True inclusion is beyond gender. Other facets of Diversity and Inclusion, such as age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and people with disabilities either get lumped together or receive no mention at all. When the rights and opportunities of a diverse set of employees, skill sets and life paths are secured in an organisation, it defines how comprehensive, truly inclusive, diverse in its approach, and fertile for innovation your entire inclusion program is.
The world has been transforming to foster and promote equality among everyone whether it is our families, personal associations, or a professional set-up. The key to address the overall aspect of “inclusion” is first to understand the demographics of the diversity that one deals with. Not to mention that the topic of diversity has its roots linked to the ancient world and yet despite us being so progressive, we have opted for some of the unrealistic and conventional thoughts of socialization, which often obstruct the culture of oneness and equality, especially at a workplace. There are several practices, norms, processes, and case studies available, which we can certainly refer to, but the success factors of such innovative practices lie in breaking the preconceived barriers of thoughts.
Let’s ask a few things to ourselves and have a sense of introspection:
- In an interview process, how many times have you heard about gender-based rejection comments from the hiring managers?
- Ever looked at specifically giving opportunities to the people with fewer privileges?
- At the workplace, have you noticed; other than women; who all feel disengaged due to certain “exclusivities” offered to a group of people?
- Certain functions not being included in some of the key decisions that may affect them?
Well, the questions can be endless here. The core remains the same.., “teaching an inclusive culture and living a disoriented one, realistically.” Gone are the days when diversity and inclusion were considered as one! It’s way beyond the conventional theories and cases that we have witnessed in the past. It’s time to wake-up and give our perspectives a little tilt and turn. While one may drive diversity, the effectiveness of it comes only when each of the diverse groups is included at various touch-points in their overall journey in an organisation. Diversity and Inclusion are way beyond hiring more women and promoting fair treatment or equal access to opportunities.
A few perspectives that might give all the fellow HR Leaders a nudge to revisit the D&I strategy:
Think Beyond “Just Women”My women counterparts reading this may find it slightly surprising, however, there is a lot to be addressed other than women and their “empowerment” in an organisation. Click To Tweet
This gets factored mostly. When you launch one special program for women, have you ever even gone back and checked that whether that program is “really” needed?
Let’s talk about running some initiatives that impact both the gender or maybe all the three genders. Whilst women get some great opportunities under “restart your career programs” run by various organisations and NGOs, the third gender is still facing a challenge of not being “included” despite being “diverse”.
I met an individual back in 2017 at Kolkata Airport and in our conversations over coffee, he told me that he was working for a non-profit firm to help one member of our society belonging to the third gender become a nurse and get employment. Now, this is a classic example of thinking beyond the obvious. Why not look at giving opportunities to such people who have skillsets and mindset, but do not have access to such platforms. We need to accept the fact that the population of women in India is less and driving equality around the number of people representing the demographics in an organisation will always be a tough task. Instead, make them aware of the rights and opportunities available to them. Do an appetite analysis and see where and how they want to move forward. Gauging the level of complacency is the key to one of the success measures of any gender-neutral initiative.
Evaluate the Potential and Not Judge an Individual
You sit in an interview and realize that the candidate is either married or about to get married. Moreover, if she is married, you start to think that she may not be able to cope with the business scenario without even evaluating her. Reason? You already judged her… your anchoring bias took over your logical mind. I am sure there are many such scenarios one must have witnessed or experienced.
For a moment, forget about the gender here! Most of us are highly intuitive in our approach when it comes to “judging” someone in an interview process. I, once, got a problem statement from a start-up that its recruitment team faced issues with CV shortlisting. When I deep-dived, I realised that most of the rejections were either happening because of gender (of course) and also their religion/caste. I was extremely surprised & a little angry about such mentalities. We developed a program to hide the name of the person and key social/personal information and sent CVs with a unique ID (just to test) and it sailed through. But, the larger battle was still to be won. Their biases still sustained. Here’s what we initiated – cross panel interviews only on required competencies. It marginally worked. Such thoughts containing religion, region, gender or any other components can lead an organisation to lose some great talent other than being a threat to the overall inclusive culture.
Identification of Trends and Patterns at the Workplace
Sounds very basic, right? Why not fix the basics and build the structure around them? It is highly imperative for us to define the parameters and elements that can become game-changers for everyone, very important to make it visible around the workplace so that people get clarity on all the know-how. Define the list of challenges and trends that the organisation identified, let people know about them, and find ways to channelize their discomfort related to anything that is non-inclusive.
How you secure the rights and opportunities for LGBTQ employees in your organisation also defines how comprehensive is your entire inclusion program. There have to be many awareness workshops, continuous education, and knowledge transfer not only to the employees but also to those who belong to the LGBTQ community.
Forming buddy groups and enabling leadership to transparently foster the value-system for such individuals, and sensitization programs to overcome people’s bandwagon thoughts & homophobic ideas. Organisations can make this work by incorporating the “orientation” factor in their overall manifestos. How one looks, what one wears, how one talks, etc. should never be kept as a base to evaluate anyone’s performance. Not to mention there are several industry leaders who belong to this community and they have flourished in their careers.
Top-Down Constructive Reflections
It’s the law of gravity. Whatever flows from the top has to reach to the last possible leg. And, that’s very much valid in this context as well. What your immediate team managers do and how they deal in handling inclusion-related elements in a team is a clear reflection of what happens inside a boardroom. Any new entrant to the system will follow and learn from the existing set of employees.
Leaders who have a mindset to be aligned to the idea of fostering right reflections can also assist HR leaders to successfully deploy a practical process under the D&I initiatives. The way the flow of communication is done related to this matter defines how sensitive and critical such matters are for the leadership of the organisation. What we say to someone belonging to region “A” may be a joke for anyone coming from region “B”. One must know the difference. Even such small instances make this philosophy fail miserably across the teams.
Keep the Momentum High
More than managing the processes and workflows, the most important high-level factor is to drive this change. One person cannot be the only torchbearer, this needs to be passed and cascaded around the organisation. From strategists to execution teams – everyone! We can make the workplace look beautiful by putting up education materials around it, but the final test is the adoption, adaptation, and acceptance.
It is essential for us to have people commit to such initiatives that can impact their lives directly or indirectly. Such commitments not only help the organisations in sailing through the journey of change and transformations but also make those committed individuals learn a different perspective and be future-ready to deal & face the odds.
Bring people to the forefront, give them those platforms where they are able to share their views and thoughts in support of such programs and let them highlight their own experiential journey and how they fought their inner demons; to be what they are currently. You know what; this will be the first step of “including” them in such initiatives realistically.