By Gilbert Ang’ana (PhD Cand.)
This article is meant to stir up conversations and arguments in our contemporary scene and orientation on the much-discussed concept of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The discussions and arguments on DEI are now a part of our lifestyle, let alone a leadership lifestyle. An article by Harvard Business Review in the 1990s argued that a diverse workforce is not something we ought to have; it is something we need to have, or soon we will be forced to have. Many other arguments link DEI to positioning institutions and organizations to be more competitive.
Just like other earlier concepts like affirmative action, among others? Already there is potential skewness towards inclusion as compared to diversity and equity. Could this be the beginning of the transformation of DEI? DEI has roots in the 1960s civil rights movement that started in the US and transcended all other parts of the world and has expanded to include gender, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, and other identities. According to Greenlining Institute (2018), the focus of DEI has transformed over the years, from the 1960s – the 2020s:
- Tolerance – the acceptance of integration of workplaces, schools, and communities (the 1960s).
- Multiculturalism – awareness of the achievements of various racial and ethnic minorities (the 1980s).
- Inclusion and equity – Avoiding bias on perceived minority groups (the 1990s).
- Accountability – in the 2010s, moving forward, this focus is aimed at ensuring that diverse groups are represented at all economic and social levels
Over the past four years, I have been helping organizations at various levels learn how to manage their constituents engagement and achieve higher productivity, and I am strongly seeing that the realities facing people and leaders at numerous institutional orientation today are no longer the realities DEI is designed to fix. Based on the new workforce trend, is it the right time for the concept of DEI to transform? Is DEI the contemporary concept that can really create a competitive advantage in an organization today?
What is this that, when we all practice intentionally, will enable people to appreciate the diversity that each of us as humans brings and allow for unconditional inclusion of everyone based on their various strengths and challenges? I know this is what DEI champions, but I am asking myself for now: Could there be more that we may be unconsciously missing? What if we go “simple – stupid” to our basics?
Let me share some reflective data, though not very conclusive and requires deeper dive. Over the last three years, I have been asking random leaders I coach and train one fundamental question – “Why should you lead anyone?” 9 out of 10 leaders mentioned some of the below reasons;
- Because I am a good leader.
- Because I have seen the world
- Because I have the experience.
- Because this is my area of expertise.
- I can guide the team well, and I have the skills and attributes of leadership
- They have no option; I am the leader this season, and must work together.
- I have the gift and capability
As you can see, there is possibly almost no leader who mentioned because they are inclusive, or they feel they honour diversity and accept people are who they are and what they bring to the table (diversity and equity). As I mentioned, my observation is not yet conclusive, and I am still engaging more and more leaders and diversity to people who do not consider themselves as leaders for inclusion.
Moreover, over the period, I have also been engaging leaders’ constituents, asking them what kind of team leaders they wish to have. Some of the commonly shared feedback is; A leader who is:
- Emotionally intelligent
All these comments above touch on some components of appreciating diversity, equity and inclusion. However, my thoughts went deeper into – why not just speak about the simplicity of DEI from a practical level rather than making it complex with a higher possibility of losing the intended intentions and bringing about complexities in its measurements and implementation?
This is an initial concept I am sharing with the world at this point that will be followed by a detailed review in my new upcoming book later on 12th October 2023 that will expound on these concepts individually and give perspectives based on various organizational orientations.
I, at this point, propose an argument that – could it be that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will possibly transform. Even if not to my proposed Love, Value and Belief but to something else?
- In my upcoming book, I argue that if we Love people unconditionally, we will appreciate who they are as they are, provide an equal platform and champion equality at all times, and include everyone based on their various strengths and challenges. “When you stop loving your people, you start manipulating your people.” John C. Maxwell.
- If we Value people, we will wake up every day finding people to add value to and ways to add value to people. When we value people, we accept their diversity, challenge equity bias and will be inclusive in all we do. “The way you see people is the way you treat them; and, the way you treat them is what they become.” von Goethe
- When we Believe in people, we give them an opportunity on the table. Even when we know their challenges, we encourage them to face their fears and uncertainty, and we equip and enable them to fail forward without victimization. These are all avenues of propagating DEI. “people will rise to the level of expectations you set for them” Anonymous.
I want to stop by posing, “is there a possibility we could move from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to Love, Value and Belief?
I would welcome feedback, comments and perspectives. Be friendly and inclusive. As shared, this is first my initial thoughts and perspective. Details will be coming in my new book – “Inside Out”, with a tentative launch date of 12th October 2023.
Follow me for more thoughts on this and others through www.stepafrique.com
Author, Engaged & Productive: 5 Mindshifts in Building Highly Engaged and Productive Teams | CEO, Accent Leadership Group | Multi-Award Winning Leadership Coach & Consultant | Speaker | www.stepafrique.com