Four steps to a truly inclusive workplace
Katherine Lim / 03.04.2023
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have never been more visible. Here’s how to avoid tokenism, and achieve real change.
Katherine Lim / 03.04.2023
From World Pride to International Women’s Day, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have never been more visible.
But all of this attention is tokenistic (and, not to mention, opportunistic) if it’s not backed up by real change.
The truth is if we’re not willing to talk about the systemic nature of power and oppression and how this plays out in our workplaces, we’ll fail to address the underlying issues, and whatever we do, it simply won’t work.
We believe workplaces are ready for a different conversation, and the time is right for change. If you’re getting serious about equality, here’s four things that you can do to commit to meaningful change in your workplace today.
1. Do the internal work first
In recent years, movements, from Black Lives Matter, to #metoo, to the Great Resignation and many more have drawn attention to systemic injustices in our workplaces and society. After these moments of reckoning, the conversation is different.
Continuing with the same tired and tokenistic measures or committing to a big performative gesture, whilst ignoring underlying problems not only won’t work (and is problematic, in and of itself), but leaves you open to organisational risk, as more and more people and stakeholders demand accountability.
Be willing to do deep, internal work, or risk being left behind. Take the time to understand how systems of power and oppression play out in your workplace in every domain, and the impact it has on those most impacted by oppression and discrimination in your workplace, through an intersectional lens. Have difficult conversations about who benefits from inequalities, and what it would truly take to dismantle them.
2. Centre holistic, multi-faceted solutions
From increasing your profits, to attracting and retaining the best talent, coming up with more innovative ideas, and fostering stronger collaboration, we’ve lost count of the benefits of achieving a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive organisation. It’s also just the right thing to do!
But the truth is, most diversity initiatives are failing, and most organisations will need to transform their cultures to become truly inclusive. This is because too many organisations have not yet committed to the deep work that’s required for meaningful change. It involves long-term, holistic and multifaceted work across systems change, policies and programs, education, data collection and impact measurement, leadership accountability, and more. And it’s not only the job of DEI or HR teams, it’s everyone’s job.
If it sounds like a lot, we’re not going to lie, it can be. These problems are complex and dismantling them will take time. But it’s okay if you can’t address everything right away. The main thing is to start.
3. Invest in education
There’s already a DEI education program happening in your workplace. It’s being done by the many people around you with visible and invisible lived experiences of oppression. The extra unpaid labour that women, people of colour, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ folk and more, are expected to perform only adds another layer to the inequality they already experience.
Education will be needed to transform your workplace culture – it’s often the best way to truly shift beliefs and behaviours. But make it deliberate. Invest in education that meets people where they are at, provides space to learn and grow, ask questions and make mistakes, and focuses on building skills in empathy, critical thinking and action.
If bespoke training for all your staff isn’t accessible, consider e-learning. Far from the boring ‘compliance-style’ training you might be used to, today’s offerings can provide access to leading experts, brilliant design and the best in behaviour change approaches, to create cultures of conscious inclusion and belonging at scale.
4. Lead with authenticity
No matter how senior you are in your organisation, you always have the ability to influence those around you. This means you are a leader, wherever and whoever you are. And if you are in a senior leadership position, know that what you do and say is particularly important, and can set the tone for the whole organisation.
Be willing to discuss the complexities of DEI in a way that is honest, nuanced and authentic. Be prepared to model the change you want to see - from speaking out and taking action to end misconduct, to taking the lead on a new initiative to make your workplace culture more inclusive. Women, people of colour and people with lived experiences of oppression can’t achieve equality alone. We need everyone, at every level, to be stepping up and leading change.
Embed intersectional and gender equitable approaches across all that you do. Centre the voices of people with lived experiences of oppression and let the process itself create ripples of change and momentum that transform your organisation and see the benefit that result all across your organisation. That’s when meaningful change can really start to happen.
It's time for something more
Tokenistic DEI measures don’t work and can cause real harm.
We’re a group of feminists, educators and leaders with diverse lived experiences, and this is an issue that’s close to our hearts. We provide education and support to organisations and individuals to create meaningful cultures of inclusion, and advance positive social change.
How we’re different? We use an intersectional and gender-equitable approach that’s backed by evidence and supports and centres people with lived experiences of oppression.
Alongside the launch of our new e-learning courses, Equality at Work, we’ve developed a resource for organisations ready to go deeper. It’s full of actionable tips that you can take today to make to make equality a reality in your workplace. Take a look below!