In last month’s article I talked about how diversity and inclusion are increasingly moving up the business agenda before moving on to highlight the way in which mental health is often omitted from the diversity index. Although I normally like to vary the topics on which I write, this month I am returning to the subject of diversity.
I make no apology for this. The recent US presidential election has served to highlight the way in which the idea of embracing diversity has a long way to go before it is accepted in some sections of society. Even worse, it appears that in some quarters racism and sexism, far from being something which should be viewed with disgust, is in fact seen as a vote winner. The only saving grace is that ageism also did not feature in the hustings, perhaps because Hillary Clinton is 69 years old and Donald Trump has already reached his seventieth birthday!
In the US election, as with Brexit, there’s been a lot of coverage to the effect that some sectors of society feel disenfranchised; powerless to be able to do anything to take control of their own lives and livelihoods. We’ve heard about the forgotten people in society and stereotypes have been thrown around with gay abandon.
Change comes with leadership
In truth, there is no one single reason why society develops in a certain way; with individuals, businesses, governments and societal norms all playing their part. And in truth there is no one single remedy which will lead towards a better life for all. But change only comes with leadership and perhaps it is time for businesses to step up and set the lead, to bake diversity and inclusion into their cultures and to engage their people in the diversity imperative.
- How hard is it for businesses to select candidates based on their fitness for the job rather than any other criteria?
- What does it cost organisations to see their people as individuals and to help those individuals to develop their skills, knowledge and talents?
- Is it really too much to expect companies to promote diversity and equality and opportunity across their workforce?
Why should businesses change? Quite simply because with diversity and inclusion comes strengthened organisations which are more innovative, more outward looking and more interactive. And to put it bluntly, those leaders who are prepared to disenfranchise whole sectors of society are potentially in the process also cutting their organisation of from whole swathes of potential customers.
If you are not concerned about reputation, profitability, engaged employees, an innovative future, or a strong customer base then yes I can see why you may not want to have the effort of changing. But if even some of these areas are of concern to you then it is time, more than time, to take the lead in changing society through a delivering a diverse and inclusive business culture.