Learning Inclusion

Pitfalls of Inclusion and Diversity Programs

Organizational and topical conversations are abuzz with these words- intersectional, diversity, and inclusive. In a world where conversations about privileges of some and a lack of opportunities for others have, finally, become frequent, corporate America cannot be exempted from the responsibility of taking a proactive part in the change-making. Partly social responsibility and, other parts structural necessity, corporates are planning ways to improve their diversity and inclusion campaigns and initiatives. These are seen as manifestable ways of bridging gaps between the marginal and the privileged.

The two major drivers behind these initiatives are external perceptions and internal motivators. External perception refers to the image of an organization as one that engages with the concepts of inclusion and diversity in a serious manner. This makes the organization more attractive to talents across board. It also earns the organization a reputation of being ahead of its peers in their commitment to justice and value-based ethics and social causes. 

Internal motivators include the benefits of having a diverse team. This can be seen in terms of diversity in ideas, multiple perspectives, and a wholesome talent pool. The training sessions that are aimed to sensitize employees are also motivated by the aim of smoothen the running of processes, where the composition of employees is not demographically homogeneous. These are only some of the reasons that could mold the diversity and inclusion programs. The reasons behind a company’s choice of particular diversion and inclusion programs can vary between a combination of these two drivers. However, it has been noted by experts that many of these D&I programs do not have the expected outcome. Below are some of the reasons. 

Diversity is Having a Seat and Inclusion is Having a Voice

The above quote is more than a mere metaphor. When this philosophy and awareness affects the intentions with which D&I initiatives are co-opted, they tend to be more successful. Looking at the training as mere opportunities to tick some corporate needs can result in a lack of its effectiveness. The training would merely remain theoretical in nature and not have a significant effect at the everyday office level. 

To this effect, it is encouraging to see steps like CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion where the intention of action is coming from the highest rungs of an organization. The language of the pledge that one takes also ensures that it is not merely restricted to employees. It suggests that the various levels of management also must understand, learn and transform according to newer learnings. Such initiatives ensure that the seats are not only occupied by a diverse population, but also that they feel safe and encouraged enough to opine and collaborate.  

The Depth of Psychological and Emotional Truth Behind Historical Discrimination

For a solution to be extremely effective, the problem has to be understood through a thorough inspection. It is common knowledge that one has to understand bias, manifested in overt and covert manners, to be able to address it and move past it. In psychological terms, there is a need for “cognitive appraisal..a mechanism by which those (old) attitudes can change somewhat upon exposure to new information” (See Psych by Spencer A. Rathus). 

The primary aim of training sessions should be to unpack these biases and reflect on the manner that employees respond unconsciously and consciously due to these biases. These biases have been noted by many studies to remain deep-rooted under the guise of ‘things as they are’. After unpacking, the duty lies on the administration of the organization to create a space where empowering conversations can take place. A space where biases can be unlearned and more inclusion can happen. 

Many Campaigns are not Continued Effort

Lastly, the logistical flaws with these campaigns and training sessions include the hyper focus on systematic changes, short term goals, and the need for quantifiable change. More often than not, these trainings are a part of offerings that are provided by the human resource department of organizations. Additionally, often, these are offered in optional capacities to employees. As we have noted till now, learning about the matter of diversity and inclusion should not be a choice but a necessary step. The trainings might not always be able to quantify the systematic changes and the learning like other trainings focused on skill development. This only means that the yardstick to understand these need to be customized. 

Diversity and inclusion require a sustainable model of trainings which can understand and address the historic, social and systematic nature of the problems. The suggested manner of change will need to be empowering as well as pragmatic. Awareness will only be the first step. A good training will take many more forward toward an inclusive organization.