I have often been asked this question, "Why do you not include Diversity & Inclusion in your programs?" The short answer is that I think Diversity & Inclusion training is worthless. You may ask why, here are my reasons why I think our focus is often misplaced when trying to build diverse environments and foster inclusivity.
"Diversity is the "what"; inclusion is the "how." Diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce—demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, just to name a few, and inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive.
I feel as though this kind of training pushes companies and organizations to simply fill a quota—Do we have enough diversity? Do we look inclusive enough? The global market for Diversity and Inclusion, estimated at US$7.5 Billion in 2020, is projected to reach US$15.4 Billion by 2026. This showcases how heavily this topic weighs on everyone's mind but I do not think our current line of thinking is helpful or long-lasting. I think this push toward Diversity & Inclusion, while important, is predicated on events of the past couple of years and not because the majority of people see its importance. In short, it feels disingenuous.
What I want is to help guide people to look deeper into themselves and have them think about what makes people who they are. I want to start conversations from the standpoint of pushing people to reevaluate what they thought they knew. I want to broaden the box of people's understanding. From my past experiences, I find that conversation to be more beneficial—more human—and not founded on the need to fill a quota.
Second, oftentimes people who take Diversity & Inclusion training finish these courses, are awarded certificates, and now deem themselves experts who can teach on the subject matter. Questions I find myself asking are:
Other than the certificate, what other credentials would these individuals hold, whether in experience or in their background to make them qualified to teach these subjects?
Do they seek other additional experiences or research to better themselves?
Do they take the time to reevaluate their own biases in order to reexamine what values they hold?
If they look around at their inner circle, how diverse would it look? Do they only surround themselves with people who look and think as they do?
What steps do they take to foster a more diverse community?
When I think of these questions, I find myself disappointed in the answers more than I would like to be. A majority of 'inclusive' work is centered primarily on what the media is currently focused on. This means that many who do not take the time to adequately research cultural competence, diversity, and inclusion are usually concentrated on issues regarding women, African Americans, or LGBTQ+ issues. While these community's issues are vast and require people to put in the groundwork, there are thousands of other communities or issues that don't get talked about enough.
Intersectionality is an important concept to consider when dealing with complex community issues and focusing all our attention, or putting all of our eggs into one basket so-to-speak, can be more detrimental than beneficial at times.
Third, when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion training, if it is not done correctly, it will remain superficial. It will be a band-aid on a problem that is still infected with no real treatment. I often wonder how many people are pushed into the field of Diversity & Inclusion because they feel a sense of duty towards it or because we may deem their experience or their identity necessary to teach others. How much emotional labor is pushed onto people within this field? How can we ensure the people who really need the training on Diversity & Inclusion, are the people who are receiving it?
Through all the work I do, I include people who would not have otherwise had the chance to be included in most Diversity & Inclusion training—training that was not made with them or their community in mind. We should be working towards fostering a better understanding of people. What impacts them? Why do they make the decisions they do? What motivates them? What offends them?
If Diversity & Inclusion is perpetually focused on surface-level understandings and teachings, that doesn't seek to create a genuine impact that fosters open dialogue, curiosity, understanding, acceptance, and endearment... It will always be pointless.
Mona Lou International (MLI) offers customized consulting, leadership skills training, and coaching for culturally diverse teams to improve interpersonal relationships and accelerate success in today's global business environment. MLI empowers businesses to seize opportunities to create more prosperous cross-cultural business relations and partnerships.
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