, five and ten years from now as well?

Our marketplace is changing.  Talent pools are shrinking and graduates today don’t want to work for organisations that don’t invest in Diversity.  Is your company appealing to the talent of tomorrow?

Product solutions and services are changing.  They are becoming more complex and nuanced.  Technology has made it possible for buyers to choose and to insist on what they want and how they want it.  Are the people designing your products and services tuned into those complexities and nuances?

What about innovation?  Entire industries have been wiped out and others are under threat by Artificial Intelligence.  Are you able to harness the requisite creativity and innovation to withstand this type of disruption?

Maybe your organisation ain’t broke today but what about the imminent tomorrow?

2. We don’t want to lower the bar

Companies that have achieved the highest of standards worry that allowing for greater diversity means relaxing their standards.  Some leaders believe that changing the process by which they promote into positions of leadership means accepting a lower quality of leaders.

These leaders are right in that standards shouldn’t be compromised.

I question, however, the assumption that more diversity would compromise quality.

There is no evidence to support that women, ethnic minorities or any other person who differs in identity and experience from the current leadership mould would perform any worse as a leader – in fact there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.  So if a process leads someone to conclude that a certain group of society finds that process more difficult, I suggest that the problem may lie with the process, not the group of people.

There is ample research to show that diverse teams and leaders improve financial performance.  There is also much written about the able performance of leaders of different identities, backgrounds and experiences.

‘Lowering the bar’ therefore is more likely to be an unsubstantiated worry based on an unfounded assumption that deserves to be debunked.

3.  Changing culture is too difficult

This much is true.  Changing the way we behave and the way we think of things is more difficult than we know.

But do we have a choice?  I propose we don’t.

The way we have been running organisations is no longer fit for purpose.  Our stakeholders are no longer solely the shareholders of those organisations.  Governments, employees, business partners and suppliers are equally as vested in the success of an organisation.

Even shareholders and other investors are no longer interested in financial return alone – they want to see impact on society, the environment and ethics.

And those stakeholders who do care mostly about financial return also stand to gain from diversity given that diversity leads to improved financial performance.

The world is changing, whether we like it or not.  The pace of change is so fast that none of us can keep up without help from others – others who are different from us and can offer a different approach to what we already know and do.  So while I agree that changing culture is difficult, the question before us is not whether we want to change but whether we can afford to be left behind.

There are many other reasons for not embracing Diversity and Inclusion – but none of them stand up. For every one of your objections I can give you a valid, evidence-based argument to counter it.  Go on. Test me.

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