It’s Time To Step Up Our Diversity Game

I’m a huge advocate for diversity, inclusion and belonging in our workplaces. I’ve written about it, I’ve talked about it and I’ve done a lot of work in this area, most recently with my passion project, I Belong — you’ll be hearing more about I Belong soon.

We can never be satisfied with the status quo and where we are currently in the DIBs conversation. In my opinion, while we’ve made huge strides within the past couple of years, we have a ton more to do. I don’t ever see our relentless pursuit of building truly inclusive workplaces ever stopping. Organizations that “get it” are more successful, and the research shows. If this is the case then it needs to be fully weaved into every organization’s business strategy and operational framework.

Here’s the thing. I would argue that 99% of the conversations, focus and efforts have been on gender and racial diversity. Events, organizations, politics, social initiatives and the list goes on. They are usually talking about gender and racial diversity. Events want to ensure that their speaker line-ups are diverse, which usually means gender and race. Specific event ticket promotions are targeted at women, members of the LGBTQ community and visible minorities. The Prime Minister of Canada created Canada’s first gender balanced cabinet. Organizations have built and rolled out specific recruitment programs that have targeted gender groups (e.g. women for STEM jobs) and visible minorities (e.g. tech companies recruiting software developers abroad using the Global Skills Strategy.

For The Record…

None… and I repeat, NONE of this is bad. This is all extremely positive and going in the right direction. However, we need to be mindful that diversity means so much more than gender and visible minorities. I’m not going to list them all in this post because the list is far too long and you would be scrolling forever.

Everyone knows that I have a severe hearing disability. I have also faced many situations of discrimination on the basis of my disability during my personal and professional lives. The good news is that I work in HR and have been able to successfully navigate these unfortunate situations using education, problem-solving and a positive mindset. However, when it comes to the diversity, inclusion and belonging conversation that is getting louder and louder within my circles, people with disabilities is rarely mentioned. I am NOT complaining. I am simply pointing out an observation that is personal to me, and that we need to step up our diversity game.

Stepping up our diversity game means that we need to broaden our reach when it comes to targeted initiatives. If you’re going to organize and run an event, and want to be inclusive and provide opportunities to marginalized groups, do so on a wider scale. Event speaker line-ups can still be extremely diverse but all have the same skin colour, for example. Speaker diversity is not just about gender and racial diversity. I happen to be a white male but I have a disability. If you put up my picture on an event website next to other speakers and all of us have white skin it does not automatically mean we as a group is not diverse. For example, I participated in an event a couple of years ago where I was one of five speakers. Each one of us happened to be white, but we were all diverse in visible and non-visible ways. I had a hearing disability, the second speaker developed brain damage from a serious car accident, the third speaker was female, the fourth speaker was a member of the LGBTQ community and the fifth speaker was a 92-year-old retiree who had fought in several wars. This was as diverse a group of speakers as you will find.

Let’s Broaden Our Horizons

I am extremely proud of the fact that DIBs is top of mind for many leaders and organizations today. We’re trending in the right direction and I can’t tell you how grateful and proud I am to be a part of it. We need to keep progressing, reaching new heights, educating ourselves, stretching our minds and broadening our reach.

The presentation below was delivered a couple of years ago at the Achievers user conference in Toronto. I talked about how diversity and inclusion connects to employee engagement. It’s not a new concept, and I tied together my own personal story of living with a severe disability with my work in HR, specifically DIBs.

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