Can organisations have inclusion without diversity?

Do inclusive leaders create diverse workplaces?

Inclusive leaders are able to take on different perspectives and make people feel welcome in the workplace. But it is definitely possible to have inclusion without diversity. 

For the longest time organisations have resisted introducing policies that support gender balance, despite the overwhelming research which suggests that there is a proven business advantage to do so. Over the years we have seen gender equality morph into gender diversity (some would say diluted) and then general diversity. These more general diversity programmes are now going straight to inclusion initiatives. But inclusion without diversity is indeed very achievable.  It’s another part of the dilution and self-deception many organisations employ.

inclusion without diversity

The D & I journey

When any organisation embarks upon a change management programme towards diversity and inclusion it involves above anything, being open-minded and having diversity of thought. This facilitates an exercise of organisational introspection. It is hard to do because it means the leaders also have to do some serious thinking about themselves and their leadership style. That is never easy. It means tackling difficult issues and having tough conversations. None of us like to do this.

Learning how to make your workplace more inclusive can be tough. A good start is to attend our event on How to Deal with Sexism and Harassment in the Workplace.

Having an open mind

Most organisations are hierarchical with command and control authority lines firmly in place. So a shift requires a mindset switch to one of influence and empowerment of the people around you. It means being open to challenges, without becoming defensive or emotional. It’s about being curious and trying to understand the thinking behind oftentimes a contrary view-point.

Inclusive leaders have to understand the importance of bringing in multiple perspectives. Today, situations are too nuanced and complex to be viewed with a single lens, whether that is by one person or via group think. They need to ask more questions than they make statements. This requires them to encourage others to voice their views so they can embrace them into their own perspective, without dismissing them. In any situation they understand when they are the leader or learner. Inclusive leaders create an atmosphere where people are willing to share their concerns and aspirations. It’s not just about proving a point or waiting to speak.

Establishing the facts

Mark Twain said ” Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please”

Genuinely inclusive leaders are committed to carrying out reality checks for their organisations and sometimes even on themselves. If they discover that the reality is different to their perception or what they had hoped for, they don’t wrap it in spin to present the results in a different light, even though they could. We are seeing this very much in relation to gender pay gaps.

An inclusive workplace culture embraces leveraging individual differences, creating a sense of belonging for all, to achieve even greater business success. Diverse workplaces are composed of employees with a wide range of different characteristics. These can include amongst others: gender, ethnicity, personality types, learning styles, education, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs.

It is absolutely possible to have one without the other. An organisation can be inclusive, but not diverse. Male coded bro-cultures found in tech would be typical of this. Others are diverse, but not inclusive. Here there are employees with a wide range of differences, but these are excluded or dominated by a prevailing culture.

Thais Compoint, author of  “How to become an Inclusive Leader” sums the situation up as follows:

“Diversity and inclusion are intrinsically correlated concepts, but they are different. Diversity is the mix of differences, it’s who we are. Inclusion is how we feel. It’s a culture that makes us feel valued and free to be ourselves, even when we’re different from the majority. You can have diverse teams that are not inclusive, and you can also have homogenous teams where people feel included. It’s only by combining both diversity and inclusion that companies can truly increase the quality of decision-making, engagement, productivity, innovation and sales.”

Don’t miss out on hiring top female talent. Learn from the 3Plus workshop on Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment.

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Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.

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