When you search indeed.co.uk for Diversity and Inclusion, you’re rewarded with 1,720 job results in London alone! Of course, some of these will be tenuously tied to the space, but a huge percentage are for exactly that:
- Diversity and Inclusion Manager
- Inclusion and Diversity Manager
- Diversity Development Officer
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Representative
- Delivering Diversity Project Co-ordinator
- Head of Diversity & Inclusion
And the list goes on. Ten years ago, none of these jobs existed – now we’re faced with an explosion of them. But do we need them all?
Please don’t misunderstand my question. I’m not underestimating or undermining the great work that has come from having people dedicated to D&I – I’ve had many of these roles myself and managed teams who do just this; teams who have been tremendous.
My question lies in whether organizations are ready for these roles; whether we’re giving the role holders the tools and support, needed to succeed.
I worry that some leaders have identified that there is a D&I challenge, or many challenges, in their organization and they have sought to fix this problem by creating a job. The problem with this approach is that one role or one person can’t fix the problems of D&I on their own. There is no magic answer to D&I, but I believe if there’s one that comes close, it’s leadership buy-in.
Our leaders have to ask themselves the question ‘Why are we really doing this?’ and if the answer is anywhere close to ‘because everyone else is’ then they need to go back to the drawing board.
Think about an organization who previously had no one specifically focusing on D&I. When you appoint someone into a role at that organization, you hope they’ll be good at their job – otherwise why would you hire them? To be good at their job in D&I, they will need to start asking tough questions and to have difficult conversations about tough topics, challenging the status quo. Because that’s what you’ve asked them to do; you’ve asked them to tackle the challenge that is D&I. But are you ready for the solutions they suggest? Are you ready to respond to the changes that need to be made?
Then there’s the issue with expectation management. In just appointing that person, you’re saying ‘We care about this, we care so much that it’s important enough to make a whole role/team/strategy.’ The natural consequence of this is that colleagues will have heightened expectations and they will expect to see changes and solutions to the challenges that they face. If these changes aren’t implemented, you run the risk of artificially raising the bar of expectation and suffering the consequences when colleagues feel that you’ve not reached it.
In my opinion, if you’re not ready to see what’s under the rock, do not lift it up until you are ready – and certainly don’t appoint someone to do it for you, not until you’re ready to hear what they have to say.
As I said, but I think it’s important to say again, these roles and the people that hold them are necessary and they have the potential to have a real impact. But, leaders have to be really committed to the agenda. Leaders have to really know why they need these roles, what the roles can realistically achieve, and to know how they are going to support the work that these roles generate.
When leaders are ready, when they are committed to D&I, when they are willing to embed D&I into their strategies, when they give it the credence that it needs and when they’re ready to be challenged to do things differently – then all of these new D&I roles can flourish.
With strong leadership, D&I professionals will know the parameters that they are working within. They will have the support and endorsement of the leadership, giving them the gravitas they need to implement change. They will be able to tie their objectives to those of the organization and therefore make it relevant to colleagues. They will be able to evidence their impact and report on their successes in a language that resonates with all stakeholders.
With the support of the organization’s leaders, D&I professionals can effect real change and they can help to change the culture of the organization – maybe even so much so that one day, we won’t need all these roles because the success of D&I will be everyone’s imperative and championed at the highest level. What better reason could there be to do your job so well, that your job’s no longer needed?