James Lewis, our podcast moderator, is a senior Change Management professional with MI-GSO | PCUBED with multi-sector experience in driving change. Kerry Davies, a senior consultant and change manager joins James for a podcast on diversity and inclusivity – a topic of great interest to both.
James Lewis: Good afternoon to the MI-GSO | PCUBED community, and anyone else that’s listening. Welcome to the latest podcast from the Coming Out Stronger group of podcasts which we’ve been doing to help people develop professionally, find out some interesting stuff they didn’t know which they can use in their in their day to day jobs.
And today a really, really interesting and important topic. We’re going to talk about diversity and inclusion. I’ll be posing the questions and the interviewee will be my colleague within MI-GSO | PCUBED Kerry Davies, working as a senior consultant in the, in the public sector at the moment. So, Kerry, good afternoon.
Kerry Davies: Thanks for having me.
James Lewis: So, I suppose the first thing I want to ask you is why you have chosen specifically to talk about diversity and inclusion this afternoon.
Kerry Davies: Well, firstly I have a personal stake in this stuff. I’ve experienced firsthand how it feels to be treated differently because of my gender and it’s not something I enjoy, so I care about it from a personal perspective.
Secondly, I have felt the frustration of seeing brilliant female colleagues having their confidence undermined by similar behavior. The fact that people are held back and not reaching their full potential because of other people’s attitudes out there is just to me, plain wrong. It’s that sense of social justice that provides me with the motivation to raise these issues.
Finally, as a change manager, fundamentally, I see this stuff as a massive change challenge, requiring all of the tools and techniques we’re used to using, but on a much larger scale. We need to raise awareness, increase desire and continue to promote a burning platform for businesses, give people the tools and knowledge to change and critically to identify and manage resistance. So, I want to do my part by putting it on the table for discussion.
James Lewis: So, for those who don’t already know, Kerry, can you just briefly explain what the differences are between diversity and inclusion?
Kerry Davies: Of course. So, diversity is about creating a work force that brings a broad range of perspectives through better representation of minority and underrepresented groups. It’s a numbers game.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is about making our workforce feel included, supported, and treated fairly, and that shouldn’t be impacted by anyone’s background or personal circumstances. It’s more of a cultural thing and inclusion is about impact, and it’s worth noting that while this stuff covers a whole range of issues, including gender, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, and sexual orientation; I am primarily in a position to talk about gender diversity because that’s what underpins my own experience.
James Lewis: That’s absolutely fascinating and a very important differentiation to make between the two. You did mention initially that there’s a burning platform out there. What can you tell us about the case for change for diversity and inclusion?
Kerry Davies: This should be pretty easy and it should be quite compelling. Some quick searching of TED Talks will reveal numerous examples of studies that have been undertaken, which highlight the benefits of diversity to organizations. I’ll just raise a couple of interesting ones from my perspective.
Rocío Lorenzo from Boston Consulting Group talks about a study showing that more diverse organizations are more innovative and specifically that they have a higher innovation revenue; so revenue from new products and services. And now more than ever, we’re seeing that innovation is critical for businesses to survive and thrive and limiting our diversity will limit our capacity to innovate and reap the rewards.
There’s another talk from Janet Stovall talking about ethnically diverse companies performing 33% better than the norm, and that the Forbes Best Workplaces for Diversity have 24% higher revenue growth. Now those statistics I believe are probably American, but I suspect they translate across over to here.
And finally, highlighting a slightly different issue is the Alison Rose Review into Female Entrepreneurship in the UK, which shows that up to 250 billion pounds would be added to the UK economy, if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. So although that is slightly different, it shows the value that goes unrealized when women are not reaching their full potential; and the report highlights some of the key barriers to success that women face.
But it’s worth noting that some of these studies come with caveats. One or two women in leadership positions won’t make companies automatically more innovative. And diversity targets that just represent the population and nothing more, won’t foster inclusivity. Depending on which you listen to, there’s a 20 to 30% critical mass of representation that we need in order for minority voices to be heard and have an impact. So, if you want to increase innovation in this way and you want to foster inclusivity, you need to aim higher.
Ultimately, diversity has a proven financial value. The benefits are tangible, and the return on investment will be clear from the numbers. It will require ambitious targets. And quite some commitment, but the evidence is clear. We’re talking about much more than social justice and all the fluffy stuff here. There is data driven business justifications for an action, and diversity is good for business.
James Lewis: That’s absolutely fascinating. I guess what you’re saying is that nailing diversity and inclusion and gender is actually a key driver for organizational success as well as just being the right thing to do.
Kerry Davies: Absolutely. Right.
James Lewis: So, tell me what are the sort of things people need to be aware of day to day in this space?
Kerry Davies: So, there are a few things going on actually. There were many examples of obvious discrimination. We’re taught about, it’s legislated for, and unfortunately it still happens. People are still sidelines bullied, excluded, and met with hostility because of it.
And some of those examples can be quite shocking, particularly if you are kind of directly experiencing them. But there’s also unconscious bias I think people are quite familiar with and the way that that impacts decision making.
Now we’ve all got biases. We’ve all got unconscious biases, and we can choose to make ourselves more aware of them and take steps to counterbalance them, but sometimes it will be mixed.
There was some example of some of these risks in the recruitment space, particularly, there were studies that had been done with identical CV’s. They get treated differently depending on whether they’ve got a male or female name at the top.
In interviews, if you have an interview panel that is made up of one particular demographic, it shown that that interview panel will favor candidates that are similar to them. So, if you don’t have a diverse organization and you have a panel made up of white males, the likelihood is that they will favor white male candidates. You can see how the cycle perpetuates. So, you need to take steps to do something to counteract this.
