Diversity & Inclusion Literally Means Everyone
Years ago, if you would have asked me to consider a position with the Diversity & Inclusion team, my reply would have been, “Why?”
I felt there wasn’t a need or assumed I would not provide value. I didn’t understand these roles often go unfulfilled or understaffed. I didn’t understand the opportunity available, and hadn’t discovered my ‘why’ yet, (to champion fairness and equality so that others may experience equal opportunities of success).
That all changed when a colleague was appointed to Chief Diversity Officer position and asked for help on the analytics and tech side. She blindsided me when she asked if I ever considered a job in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)? Admittedly, I was perplexed since it never crossed my mind. Dumbfounded, I found myself asking more questions, thinking of all the reason why not rather than just answering with a simply — no. The conversation went a little like this:
1) Why would anyone want a white woman, who knows nothing about Diversity & Inclusion, when there are so many better qualified people of color? — Answer: I need the best because this is a very visible project and the data will be under constant scrutiny.
2) I don’t do politics. — Answer: You don’t have too — that’s my job.
3) I have been a woman in tech since the early 1990’s, and already have sharp elbows. — Answer: You have been a woman in tech since the 90’s and your sharp elbows give you credibility, but also many other titles you may not wish for.
4) I have built my career around not being a feminist so I can assimilate into my environment. — Answer: I can show you a better way, where you do not have to suppress feminine tendencies. Do you know exactly what a feminist is?
5) It’s career suicide. Being part of the Diversity & Inclusion team is like being a cop in internal affairs — people dread even seeing you in their part of the office. — Answer: I am asking for help with the data so that we may identify coaching opportunities. This isn’t about punishment.
6) I wouldn’t even know how to have a conversation about diversity & inclusion issues without feeling uncomfortable. —Answer: That is not uncommon and is a great example of a coaching opportunity.
7) I avoid engaging in real conversation for fear I will say something that will offend someone, especially a co-worker. — Answer: I will teach you how to create a safe space where you can learn along with your counterparts.
8) I am a Business Intelligence Engineer, I don’t have a background in Human Resources. — Answer: That is actually advantageous. You are an expert in surfacing objective data trends. You are able to create an unbiased view of the data clean of the risk mitigation lens.
My immediate response was surprise and delight! I could play an authentic role in this greater cause using my existing talents? My last bit of skepticism asked ‘what exactly are you asking me to do?’. She succeeded in turning that skepticism into optimism when she explained her vision to evolve the typical D&I program from a PR campaign to trackable ROI — (you mean I am being given the opportunity to assign real numbers and analytics to this as well as develop tools to help track and implement?) — ‘Hell Yeah! When do I start?’
As time passed and I gathered knowledge and data, I came to the conclusion that I was not and will not, ever be alone in my quest to assimilate in the world of tech. I began to surface and document a ‘lifecycle’ for women in this particular industry. I realized I hadn’t really understood the true issues at hand, nor did I realize how my initial mindset propagated the negative stereotypes of D&I!
As I gathered data and analyzed the results, one thing became painfully obvious, the lack of participation from men. The reality is, no matter how passionate I have become about D&I, the required change cannot be accomplished without the participation of men. Men play an extremely important part in the process.
The profound need for men to champion this space is not just to the benefit of women; it’s to be a resource for other men. Depending on the topic, sometimes it’s just easier to talk to others of the same gender because they may feel more relatable. After all, you wouldn’t seek advice from an electrician for a plumbing issue.
My journey to becoming part of the D&I team, is not unique. It was an opportunity just sitting right under my nose. All that was needed was an invitation. I encourage everyone to seek out the possibilities.
As extra encouragement for men, I have outlined the business case for your involvement in hopes of increasing male participation rates.
Ready to prove you are indispensable to your organization? Consider the following:
1.) Reverse Affirmative Action — Male representation is so low within D&I and in such high demand — you would automatically be put on the short list. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been asked if I know any professional males colleagues who may be interested in participating on the board of D&I for Universities, School Boards, Professional Focus Groups, etc.
2.) You’ve Gotta Play to Win — Just like the lottery — you’ve gotta play to win. D&I need men not to be scared and participate in the positive discussions about diversity & inclusion initiatives. Remember — you are being invited to participate and your host is a professional in facilitating healthy dialog from a perspective of learning and understanding. Trust can be built very quickly in the name of education. Once you build the relationships, you can crawl before you run when learning how to engage and protect the safe space you have created.
3.) D&I is Exploding — in light of current event breaking in the media and the pure volume of CEO stepping down or actors being shown the door in Hollywood, D&I is not going away anytime soon. The demand of D&I focused programs, content, and policies is a priority for 2018 and beyond.
4.) Inevitability — in recognizing the role D&I will play in reshaping the workplace you are preparing now for the inevitable change which is to occur. The workplace D&I revolution has begun — are you ready to lean-in?
5.) Serve, Instead of Being Served— just as women are more comfortable talking to other women about problems and solutions — men need other men to understand how their world is going to be impacted. D&I is a sensitive topic for everyone, we need someone we can trust who knows what they are talking about.
6.) Unique Leadership Skills — accelerate your career in developing leadership skills that can make the difference when competing for a leadership positions. In tackling D&I, you demonstrate your willingness to address difficult conversations and challenging projects.
7.) Fast Track Your Career — advocating for both men and women through the D&I space wins public opinion and respect. Build your reputation as a contributor to the organizations bottom line by capitalizing on the known ROI for D&I initiatives.
8.) Protect Your Future –Within the United States, the probability of an adult getting married at some point during their lifetime is nearly 90%. Meanwhile, 86% of Americans aged 45 or older have had children, maintaining the near 50/50 male to female ratio. The last piece of significant legislation protecting working women was over 40 years ago. So waiting to protect her future until after you marry or she is born, is too late to prevent sexual harassment or pay discrimination. Protect the future of all females that surround you whether they be your spouse, mother, daughter, sister or niece. Be there for her today, because tomorrow will be too late.
9.) Laws of Attraction — there is nothing more attractive than a secure and confident individual who is a champion for another’s rights.
This list can go on and on, but hopefully you can see the bigger picture. The business case is strong, and hopefully encourages some of you to explore D&I as a viable opportunity. Everybody, truly has something unique to offer in the creation of inclusive environments.
So, get off the bench - ENGAGE, SUCCEED, and FAIL by DARING GREATLY!
Check out our website, www.variegategroup.com, to learn more about The Variegate Group and how we introduce the power of diverse thought to combat unconscious bias.