Fadzi Whande, a Diversity and Inclusion strategist for the United Nations, shares her insights into why diversity does not always result in inclusion.
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Diversity vs inclusion
The terms, diversity and inclusion, are often used interchangeably when in fact they mean very different things. Using the analogy of baking a cake, the flour, eggs, milk and sugar represent diversity. Diversity is all about difference, so you’ll find diversity in any situation by the nature of its definition. When you mix the cake ingredients together, that’s inclusion. Inclusion is the act of bringing people together and harnessing differences in a way that is beneficial. The end product, the cake, is the belonging and is where organizations want to get to – to a place where you can create a sense of belonging. We have been incorrectly focusing on making diversity the destination. If you were to put the fresh ingredients, like the butter and milk in a pantry on a hot day, they would melt, so you put them in the fridge to keep them cold. That doesn’t mean that they’re more important than the flour or the eggs, but we recognize that their characteristics are different. When we do this, we start to talk about equity. When we talk about diversity and inclusion as it pertains to human beings and not ingredients, we recognize that historically there have been challenges and barriers that certain groups have faced. We need to create an inclusive and an equitable environment that recognizes historical challenges when we talk about gender, race or people with disabilities, etc.
A lot of organisations are creating inclusive environments that recognize that everybody has something of value to bring. Psychological safety is creating the right climate and mindset for people to be able to thrive. Diversity can be fixed through policies, strategies and initiatives. It can be mandated and targets can be set. Inclusion has to do with mindset and behaviour, which can’t be mandated. This is where inclusive leadership becomes important. As an inclusive leader, it’s about how you model and reinforce behaviour. When it comes to investments and diversity inclusion, you have to ask whether this is an industry where everybody has access to it or is it only for a specific few. When we ask these questions, inclusion and psychological safety starts to become important. In everything that we do, regardless of the industry, we need to ask if it is an industry where anybody who wants to participate and engage has the ability to do so. In a work environment we expect people to arrive and ‘love’ each other. The reality is we’re all different and we should be able to have these differences in an environment where there is no cancel culture. As an inclusive leader, your attitude, behaviour and compassion is needed to create an inclusive environment where people can start to feel a sense of belonging. We should not have to make a case for diversity. Our world is diverse. A lot of the things that divide us (race, country of birth, parents, etc.) are things we have no control over. This includes privilege, but it is how you use it that becomes the attitude and behaviour that we display. This is what inclusion looks to do.
Cognitive diversity refers to the different perspectives and different viewpoints, how people think and what they bring. If you have diverse representation in terms of the physical attributes of diversity, you will get cognitive diversity. You get cognitive diversity when you push to get equal representation, but it shouldn’t be used as a cop out to keep others away. If companies are committed and set aside time to make diversity inclusion happen, they will start to see the benefits. Diversity inclusion won’t happen by chance. Companies have to be very conscious about their intent. If you aren’t consciously inclusive, you’ll be unconsciously exclusive. It takes commitment to ensure you’re creating the right culture and environment for people to flourish.