Why you need resilience to implement diversity and inclusion

inclusive, social cohesion

As the public face of Diversity Council Australia, the queries and resistance I sometimes face are myriad. They range from questions and even, at times, abuse.

I don’t share this to complain, but to send a message to business leaders committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I) who may be on the receiving end of resistance.

First, let’s take heart: DCA’S new 2021-2022 [email protected] Index shows three out of four Australian workers support their organisation taking action to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive.

Our data also shows only four per cent of employees oppose this action.

The important thing to understand when you address this small minority is that their resistance is not personal. Knowing this helps you stay strong, resilient and focused.

Here are some ways you can do that:

Stick to the facts

One charge I often hear goes along the lines of, “You have to be a woman or a person of colour to get ahead these days.”

Of course, this doesn’t match the profile of power in our country. 

As much as detractors feel the world is changing, and that their position in the status quo is being undercut by anyone who is not male and white, the data just doesn’t support this. We still have a long way to go towards equity for all Australians.

Anyone who doesn’t believe this should only look at statistics on the lowering but stubbornly persistent gender pay gap, the lack of cultural diversity in leadership, or the fact that people with a disability are less likely than their fellow Australians to achieve positive employment outcomes.

Stick to these facts and educate with them.  

Familiarise and connect

If you want to create change, you have to know who your detractors are and what their complaints are.

Keeping a pulse on employee opinions through surveys allows you to stay informed and understand how your D&I policies are being received. Everybody sees themselves as rational and on the side of right. But sometimes, emotions override logic.

Knowing why this occurs, then using empathy and data to overcome confirmation bias, can be invaluable.

Address genuine concerns

One of the most effective strategies can be simply to ask dissenters, ‘what is that you can’t do anymore that you want to?’

There is often no answer. And if there is, it could be an opportunity to address genuine concerns, or to remind detractors that the workplace is always changing. An organisation’s very success depends on it responding to the demands of its stakeholders, and the wider market they operate in.

Remind them this is not a new concept.

Inclusion for everyone

The message in your organisation, ultimately, must be that inclusion benefits everyone

Our 2021-2022 [email protected] Index findings categorically show that when organisations take action to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, they do so for everyone.

To use an example from the report: in organisations taking action to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, a similar proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers and non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers were very satisfied with their jobs – and significantly more satisfied than those in organisations where no D&I action was being taken.

This was also the case across multiple diversity dimensions.

The fact is that inclusion benefits everyone.  

D&I isn’t about targeting or shutting certain people out. The opposite; it is about creating a world of work that is more equitable – and all the more innovative and productive for it.

The rest is noise.