The inspiration for this blog came from one particular experience from my HR executive days. A single phone call got me thinking about what diversity and inclusion really mean.
The COO I was working with called sobbing, and said she was ending her business trip early and would be on the next flight home. As you can imagine, my HR panic gauge went into overdrive. I immediately assumed something happened on her trip, and I was already gearing up for a harassment suit.
Then she said, “My cat is fatally ill and he might not make it to the end of the week. I need to be with him at this time.”
Now, I am embarrassed to say I couldn’t understand her emotion and why she needed to end a business trip to go home. I think she sensed from my silence I was not understanding because she said, “I know this sounds crazy to you, but it’s not different than your child being sick. He is my family.”
That right there changed my idea of diversity and inclusion. True inclusion makes room for the perspectives of all individuals. It’s not checking boxes on a to-do list. It’s rewiring the system.
So when I see huge companies like Gucci respond to the backlash for their mistakes with a newly-created position like a director for diversity and inclusion, I start to wonder: How sustainable are these positions? Is diversity and inclusion just the next socio-political trend?
A chief diversity officer isn’t a Band-aid. This is a role that is responsible for cultivating empathy and understanding within an organization. This is not a task to be taken lightly, especially since diversity of thinking results in more business success. Diverse groups are 20% more innovative and 30% less likely to take unnecessary risks. When leaders exhibit inclusive behaviors, the rate of employees that have feelings of inclusion goes up 70%. Think about that. That 70% breaks down into other numbers that translate to a more efficient team. Teams of people directed by inclusive leaders are better performers, decision-makers and collaborators.
But it’s more than that. It’s understanding that when a teammate needs time off to care for their animal companion, they’re caring for their child. It will take thinking beyond demographics like race and gender to really have a thriving diverse and inclusive organization. This is why I have faith in the influence a chief diversity officer can have within a company. We need change, and these newly-appointed diversity teams can build the bridge we’re all waiting to cross.
Stay tuned for my next blog for tips to ensure success and longevity in diversity and inclusion positions.