Diversity & Inclusion: tear down the myths and discover your value proposition

I learned yesterday that I have been perpetuating some myths when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and I have a hunch you have too.  On Monday, I was lucky to participate in the first Calgary Diversity and Inclusion Un-Conference, hosted by the CIDI (Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion).  And I learned a few things.

Apple and pear diversity... (la diversité des pommes et des poires)

For example, why do you think we not getting any traction in Canada with women in senior executive roles?  It isn’t, as I have naively thought, because women are making lifestyle choices.   Barbara Annis has done the research.  She was the plenary speaker on Monday morning, and you can learn more about her compelling research in her new book, Gender Intelligence.

And how do you influence change in your organization when you have limited apparent influence and authority? Sergeant Bill Dodd, from the Calgary Police Service shared his insights.  He has been successful strategically bringing in other perspectives through community boards.  I learned from him that you need deliberate, strategic feedback loops from your community.  And I also learned from Sergeant Dodd that one person can really  make a difference, and come away with some great stories too.

I have also been challenged by Zakeana Reid to challenge my unconscious and my own implicit biases. You can do the same at Project Implicit.

Were you at the CIDI Un-Conference? What did you learn? I would love to hear from you.

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace. It starts with the conversation.

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Diversity & Inclusion Community of Practice

At the debut CIDI-ICDI (Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion) Community of Practice Event in Calgary.I had a wonderful take-away within the first 5 minutes of discussion. Leader Michael Bach posed the question – What are the challenges? and a participant from the Calgary Airport Authority raised that all-pervasive objection – “But if we put in programs to promote and hire them what will happen to me?”

It is the classic positional bargaining, I Win, You Lose illusion. Your benefit is my loss. Overcoming this kind of illusion requires a paradigm shift. Once that shift from I Win, You Lose to We Both Win happens, there are tremendous wins for an organization. The talent pool expands and the sum becomes greater than the parts.

Unfortunately the win/lose illusion does not look like an illusion from up close. It looks threatening. There is a very real perception of threat which can only be overcome through dialogue and education. Policies are not enough.

So how can an organization address that objection in a meaningful way and facilitate the paradigm shift? Such a shift has the potential to have a tremendous impact on organizational culture and it begins with dialogue. It is important to acknowledge and understand the perception of threat. Only once people feel heard, understood and acknowledged will they be ready for acceptance.

Are you measuring Diversity in your organization? Where are you on the journey to paradigm shift?
Check out the CIDI report What Gets Measured Gets Done. You can download it here. http://www.cidi-icdi.ca/reports/what-gets-measured-gets-done.pdf.

Generational Diversity

Today we welcomed Amy Lister and Linda Lathrop to discuss Workplace Fairness and generational diversity. It was really nice to meet some new participants, including a healthy representation from the younger generation.

As we neared the end of the discussion, I had a revelation. I, in my late forties, can see in two directions: to my father who in his early 70s is returning to work as a consultant at his former employer, and to my daughter embarking on her first summer away from home working full time. Oddly too, my father is on the west coast, my daughter is on the east coast, and I am in the middle perhaps, in the prairie. Generational diversity binds us.

I asked Linda and Amy about the stories (complaints, perhaps?) we hear often of young workers “multi-tasking” with the music in one ear, the texting and the simultaneous work. I certainly see this in my own household, and I hear about it in the workplace. Our luncheon facilitators cautioned us about stereotypes and reminded us of the gifts. Linda and Amy, themselves representing generational diversity, are enthusiastic champions of the value of interactions and working with differing generations.

We can use our mediator skills: be open, be curious, and listen for understanding. Hold people capable, and the rewards are multiple. You will gain a fresh perspective and perhaps as Amy and Linda did, a friend for life.

Diversity is not new. What is new is inclusion.

Dr. Valerie Pruegger
Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon, January 20, 2012

Dr. Pruegger began her talk on Friday with a provocative statement: “Diversity is not new. What’s new is inclusion.”  Organizations are reacting to the pressure for inclusion in a variety of ways, which Pruegger described with ‘D’s: Deny, Derail, Divert, Delay, Diminish, Dire Predictions, Dismiss.  Where do you believe your organization falls?  What perceived, or actual, barriers do you face?  Some of these barriers are hidden. Do you have hidden barriers?

If you are facing barriers to inclusion, Pruegger offered some very practical strategies for upping your game:

Be subversive. In my own line of work, I am realizing that we need to couch our message for change with an agenda and language which meet the needs of our client, even if it is not our first choice. Once the door opens with their language, we can begin to introduce our own message.

Be aware of the political, economic, and social situation. Timing is critical.

Every effort counts. It is easy to become discouraged. It helps to be reminded that the small steps are often as important as the large ones.

Focus on structural change. You can change behaviour but not attitude. Once you have established change with behaviour, attitude often follows.

Recognize that all people are leaders, and ensure you have at least one influential leader on board.

Find the hook. People are motivated by self-interest.

Safety is key.

Take risks.

These tactics are universally applicable. Attendees of our lunch appreciated Valerie Pruegger’s practical, applicable takeaways.

Join the dialogue today at our Workplace Fairness Alberta Discussion group.  http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Workplace-Fairness-Alberta-3717361?goback=%2Egmp_3717361%2Egsm_3717361_1_*2_*2_*2_lna_MANAGER_*2

What systems have you successfully implemented within your organization to encourage inclusion? What barriers have you faced? How did you break them down?

Stay tuned for news on future Workplace Fairness Thought Community luncheons. We will meet on the following dates:

Tuesday February 21
Friday March 23
Friday April 27
Tuesday May 22
Tuesday June 26

For further information about Workplace Fairness Alberta, you are welcome to contact:

Michelle Phaneuf (phaneuf@workplacefairness.ca) or Marjorie Munroe (munroe@workplacefairness.ca), Co-Directors, Workplace Fairness Alberta.

Visit http://www.interculturalinteractions.com to learn more about Dr. Valerie Pruegger and leveraging the competitive advantage through diversity.