Visit any company’s website, and you are likely to find some sort of statement about diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s a commitment to featuring more diverse models, promoting more equitable hiring practices, featuring the voices of marginalized folks more prominently, or publishing annual diversity reports, we are starting to see these initiatives become table stakes. As younger generations look to support companies with purpose, expecting their brands to be a reflection of themselves and their values, many companies are choosing to promote diversity and inclusion as a differentiator. This is an encouraging shift and one that speaks to a broader cultural transformation; however, it’s hard not to be skeptical when businesses switch on to D&I seemingly out of the blue. Companies that try to ride a cultural shift without being able to back it up (a disappointing but all too common phenomenon called performative allyship) open themselves up to rightfully deserved outrage. With so many examples of how companies get it wrong, how do you do it right?
It starts with having a workforce that is diverse, and that means going beyond the low hanging fruit of having women on board. Due to unchallenged biases (unconscious or otherwise), many highly skilled and qualified candidates who represent marginalized groups simply don’t make it through the doors. We are more likely to hire people who are like us — tribalism is deeply ingrained human behaviour — and the gatekeepers for hiring practices are often people with social privilege. Actively working to implement more equitable hiring practices is one way that companies can increase the diversity of their teams. Increased diversity, in turn, helps to dismantle some of that deep-rooted groupthink and provides opportunities to challenge biases.
Diversity without inclusion is just a number
If diversity is being invited to the party, then inclusion is being asked to dance. Having better representation of marginalized groups is only one piece of the puzzle; inclusion is the cultural piece that we all have to work on every day. Inclusion shows up in every meeting, every interaction, and every part of a company’s communication, internal and external. It’s how we make sure that everyone’s ideas are heard regardless of gender identity, race or ethnicity, or language proficiency. It’s how we use inclusive language to address our teams. It’s fostering a working environment that makes it safe for people to bring their whole selves to the office. It’s how we create and communicate high standards of what behaviour is acceptable and how we model that day in and day out.
Being an ally is an action, not a label
An ally is a member of a social group who enjoys some privilege, and who is working to end oppression and understand their own privilege. These are actions, and allyship takes work. Businesses can become better allies by actively supporting organizations that champion social justice (on a local or national level, depending on the size of the company), by participating in ongoing learning and training, and using their reach to contribute to — and further — the dialogue on diversity and inclusion. At Versett, we’ve published our Diversity & Inclusion reports publicly to provide transparency and accountability in terms of where we are at. Additionally, we’ve provided many of our favourite resources in a public Google Drive so that anyone can access valuable research and insights on D&I. We hope that in making our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion a central part of our company’s ethos, we may encourage other businesses to join us in becoming agents for social change.