Diversity & Inclusion Myth Busting #7

    Posted on 25-Oct-2019 10:29:26

    Diversity Myth #7: "All you really need is diversity of thought"

    After more than 20 years of working in the field of Diversity and Inclusion, I have come across a whole range of preconceived, often implicit, ideas which stand in the way of making progress towards more inclusive workplaces and societies. An important part of my role is to try to debunk them.

    These “myths” may be just that - erroneous ideas and misconceptions - but their effect on individuals, communities and organisations is very real, and detrimental. The more that all of us make a concerted effort to understand our assumptions in relation to Diversity & Inclusion, the greater the likelihood that genuine inclusion for everyone will become a reality.

    diversity of thought

    I have selected a few of the most frequent and harmful ‘diversity myths’ for this article. I expect that some of you might recognise a couple, or even understand some of your own preconceived ideas. If so, I hope that analysis of these commonly held but inaccurate beliefs will help to explain where your assumptions might come from, why they are not backed by evidence, and why it is important for all of us to challenge ourselves on the ideas we perpetuate.

    Ultimately, I hope that by surfacing these myths you will be inspired to, with confidence and genuine commitment, promote Diversity & Inclusion.

     

    Diversity Myth #7: "All you really need is diversity of thought"

    As Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the WorldWideWeb, argues: ‘We need diversity of thought to face new challenges.’ Diversity of thought is indeed essential, and it is at the heart of what drives productivity, creativity, innovation and performance.

    Going back to the business case, researchers at Stanford University analysed around 600 business decisions made by 200 teams, across a range of companies. They found that, while the average team makes good decisions 66% of the time, all male teams only make good decisions 58% of the time. By contrast, teams that are diverse in terms of age, gender and geographic areas make good decisions 87% of the time. They also make decisions twice as fast as homogeneous teams. 

    Since greater diversity yields better decisions, we clearly should value ‘diversity of thought’ and seek the input from people  from all walks of life. In the same way that international travel broadens our horizons and shows us fascinating new aspects of the world, and of ourselves, building true diversity into your company creates a multiplicity of ideas and collaborations.

    But, it is not enough to consider the ‘diversity of thought’ inside your organisation. D&I is also about providing access to work, personal development, economic safety, access to influence and power (and so on) to people who are currently less likely to have these resources. It is about the impact your organisation has on the lives of its employees, its consumers and the citizens of the societies where it operates. 

    To tackle inequalities and improve social and economic justice, we should all seek to increase opportunities for people who are typically excluded from positions of power, influence and affluence. Focussing only on ‘diversity of thought’ independently of socio-demographic diversity could mean that the social purpose of the company continues to serve narrow interests.  

     

    Keep an eye out for the other blogs in the ‘Diversity Myths’ series. While each piece stands alone, we believe that a powerful and coherent case emerges when all seven myths are considered as a whole. 

    Once we understand these myths, it becomes impossible to think of Diversity & Inclusion as being the sole responsibility of the Human Resources Department, the Corporate Social Responsibility Department, the Marketing and Communications Department or the Innovation Department. It becomes everyone’s responsibility - whether you are leaders, managers, supervisors, employees or serving customers - to play a role, every day, in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that benefits all. 

    If you recognise these myths at work, please get in touch. We’ll be able to help you address them and transform your organisation.

    Diversity Myth #1: ‘‘We have more pressing business priorities than Diversity and Inclusion right now'’

    Diversity Myth #2: ‘We treat everyone as individuals: we don’t discriminate."

    Diversity Myth #3: ‘No matter what we do, some people will always think they are discriminated against.’

    Diversity Myth #4: “If only we could tackle unconscious bias, we wouldn't be discriminating anymore.”

    Diversity Myth #5: “Prejudice and discrimination are the same thing, aren’t they?”

    Topics: Diversity, Inclusion, inclusive transformation

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