Diversity & Inclusion Like We Mean It

March 23, 2022 by Melinda Meszaros

Rainbow-coloured lighting on a brick wall
Image credit: note thanun via Unsplash

What do you need to really achieve diversity and inclusion? As a cultural trainer and international business professional, inclusion and diversity is one of the most important aspects of my work. My goal is to make sure that diversity doesn't generate conflicts and instead it leads to unique competitive advantage through a culturally competent, inclusive organisational culture.

However, as diversity and inclusion is becoming the new standard in both business and private sectors I noticed how it's often half-done or only addressed superficially. While organisations are eager to comply, sometimes the very essence of what we want to achieve with diversity and inclusion is misinterpreted and lost. So here are two of the most tangible issues around inclusion and diversity and thoughts on how we could solve them if we want to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive organisation.

Lack of vision, space and time

Creating diversity without mindfully nurturing inclusion leads to chaos and defies the purpose of true diversity. Bringing people of all gender, discipline and personality on board certainly creates wonderful opportunities for both the people in it and the organisations themselves. But it is not enough to hire a colourful palette of professionals. Diversity has to be nurtured and inclusion has to be part of the organisational culture.

Creating diversity without mindfully nurturing inclusion leads to chaos and defies the purpose of true diversity.

Without giving guidance and providing psychological safety, such diverse environments can lose focus or become very uncomfortable. People have to be given explanations, trainings and the opportunity to get to know one another to understand each other's motivation, so that they can peacefully and creatively work towards the same goals.

The trouble is once the 'numbers' are satisfied and we reached the right gender ratio or our organisation is 'multicultural enough', the story often stops with setting up an optional diversity and inclusion group that people might or might not attend. This is not enough to address diversity and promote inclusion.

We have to see diversity and inclusion for what it is: a journey one has to prepare for and to be mindful about on the way. A solution is to give proper trainings, team building and most importantly space and time. Going from a diverse group to a team or a well-established organisational culture is a journey. It takes time and patience, which has to be calculated with!

Being equal doesn't meant to have equal needs

My definition of diversity and inclusion is: giving space for the many minds to shine and see what they can come up with together in spirit of their shared goals. We should not misinterpret inclusion as molding all people into the same kind of character, behaviour or way of thinking. Similarly, we should not aim for giving equal chances based on the assumption that everybody has equal needs.

We should not aim for giving equal chances based on the assumption that everybody has equal needs.

Ask yourselves what diversity and inclusion means for your organisation, how you will give space and time for it to flourish, and where to find guidance.

Next up: How Well Do You Look After Your Expats?

Previously: Rules and What They Mean in a Multicultural Environment