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The D&I challenge: an editor’s point of view


As editor of Recruiter, Continuity & Resilience, S&PA (Sport & Physical Activity) Professional and head of content production for Airlines., Redactive’s DeeDee Doke understands the challenges organisations face to become more inclusive, and how strategic use of content can support their goals

Every year, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, or the combined ‘D&I’ challenge, appears on HR experts’ lists of top 10 priorities for business over the next 12 months. 2020 is no exception.

Then CEOs and HR professionals metaphorically nod sagely and stroke their chins in agreement: “Yes, we need to do something about diversity/inclusion/diversity and inclusion.”

It’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s a business imperative, goes the conventional wisdom. And frankly, who could disagree? Diversity + Inclusion adds up to equality – no question.

But not only is there disagreement around the world in different countries, different companies and even different professions about what Diversity & Inclusion are, or should look like. Too often businesses are emphatic that D&I must be done – without having a clear implementation strategy in place.

In my role I have the opportunity to hear the recurring calls from various segments of my communities for D&I, and to see how the issue is dealt with across them.

In one notoriously male-dominated global industry, the desired end state calls for more women in leadership roles. In another global career field, the D&I call is for more women to enter the profession full stop. And in the sport & professional activity sector, more of virtually every protected group are sought to help get the country become active and fit.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Setting the standards
In a separate function, I have worked on the periphery of ISO’s development of an international standard for D&I. Representatives from around the world have been contributing, and it is still a work in progress, several years after the work began in earnest. In part, it is hard because of what D&I looks like around the world. In some countries, for instance, the LGBTQ community faces poor treatment from government. It’s also a tough project because D&I is an emotion-drenched field of practice.

Leading the international subject matter expert group on the D&I standard is global HR consultant Lorelei Carobolante. She acknowledges that a major challenge to produce manageable D&I standards is the emotional aspect, meaning to find a way to “shift from an event-based or reaction-based approach to a systemic, proactive change approach”.

So how do you ensure diversity in your workforces, or become more inclusive as an employer? Again, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution because every organisation, profession and country is different. But a variety of approaches have been initiated around the world including setting targets to see the minority groups in question in particular jobs,  supporting a career-and-networking group for the minority group (BCI’s Women in Resilience), or providing senior leaders with “cultural fluency” workshops to better understand indigenous cultures and values (Air New Zealand). In fact, Air New Zealand is a shining example of an organisation that has built a pragmatic, multi-strand strategy for better representation in its workforce of different minority groups.

At the same time, sweeping initiatives with a campaign name and logo aren’t necessarily the only answers to grass roots D&I. It’s important to understand that members of the minority target growth groups are individuals, and are not part of a generic collective that all share the same workplace concerns.

A white male professional once told me through gritted teeth that he hated it when his female line manager referred to him and his male colleagues as ‘you men’ whenever she was angry. “You men always…” was part of a regular rant, he said.

So don’t automatically send women or other minority groups to get the refreshments for a gathering. Don’t build all of your organisation’s social activities around drinking. But do hire a skilled refugee.

This kind of consideration and seemingly small steps can make more of a difference to creating an environment where everyone is different and all are welcome than all of the values statements and colourful banners you can have printed for your global offices.

Driving change in our  media brands
As mentioned earlier, different professions often have different D&I needs. Recruiter magazine seeks out industry innovators of underrepresented ethnicities, races, gender, ages, sexual orientations, national origin and more for cover subjects, awards judges and as spokespeople in news and features to help grow media profiles and recognition for diverse rising and established leaders. Recruiter also has a ‘no age’ policy, meaning that people’s ages are only referenced in content if they have died, or are under majority age, or their age is a key aspect of a story, such as in an age discrimination lawsuit. 

In S&PA Professional, the sport and physical activity sector’s mandate to help all of Britain get healthier and fitter has led to in-depth coverage of breaking down the negative mythology around actual capabilities of older people and a cover story on young Muslim women who are beating the statistics for their social group and competing in rounders, to name two pieces of work.

The business continuity & resilience sector has struggled in recent years to broaden its base of professionals from predominantly older men to more diverse practitioners, especially in recruiting women into the profession. A Women in Resilience group was launched within the BCI (Business Continuity Institute), and Continuity & Resilience has covered the group’s activities extensively, along with broadening the diversity of nationalities, races, ethnicities, ages, gender and more represented in news and feature articles overall and stepping up the diversity of columnists. A recent project was a Special Report in the magazine about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

The aviation industry has long been dominated by men. However, the sector has come to a realisation that this must change and launched a drive to improve the representation of women in the industry generally and at senior management/board level. In Airlines., major features were reported to showcase both the challenges that women in the industry face and the awards given to member airlines for successful D&I initiatives.

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