The Natural World Has No Problem With Diversity and Inclusion - So Why The Hell Do We?
Working in broadcast, I have seen so many schemes, trainings and remits to increase diversity in the workforce. In most cases, and on all outward appearances, it looks great. But according to Ofcom’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television Report, September 2019, numbers have stalled. “For example, the proportion of women in senior television roles is largely unchanged; and the representation of disability across broadcasters has not improved. Employees from minority ethnic backgrounds remain under-represented at senior levels”, states the Chief Executive, Sharon White.
As an international keynote speaker, I continuously hear organisations praising the UK’s broadcast industry for living up to the promise of a truly diverse work force. We are in the spotlight and it will increase ever more as we enter the international market after we leave the EU. But that’s the problem. Despite our outward appearance, our collective story may surprise you…
You see, for any industry, not just broadcast, it’s easy to employ people who don’t look like you, talk like you, or have education like you. You just follow the current remit of your HR policy and strategy and, well, Bob’s your aunty. But wait, what about inclusion? Oh yes, inclusion…
2019 saw many organisations put greater emphasis on inclusion. Even going as far as changing the words around to I&D for good measure! It was partly to create a better atmosphere and partly to encourage their workforce to bring their ‘authentic selves’ to work, with the hope to maintain retention.… and there’s the rub.
What do we really mean by inclusion? Being seen? Heard? Valued? How do you make someone who knows nothing about your background, upbringing, nuances, struggles and thought forms, really hear, see and value what you do when they have no experience of you? How do you cater for employees when you have never experienced anything of their lives but expect them to ‘fit in’ to yours? How do you set a strategy for inclusion running blind?
You don’t know what you don’t know and if you fail to take the opportunities to know, you dismiss it.
Let me walk you through a scenario…
To those hiring, there is elation they’ve satisfied their diversity remit. Percentages are one point up and senior management and leadership are delirious and sigh a sigh of relief. Job well done. The following months, something feels amiss. There is a positive detection of a ripple in the atmosphere. The workplace not only looks more colourful, it feels, well more colourful. No shit sherlock, it actually is, it’s…diverse, (tiny d). One might say it’s taken on an unfamiliar tone, vibrancy…odour even. Some may even say it feels even a little threatening, (trust me, I’ve heard this one before). Hey, but they go with it anyway as they must be seen as a diverse and inclusive organisation. And besides “it’s good for business as it increases our bottom line”.
Those onboarding into the organisation feel slightly unnerved almost at the moment they step into the building. Although super ecstatic that they’ve landed the job on merit , there’s an unconscious bracing of their emotions, and a highly acute thin layer of protection suddenly shrouds their sensitivities. The atmosphere feels a tingy bit off. The looks you get, although friendly have a definite tone of… well something, “I just can’t put my finger on it”. Have a listen to Dr. Shahzadi Harper explain that feeling in my podcast #AreYouNotMe?
I believe when we talk of inclusion we miss out a powerful component of human communication that never gets discussed in real terms, but rather sketchily intuited and badly articulated.
Let me explain…
Every company and organisation has a definite invisible signature riding within its walls . A cultural atmosphere which can be palpably felt. It is wholly comprised of the people who work there and is set by leadership. Those in mid and junior levels naturally follow step. This signature is unique to the organisation, distinct and intangibly real. It is the pool of invisible information which makes one have feelings of togetherness, creativity, sense of belonging. It also holds hostilities, passive aggressions, competition and biases and yes, even prejudice and racism.
We know in science that our world is made up of electromagnetic waves; be it micro-waves, light waves, radio waves, sound waves or even the electromagnetic waves that emanate from our bodies, we are enveloped in it. Billions of bits of information are encoded on these waves. That means billions of bits of information rides on our own personal bio- electromagnetic fields. Hold that thought…
Everything we think, feel, visualise, believe in is held as bits of information within our own bio energy fields. Stretch your arms out and trace a circle around your body. That area is your personal space, your bio-energy field, filled with an immense amount of information about you. We walk around with it, interact with it, make decisions with it. And the curious fact about the humongous informational resource we have at our disposal, is that we are only aware of 2000 bits (of the possible 400 billion bits) of that information. A slither of reality!
Many of us like to believe that we only bring into work the personality that we feel fits into to that said organisation, with its signature culture. Not true. We actually bring everything of ourselves to work, warts and all. It may be unconscious, but it has checked in through the door even before you do. Your individual field, emanates from your body and, intermingles, entangles and mixes with everyone else’s. At any moment, you are downloading and contributing to the signature information of that organisation.
Now here is the interesting part.
A homogenous group of people who look like each other, think like each other and come from the same background, will emanate and transmit that very information out from their own energy fields into the atmosphere where it lingers. The bigger the homogenous group, the louder the information silently amplifies, gets stronger and more pervasive.
This is the situation in most organisations that have been built up and controlled by the same types of people year in year out. The signature has been set. The work environment has been conditioned with the same information over and over again and it permeates every corner. If your bio-field and that of the organisation resonates, you will feel relaxed and at home. If your bio-field doesn’t resonate (because the information is unfamiliar), you will feel uneasy and tense. All of these reactions are happening automatically and unconsciously until these feelings reach a critical point and bubble up into consciousness, to which you create meaning and start looking for events around you to, ‘put a finger on it”. In other words, you validate your intuitive feelings. You cannot be sure what types of information has been embedded in the social sphere over the years, all you know is that you can feel it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the people around you who are the embodiment of your sentiments. It just means we all project the information we absorb, and that information can work for you or against you.
So, what do we really mean by inclusion? For sure it’s being asked to dance, but better still, it’s consciously absorbing the information riding on that dance and symbiotically intermingling with it. For then, together, we can create a new dance of inclusion, one which can be truly felt, by all of us.