Our COO and podcast host Emily Ramji recently recorded an episode with Sasha Scott, Founder and CEO of Inclusive Group. Sasha is an expert in Diversity, Bias, Inclusion and Psychological Health. Her reputation has grown internationally as a thought leader in the diversity space and since setting up her practice over 20 years ago she has worked on training over 850,000 people. In this podcast, Sasha shared her predictions for 2021 inclusion and diversity trends.
This is an incredibly interesting topic, there has been so much isolation over the last year and as humans are social creatures’ people have struggled, we have craved to feel included again and to feel ‘part of something'. Now imagine that isolation doesn’t end… that’s how some groups of people feel; they are constantly isolated because of their race, gender, religion, sexuality - things they have no control over. This is why the inclusion and diversity agenda is so important. Everyone deserves to have a place and not be discriminated against. I&D was a difficult subject for employer’s pre-pandemic but the events of the last year have likely changed how we will view I&D forever, with people now standing as allies and fighting inequality. We have had our eyes opened to the harsh reality of discrimination in our world, with movements such as Black Lives Matter and more recently in the UK Reclaim These Streets, tackling gender-based inequality.
The Black Lives Matter movement was one of the biggest game-changers of last year in terms of pushing the diversity agenda in the workplace. In Sasha’s words, this movement has fundamentally changed the narrative around race within organisations. With such shock at the appalling treatment of George Floyd and many others, the world responded and realised ‘this is no longer ok; we have to do something’ and it started a conversation. A conversation that we are ordinarily too scared to have because of the vast complexity around the issue and for fear of saying the wrong thing and it being too difficult to deal with. With everyone spending more time online, even more so due to the pandemic, we saw everything play out first hand with the BLM movement, from response to reaction. This has led to a spiral in the working world where organisations have responded to the need for change. In all of Sasha’s years of experience, this is something that even she has never seen and has fuelled change that needs to be here to stay and built into businesses' I&D policies moving forward.
Many companies have jumped on board to help with the movement but in reality, it isn’t just about using your voice to express discomfort over an action it’s about what that organisation then does to support that movement. In this case, how are they going to change their I&D policies to address cultural issues and help people understand what it means to be an ally, to bring different races into the workplace and deliver on that promise of change to inequality. To be authentic and take accountability for the change of the future.
Although the need for racial equality is an issue that needs to be resolved and there is a sense of urgency around this and an expectation to deliver, there are many other strands of diversity that need to be addressed. Sasha spoke to Emily about the risk of polarisation in the workplace as if companies focus more on a certain group, others may begin to feel neglected, which could cause serious issues. There is a very delicate balance to make sure everybody has the voice they are entitled to and are heard at the same level, not one above the other.
The expectation for 2021 and beyond is that we will see organisations working on getting that balance right and being passionate about inclusion. Looking ahead inclusion needs to be about culture, about behaviors and embedding psychological safety into the workplace, letting employees know they’re able to speak about the inequalities and injustices happening around them. When we see a team that has got this right, we see how they work together, share resources, are intersectional, use allyship and everyone feels included; leading to higher levels of productivity and a sense of pride within the team. Not getting this right can lead to serious implications not just internally but from business to consumer level, with consumers not wanting to buy from companies that treat their staff poorly in regards to I&D.
With data becoming increasingly suggestive that there is a dividend that comes with I&D, we have seen a lot more reporting on things like pay gaps, not just around gender but with increasing awareness around ethnicity, disabilities and LGBTQ+. Sasha gave a great example in the podcast of strategic level supplier diversity; Coca-Cola demonstrated that they would not let a specific company pitch for them if they were not seen to be doing a lot for the I&D space. This shows that there is real corporate muscle power behind the agenda and has only been solidified by Glassdoor stating that this is something that future talent is looking for with the launch of their I&D ratings. Employees can rate how satisfied they are with I&D at their current or former company.
As Sasha said many times in the podcast, embedding inclusion in the workplace is of utmost importance and her top tip to do this is to listen to understand rather than listening to respond. This allows us to hear different stories and explode the stereotypes we have of others, taking our biases away. Across the globe, it is encouraging to see organisations also making this a priority, in order to build back better they are listening and trying to evolve and integrate inclusion and diversity into the workplace.
To listen to the podcast click here, you can connect with Sasha and Emily on LinkedIn, navigate to their profiles by clicking their names.