But women are just as likely to have these unconscious biases, which can be self-fulfilling and self-sabotaging. For example, you often hear about a perceived ability gap, where women don’t put themselves forward for promotion or jobs because they perceive themselves to not have the skills necessary, when actually that isn’t the case.
But finally, I’ve become more aware of it more recently as micro-aggressions. These are commonplace verbal behavioral acts that happen quite casually. They’re quite frequent and they often happen without any harm intended. But they are grounded in stereotypes, which are damaging to marginalized groups.
And again, loads of examples: A bugbear of mine is when I hear people referring to their female colleagues as “girls”. When I hear it, I say something. Frequently, the response is that people say “boys” as well; they refer to their male colleagues as “boys”. On the surface it appears that the language is being used equally. So, what’s the complaint?
But referring to women as girls is done against this backdrop of women being constantly belittled and devalued at work, treated as smaller and weaker, and somehow less. So, with women when you’re using language that equates them to “girls” and children, you’re kind of propagating this idea and making the battle harder. Although there’s no harm intended and it’s all done really unrealized, there is an impact and it’s something that we can all start to be aware of.
James Lewis: To what extent do we all have a responsibility to call this out when we see it, regardless of our gender and our seniority, no matter who we are. If you see these micro-aggressions, how much of a difference would it make to you if somebody else called it out?
Kerry Davies: Today there is a lot of stuff out there about advocacy and allyship. There are a lot of things that people can do. There’s a lot of reading out there that people can access. There’s a TED Talk by Melinda Epler that summarizes three ways in which we can all become allies of diversity. The first is do no harm, the second is to become an advocate, and the third is to change someone’s life.
So in relation to becoming an advocate, we can all be aware of our biases and micro-aggressions. and we can put things in place to stop doing those things. We can all call out injustices when we see them; being sensitive to the surroundings and the individuals and who are a victim of these things. And in our teams, we can foster a culture that’s intolerant to discrimination and support colleagues ensuring that everybody has a voice and is listened to.
Particularly I think that people’s role as coaches can be especially important here. Particularly in relation to changing someone’s life. By being aware of the individual context surrounding coachees – spot when they’re holding themselves back, find out what their differences are and where the value can be derived and make sure that you don’t let your own biases cloud your view of others.
I think challenging and calling things out is absolutely crucial to increase awareness. As with any change, senior leadership and sponsorship is key. So really to make genuine change, diversity and inclusion needs to be seen as a business priority with active commitment, and it needs to be backed by real numbers and real targets that become part of incentive structures to really get people on board with it.
James Lewis: So, we’re both change managers. We know that for any change that you are trying to push through – when you’re trying to engage people and take them on the journey – there will inevitably be some people who struggle with the change for whatever reason.
With diversity and inclusion there still are some people who remain skeptical about whether or not as it should be part of the organizational agenda. So Kerry, what do you say in response to those people that remain skeptical about the seriousness of what you’ve just talked about?
Kerry Davies: Like we say, with any change, you have to find what’s in it for the people who need to change. What is their motivation to get on board? Very often people who aren’t exposed to the impact of inequality can’t see the value in the diversity agenda. It highlights the benefit of experience over explanation.
Now, I’ve got all sorts of views of this stuff around my working experience, but recently I found myself having a view on school uniforms, having taken my partner’s kids to the playground after school.
The boys were free to run around in their trousers and shorts to climb and clamber and hang upside down to their heart’s content and the girls in their skirts and dresses were constrained. They either couldn’t join in for fear of showing their underwear or they were ridiculed because they threw caution to the wind and did it anyway.
It hit me like a brick, how young we are when this stuff starts. It’s like I had always known, but I’d never really felt it before. I’d never seen it play out. I’ve seen similar in men who have daughters and partners that they’ve been aware of those before, but they haven’t really had any personal investment in fixing it, and all of a sudden they do.
But if you can’t find that personal connection, and if people aren’t motivated by the business case or the social injustice that’s happening around them, you’re then kind of moving into the world of resistance management. It’s easy to persuade those who are already interested, but the main challenge are those that remain disengaged, or even try and subvert the effort.
First and foremost, we need to try and open the lines of communication with those individuals. That may require some pressure from above or amongst respected peers. It would be very difficult for me to get somebody who’s disinterested in this stuff to listen to me,, without some other intervention from elsewhere.
But once you’ve got the lines of communication open, it also takes understanding and reassurance and dialogue, because it’s no different from any other change. This sort of systematic change absolutely necessitates the redistribution of power and that sort of threat to someone’s status will create resistance.
Thankfully we’ve got the history of progress working for us. That means we ought to be able to find some personal motivation in those individuals, who will want to be successful and want to be good leaders in a workforce that is diversifying around them. They will want to do business with other organizations who in a world that is moving towards greater diversity, will hopefully have standards for the types of organizations they will engage with.
And with identifying resistance being a key element, the growing number of people who are alive to the issues and are working to change them, can create a culture where skepticism will start to stand out. The time will come, hopefully in the not too distant future when those people who are reluctant to get on board will start to get left behind.
James Lewis: Kerry Davies this is very important stuff and thank you for sharing it with us today. A really interesting podcast. And so, to our listeners, we’ve got a couple more podcasts lined up but for now, thank you to Kerry Davies.
Thank you to Charles Wilman, our indefatigable sound engineer and editor. Have a good afternoon. Stay safe everybody. Thank you.
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