Ellevate San Diego Event: The Inclusion Dividend

Ellevate San Diego’s October book review coffee break discussed “Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off” written by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan. Male allies also attended this discussion at Lestat’s Coffee House in Hillcrest. Here are some of the topics we discussed, related to the book. Identities are kept anonymous in this post to promote an open dialogue.

How do you define diversity and inclusion in the workforce?

  • It’s not always about gender or race, it’s backgrounds, languages, etc. If we all came from the same background, it would be hard to answer different kinds of questions from different kinds of clients.
  • There’s a risk of continuing to do things how they’ve always been done. Different backgrounds and perspectives are needed to solve problems. It can’t be all guys from the same school who’ve been in the same industry for years, there’s a danger of groupthink.
  • This book says diversity is a presence of difference.

We’re in a world where we want results tomorrow, but diversity is a long-term investment — how can you express that?

  • Set goals along the way for a long-term vision, but things along the way change, so reassess strategy frequently.
  • Shift from diversity driven from a compliance point of view, to being driven by what people want.
  • Think about how you’re not going to solve hard problems the same way you solve easy problems, but it’s the hard problems to solve that lead to greater financial results. That’s the value to unlock with diversity and inclusion.
  • People with different backgrounds see problems differently, they give the company a 360 view of problems and solutions.

Inclusion dividend book discussion

Who should drive diversity and inclusion? Executives, women, etc.? How do we become accountable for diversity and inclusion?

  • It has to come from the top. Male and female leaders have to work together to advocate diversity and inclusion. Actively interview males and females for similar roles, especially if previously there were a majority of men in that role. Diversity and inclusion should then trickle down to everyone else.
  • Agreed that it has to come from the top, but it is everyone’s responsibility. Corporate needs a strategy, without that, nothing drives how the company makes the right decisions.
  • Everyone believes in diversity and inclusion strategically, the question is how to do it tactically. What do you do? Everyone has something to do, to individually contribute and help with self-awareness. Executives can allocate resources and create incentives for diversity hiring. They can’t convince people to speak up, besides trying to create a culture where speaking up is accepted.
  • It starts with the top saying it’s OK to speak up, don’t hold back. Sometimes nothing happens when you speak up, you don’t get feedback about a problem you told the company about. Sometimes you feel sorry for speaking up because people in the past said not to speak up, people belittled what you said, executives didn’t accept your feedback, or you don’t think they value your opinion.
  • There is value in asking for feedback. It is hard to speak about diversity and inclusion in the open,  especially for men.
  • Male executives can have problems being empathetic and talking about diversity and inclusion, so make sure other people feel comfortable sharing thoughts with you.

A big theme of the book is the meritocracy system, which is award-based pay where people are paid for output … in theory. Companies say they have a meritocracy in place, but it doesn’t actually exist because of biases in company culture. Intent does not equal impact. The conversation moderator has lots of conversations with men where they don’t see eye to eye about if there is a level playing field in the workplace, and the book says it is hard to “reach acceptance of the possibility that the playing field is not level and something needs to change, which creates feelings of guilt and defiance [for men].”

  • An audience member says the defensiveness is because many efforts have been done on diversity in the workplace and men want recognition for that. Also, the corporate model of employment was based on filling it with men, the world moved on from that, but the system is still lagging. This problem or system has existed for hundreds of years. One particular man has only been on earth for 50 years, and in the workforce 20 years, so he feels like it is not his fault but he is being blamed, which leads to resistance.

How do we make it so we all feel we have a level playing field at work?

  • Try to bring everyone to the table, to perform a culture shift a company needs. When hiring, make sure the company thinks about all types of people. Get employees to speak up, one audience member mentors women and hears the same thing from a lot of them, they say they aren’t ready to speak up or move up at work. This can be a problem with men and women, women feel they need the perfect answer to say anything, men just think they have an answer.
  • One of the biggest concerns is not to alienate all the white men, that’s why we start bringing them into the conversation.
  • The book says diversity and inclusion problems are focused on white hetero men’s bad behavior. Be aware of that and ask them to give us feedback, how to approach that conversation without it feeling like a threat to white men.
  • Don’t say all the problems belong to white men, all parties need to play a part in increasing diversity. What does the other side need to do to move forward?
  • Don’t just do it one-sided and tell women to act like men or tell men to act like women, have conversations to teach about differences and train management to accept differences in opinions. The solution is having these conversations and cultural differences on a global level.
  • There are things that make men wince when reading diversity ally books, such as reading women are a certain way and men are a certain way. In one male audience member’s experience, that’s not the case. He sees individual differences, such as some women he’s worked with were aggressive sports fans. He just wants to talk about people, not projecting stereotypes or talking about one group of people being different from another group of people.
  • Change your attitude based on the audience, their individual traits. Change the message, tone, voice, for the specific audience, not just for diversity and inclusion.
  • Males should also be aware that women saying they like traditional male things such as sports at work may just be trying to fit in, and it is not who they really are. Sometimes women feel they have to do “male” things to fit into a company, especially earlier in their careers.
  • Some women are not totally offended by generalizations and stereotypes, they see it as a starting point to go on to learn people’s idiosyncrasies.

How do we have this conversation without putting men on the defensive?

  • Be careful how you frame the issue. If you transfer every issue and blame it on gender, make sure gender is really the reason for the issue first, ask for feedback to make sure something else isn’t the root cause of the problem.
  • Going back to the idea of meritocracy, women lose hope that it exists at any company. So they get frustrated because they do the work but don’t get anywhere, that’s why they leave.
  • The Salesforce CEO reviewing compensation publically and fixing pay gaps is showing that a meritocracy does exist at that company now.

We all have biases, should all employees have unconscious bias training?

  • Any conversation and education about behavioral sides are good. Education is part of the solution. We have board meetings and management meetings that are in intimidating environments, why can’t we just have coffee meetings about what things are not working (like diversity and inclusion)?
  • It could benefit everyone, such as learning a diversity of styles. Corporate America has a very defined expectation of leadership style, the risk taker. That is a bias. Men tend to fit those styles more by stereotype. Diversity includes the difference in leadership styles, so try to get more thoughtful and collaborative people in leadership training, less commanding people.
  • Men are afraid they will be attacked at these trainings and kinds of conversations, so they won’t go if it is not mandatory. But the concern is that making it mandatory will just be checking a box and not actually encourage participation and true learning.
  • A UN group girls’ group chapter in China started recruiting boys by making the issue the issue not making gender the issue. They focused on skills and competitions, not gender, such as a poster design contest. This attracted boy leaders by focusing the voting for leaders on skills, not personality, etc., which made the group and its leadership more inclusive.
  • Ellevate brought men into the HQ organization.
  • The book says unconscious bias training needs to have a systematic view, a system framework made up of the individual, group/team, marketplace, and organization. We are both individuals and members of groups we identify with, always, and both matter.
  • Think about events that some companies support which are not diverse, like basketball brackets or golf outings, someone needs to bring up the lack of diversity. A lot of client events are not diverse, all are sports-focused and male-dominated, but not all their clients are men who like sports. Ask the team for ideas of different things to do for events so everyone feels heard and feel it’s OK to speak.
  • Women feel like we need to be told it is OK to speak up, when we don’t have the courage to say something. Give value at work and be observant to those around you. Understand who is not engaging in conversations and engage them. Call out people who interrupt or always take over conversations, to allow others to finish speaking.
  • Remember, it’s a two-way street, it’s hard for men to speak up about this.

Check out Ellevate San Diego’s website for upcoming events!

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