How to build a diverse and inclusive culture

How to build a diverse and inclusive culture


Is building inclusive cultures a business priority in 2019?

How to build an inclusive and diverse culture

Progressive businesses are increasingly embracing diversity and inclusion to forge a sustainable future. Businesses with a healthy balance of women and men are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors. Likewise, companies with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely, according to research by McKinsey & Co.

A survey of 10,000 millennials showed that over 80% said an employer’s policy on diversity and inclusion is an important factor when deciding to work for them. But diversity without inclusion doesn’t work. It’s often assumed that diversity and inclusion are the same thing. But that’s not the case. Identifying the need for greater representation is only the first step. Yet many studies have shown that diversity alone does not drive inclusion. Inclusion is the crucial connector that attracts diverse talent and fosters business growth. Without inclusion this means lack of meaningful participation and innovation.

Building an inclusive culture needs to be more than letting the numbers drive your diversity and inclusion strategy. Whilst, data is important to understand what your diversity challenges may be. We need to look beyond the statistics. We need to dig deep into the everyday experiences of your employees to understand what actions need to undertaken to foster a more inclusive workplace (check out our bespoke inclusive cultures training workshops).


We launch the 2019 Inclusive Culture Pledge with diversity activist Salma El-Wardany

How to build a diverse and inclusive culture

Our Inclusive Culture Pledge is a public commitment to building a more inclusive workplace culture. The pledge began life at our 25th anniversary last year. It was so successful that we’ve designed a new pledge for 2019. Through the Pledge, we created a network of forward-thinking organisations. We provide support to them on their journey to creating an inclusive workplace.

On 30th January, our launch event was packed with delegates from a range of industries to join our Pledge. No matter where you are on your journey, there are always small acts we can do that can make a big difference in creating an inclusive culture. A public pledge to inclusion shows your employees, customers and external stakeholders the importance you place on promoting inclusion.

We were lucky to be joined by TEDx speaker, author and business owner, Salma El-Wardany. Half Egyptian, half Irish, Salma returned to Cairo just in time for the Arab Spring. Between protesting in the revolution, Salma began documenting her experiences as a young Muslim woman in Cairo, discussing how gender identities manifest in today’s world. Salma is currently working on her debut novel, building her own marketing business and writing and performing spoken word across the UK and US.


Moving beyond the ‘why’ to ‘how’ we can create diverse workplaces


Salma shared her thoughts on what it means to be a 21st century Muslim, race relations in the UK today and why as a nation we’re at a tipping point. Salma began by saying that much of the battle is showing up, both mentally and emotionally. But that the conversation needs to go beyond stressing the importance of why we should be creating diverse workplaces to how we should be achieving this goal positively and pragmatically.

Salma’s view is that we’re currently at a pivotal point in history. We can have a positive or negative impact on how the narrative on race relations in the UK unfolds. She also says that Brexit is giving rise to an oppressive narrative that is largely left unchallenged. “Diversity brings in different narratives and different stories,” says Salma. “We need this in our organisations if we are going to challenge stereotypes – like the association between Muslims and terrorism for example.”

In Salma’s view, we have a collective responsibility to challenge established narratives. As well as a singular responsibility to make an impact on the everyday.

Salma went on to share some of her tips on what we could each do to impact lasting change, below are a few examples:

Recognise your bias. Adpot measures to work against bias. For example, when recruiting share the hiring decision with someone who brings diversity of perspective.

Recognise your privilege. Be aware of it so you can help people with less privilege than yourself

Catch the micro-aggressions (see below for more advice on this!)

Salma then shared a tweet from Kelechi Okafor – founder of the Say Your Mind podcast and the animated character called ‘Sally in HR’. Sally in HR is quite a tongue in cheek character. Our attendees at the event found it both funny and scarily accurate. The video brings to life the biases of Sally and her colleagues. Watch the video here and see if you agree that it’s a powerful reminder of the need to be aware of and challenge our biases.

Salma’s finished by urging everyone in the room to be the person that challenges others when they show assumptions about race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation. For her, an inclusive culture means recognising the small actions that we can do every day to help everyone bring their full selves to work without fear of prejudice.


Promoting inclusive behaviour in the workplace starts at the micro-level


When it comes to micro-behaviours, you may be familiar with the term micro-aggressions. Coined by psychologist Dr Mary Rowe in the early 1970s, it refers to the ways individuals may be singled out, overlooked or ignored based on unchangeable characteristics, like their race or gender.

In the workplace, these often-unconscious micro-behaviours might be as simple as:

• A quick glance at the clock during an interview
• Forgetting a junior member of staff’s name
• Giving an employee a nickname he or she might not feel comfortable with

Even in a short one-to-one meeting, we can exchange up to 50 micro-messages with the other person. Each one sends a signal that may affirm or undermine the person on the receiving end.

Our own work in addressing unconscious bias tells us we are more inclined to send affirmative micro-messages if the person we’re interacting with is like us. If they are different to us, we are much more likely to start dishing out micro-aggressions, whether we mean to or not. Find out more about our see our unconscious bias training options.


Micro-behaviours can make you a more inclusive leader


Take a look below at the micro-behaviours of the three inclusive leaders. You’ll see how simple and effective inclusive leadership is.

Leader 1: Think through who gets the high visibility opportunities
“My sales director recently asked a really junior member of staff to present to the board. It had never happened before, but she had led the whole project. We all knew the boss was saying she [the junior member of staff] was the most competent to present to the board.”

Leader 2: Be even-handed with your time, give everyone in the team a platform, and manage your own limitations
“Our director spends 5-10 minutes per week with everyone in the department, then writes a weekly blog about them. He’s a strong introvert and so this is his way of connecting with everyone without exception and highlighting people’s successes.”

Leader 3: Demonstrate the benefits of everyone contributing
“I was in a collaborative session recently where everyone shared a new idea. The leader in the room was obviously excited about the learning and thanked them for sharing. They showed they were listening by asking questions to help their understanding on how it might add to their current thinking.”

As such, there are many small acts we can undertake every day to positively impact cultivating an inclusive culture in your workplace. It starts at the micro-level. Be aware of your biases, privilege, and call out micro-aggressions in the office. What can you do to start promoting an inclusive culture at your workplace?


At EW Group, we can support to build an inclusive culture in your organisation through our bespoke inclusive cultures training and workshops.


Interested in hearing more? Listen to episode 2 of our company culture podcast, Reworked, with Salma here.

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