SPROWT ARTICLE | Sara Samssudin

sara

THE DIFFERENT CHAIRS AROUND THE SAME TABLE

Let’s talk about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion?! I usually start the topic of diversity with the metaphor of Vernã Myers, ‘Diversity is inviting to the party. Inclusion is inviting to dance.’ The dance should not stop, and the party should continue, but today, I decided to sit down to talk about the theme.

I see the act of ‘sitting around the table’ as a symbol of community, equality, mutual respect. At this table, everyone can gather, sharing their stories and experiences. Each should have a ‘place at the table,’ and society should be enriched by diversity.

  • I prefer to think of a vast table, ensuring that different people have access to the table and a chair (diversity), adding value precisely because of that difference, just as different ingredients, products, and dishes add to a meal.
  • A table with different perspectives, ideas, contributions, experiences that are received by others enriching sharing in a meeting or meal (inclusion).
  • A table where each has their place and a chair that corresponds to their needs and individual characteristics (equity).

Fortunately, there is an increasing concern by organizations to enliven this table. This happens, in my perspective, because in an ever-changing society, we increasingly realize that we are far from meeting one or more of the above-mentioned requirements, in one or more dimensions related to the diversity that characterizes us. But above all, because we are beginning to have active voices and facts showing the added value in those who achieve a better representation of the society they are in.

We now have data and evidence that clearly demonstrate the impact that diversity and inclusion bring us, besides being the right thing to do. The impact on our people (a greater perception and feeling that the company is fair, greater motivation, a sense of security, unity, and awareness of values) and on the business (it is truly a competitive advantage to be diverse – promotes impact on culture, commitment to the company, creativity and innovation in solutions through diverse contributions, consequently in performance, and often even in the fact that the customer feels more represented). According to a McKinsey study (2019), the most diverse companies tend to have better results and growth.

Are we still talking about tables? If we go to the table where the most significant decisions are made, if we reflect on leadership, this lack of diversity still takes on larger proportions. Mainly because it rarely happens, and often the disproportion is even amplified. And so, we can reflect on how much we still need to change as a society, how impactful a good representation of those governed by those who govern would be, for example, for a country.

Why does non-representation still happen? Some theories and studies explain very well factors that are not always conscious. For example: 1. Neuroscience (when we talk about the need for mirroring and identification with others); 2. The principle of familiarity (which tells us that we continue to select and value, even unconsciously, what is most known and familiar to us); 3. Our ancient need to belong to a group (for further exploration, I suggest the book Sapiens – a brief history of humankind).

However, I still hear a lot about the unnecessary need to address or invest in this issue. Have we made any progress? I strongly believe so. Do we live in a friendly country, and are people generally inclusive? I also understand that yes, for the most part. However, if we look at microaggressions in a social context, media, and networks, we quickly realize that there is still a long way to go.

We keep turning, in this round world.

Reinforcing this theme, raising awareness, and showing evidence, we can continue the path that some started in the past and promote that everyone can also have fair opportunities for growth and development. We need to understand that for this issue to stop being an issue, it first needs to be an issue. If everyone starts to have their dignified space at the table, in the future, I believe it will be natural and we may not need to talk about it.

However, we are still very slowly gathering the wood to build the table. We are still very dedicated to attracting talent, to the representation of diversity. Even when chairs start to be occupied by different people, we need to accelerate our awareness of our unconscious biases, promoting everyone’s contribution to the table.

So, how to start?

By starting. Not everything is done, but there are already some good practices whose benchmark may be interesting. Focus is essential:

  • Leadership involvement and their true commitment to this topic are essential to prioritize it.
  • Rooted cultures take time to change. Analyzing the moment the company is in and adapting the first initiatives is crucial: will they be more about raising awareness, raising awareness, training? Or is the organization ready for a step towards setting concrete goals?
  • Reflecting on the dimensions of diversity in which we want to start acting and why (examples: gender, age, LGBTQI+, ethnicities and cultural origins, people with disabilities).
  • For all this reflection, listening is fundamental (to our people, to others not represented, and to other organizations – knowing inspiring journeys and inspiring ourselves).

Meanwhile, let’s look around the table where we ourselves sit. Observe. What do we want to change for a more inclusive future?