Diversity management as a concept has been around for decades, but how far has it gotten us? Look around at the world outside of your office. Open the newspapers. You'll see unprecedented levels of social and political unrest, racism, sexism, religious discrimination, homophobia. We've gone from intolerance to, in some cases, out and out expressions of hatred and overt violence. It's war out there. And you know what? Those same wars can ensue as micro-wars within some business cultures. If you believe it's any different, then you may just be living in that perpetual state of comfortable denial and find you yourself are the perfect candidate for unconscious bias training. However, that's not the only answer.
Values-based leadership education is needed; not just a 1.5 hour unconscious bias workshop as a quick fix (stop that! You're breaking the machine further if that's all you're doing). We're talking about deep education which requires a substantial and respectable investment of time and money. It should also result in an increase of leadership courage, conviction, understanding and ability to take effective actions in addressing difficult issues. This is the only route we can take if we're going to transform corporate cultures to the good. Such education is designed to empower those who are in positions of power, who make the decisions, who define corporate strategy, who hold the corporate purse strings, and who are ultimately accountable.
Activating higher levels of values-based leadership will enable leaders to lead their companies in ways which truly live up to the corporate values they say they possess. If your company hasn't clearly defined what its values are, then get busy. Don't even finish reading this article. You and your company may just be paying lip service to valuing diversity. In the long run, mere rhetoric doesn't do anyone any good.
What we see far too little of is civil disobedience within business cultures. People who experience unfair treatment are often placated or appeased by the dominant culture, which is disempowering. While some companies may have an admirable representation of a diverse workforce, increasing diversity without distributing the power to influence decision-making is living an empty promise.
The voice and agency of the people representing different ways of thinking, behaving, (however it is you wish to define what makes people different) is often either corporately watered down or squelched altogether. We need courageous business leaders who are healthy in mind, body and spirit, to act upon the challenges which diversity presents.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Thought is action in rehearsal". We've memorised plenty of diversity management scripts and have held far too many dress rehearsals already. It's showtime folks, time for leaders to take the stage and to follow their words with real action. And remember, there is nothing convenient about achieving social and economic justice, neither within society nor business.
Submission by Dr. Jude Smith Rachele, Co-founder & CEO of Abundant Sun Ltd
VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.
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