This recap and masterclasses were made possible thanks to our friends at Women NSW.
We’re committed to better understand what true diversity and inclusion looks like and we know that in Australia there’s a lot of work to do. The system needs to change and guess what, the system is just people. Together with Women NSW, we recently presented two masterclasses delivering diversity and inclusion training for leaders and individuals. We learned from business coach, consultant and author, JJ Ferrari, global diversity and inclusion strategist and social justice advocate, Fadzi Whande, Senior HR Director at Microsoft Australia, Ingrid Jenkins and CMO, Communications Director and D&I Council Lead at Microsoft Australia, Pip Arthur.
If you missed out on tuning in, we’ve got a recap just for you.
What are the definitions of and differences between diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably, but they mean are very different things. Diversity is all the things that make us different – race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status. Most of these things we have no control over.
Inclusion is about how we get all of those factors to feel a sense of value and belonging. Inclusion in a workplace would look like being able to bring your whole self to the office and being comfortable to be your true self.
Fadzi shared an analogy of baking a cake to describe the definitions. The ingredients are the diversity (flour, water, eggs are different products). The inclusion is making them work together in a recipe. The end product is the belonging. Equality would be to treat the ingredients the same, which we cannot do, because we must treat milk in a different way (storing it in the fridge), than we do flour. Equity is about understanding the different characteristics of the ingredients. No ingredient is more important than the other, but we sometimes need equitable approaches.
How can we change the system?
JJ answered: “Systemic change requires us to look past our initial ideals and beliefs. When you are looking through those, they can be very blinding and limiting. Looking through the current social, political or corporate systems, I don’t think they are broken, I just don’t think they ever worked! It is us as humans that is broken. We have new freedoms and choices in abundance. History shows that when humans receive new freedoms and choices, while they want to create innovation, they often create chaos. We all want change, and we all looking at how to do it, but we are looking at it at a people perspective only. We need to look at it broader, at the outcomes we want to achieve. We need to look at the world on a number of different views – environmentally, technologically, economically, politically, legally.”
How can hiring managers focus on diversity and inclusivity?
Ingrid shared that Microsoft are challenging the traditional hiring process. “We are trying to screen in as opposed to screen out. We are challenging the notion of “best candidate” by focusing on screening in. When you recruit for a role, you recruit for a team and a business. It’s not just about what they bring to a role, but they may bring to the entire ecosystem. When you think about employee referral schemes, you need to be careful to bring in new perspectives. And you should deliberately select different people across the business with different experiences when hiring. Challenge hiring managers on shortlists when hiring. Challenge the criteria of a role – try and be expansive.”
What is unconscious bias and how can we overcome it?
Fadzi shared that unconscious bias is about our brains making automatic and quick judgments. “We need to recognise that its biological to make short quick judgments. But when we start acting on those things it can be a huge problem. When we start to favour or discriminate based on this, it can become conscious or unconscious bias.
It’s so important to understand the way different biases play out, particularly in the hiring process. Affinity bias is when we show bias to people who are similar to us. Likewise, confirmation bias is when we look for evidence that backs our initial opinion. Fadzi added, “All of us tend to have some form of bias because of the way our brains are wired. I hate that we hit people over the head with this term, and want to send them off to unconscious bias training, without recognising that we all have some form of bias. We just need to work through recognising what group of bias we sit in. The only way we can move through this is with interruption. COVID-19 is the perfect example of how this is playing out. Just think of the way people thought about remote working not being possible.
Ingrid shared a practical way approach unconscious bias. “If you feel uncomfortable or out of your comfort zone interviewing someone or talking to someone in a meeting, we encourage you to challenge yourself. Is it because there’s a difference? Challenge yourself as to why you are feeling that way.”
How can leaders build diverse and inclusive teams?
According to Fadzi, the end goal should always be to create a sense of inclusion and belonging. “Just bringing diverse people in won’t solve your diversity problem and create an inclusive business.”
Fadzi suggested that leaders should model this behaviour outside the workplace with an inclusive circle of friends and contacts. “You need to live it yourself. Go back to yourself before trying to fix the team. The vision of diversity won’t cut it. You need to work out why its’ important to you, what you want to signal. If you’re doing it because it looks good and you want people to think a certain way, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it at all.”
JJ added that we need to understand the perspectives of those we are trying to attract. “I don’t think we give leaders the right tools. We need to understand how people got to the point of perceiving you or your business a certain way. We have to look at perspective – emotional, logical, disassociated, associated. You need to stand in all four squares to understand the problem you are enduring.
How can we be better allies?
Fadzi said that it starts with creating space for healing and recognising the power of representation. “As a community, we are born in trauma because of the stories we hear from our parents. Don’t dismiss it and say that it’s not important. Being a true ally is not just saying that you don’t have racist thoughts. Being an anti-racist is about being a co-agitator. You must stand up and look for proactive things to dismantle racism. Validate the experiences of others. And don’t be defensive. No one is expecting you to solve these systemic problems. What we want to see in a workplace from leaders is an acknowledgment that there is pain; and be given the opportunity to have conversations and heal. Recognise that in the past we haven’t had fair and equitable opportunities to feel a sense of belonging.”
Fadzi referenced the example of Australia achieving marriage equality when allies came together. “We won’t overcome bias unless we are all in the room working together. We need each other to fight the systems. To acknowledge and take action, whether its listening or creating opportunities. Don’t be a bystander.”
How can you create a culture of inclusivity in the workplace?
Pip answered: “Inclusion has conjured up ideas of grand actions, but it’s the smaller actions that have impact. ‘I go where I am invited, but I stay where I am welcomed’. It’s not just about bringing diverse talent into the company, but about having a culture where everyone feels they belong.” We must give time and space to allow people to understand each other’s lived realities.
“Leaders cast a long shadow. If the quest is to build an inclusive workplace culture, and the tone from the top is not right, you’re going to struggle. You should lean in to where you fail as much as celebrating when you see inclusivity in action. It’s about how leaders act in that moment that matters. Leaders are absolutely critical to creating the cultural environment of courageous conversations.
How can we unlearn behaviours and stereotypes and educate ourselves to be more open and inclusive?
As an expert in this area, JJ shared the five things you must overcome to make any kind of change.
- You must be able to spell past as passed. If you are emotionally caught up, you can never fully change.
- We have an aversion to confrontation, but the only way you get stronger is by confronting things.
- You need to learn to ally with pain and fear. We have been drumming those words down and focusing on being so positive, at the expense of the lessons you get from pain and fear. When you teach someone to embrace these things, you get different outcomes
- You have to understand that there is no future for yourself unless you create new patterns for yourself.
- You need to realise that you’re going to need to fulfil your own personal obligation of investing time, energy, thought and focus on understanding and improving your own mind, body, spirit and world. That’s really all you can change if you take responsibility, and that’s how you will bring inclusivity to the world.
What can we do in our homes to encourage inclusivity and fairness in our kids?
Fadzi shared the common experience of seeing a parent in public scolding a toddler or child whose interest had been piqued by someone with darker skin or with a physical disability. “Don’t scold them about noticing these things,” she said. “In this politically correct world, we’ve lost the ability to have conversations”
Fadzi’s advice was to create a safe environment where kids can be curious, because that’s where they learn. Being honest and authentic as parents is key to this.
“It’s also important to recognise what our own biases and opinions are, and not pass these onto our kids. When we’re in the homes, it’s about making kids understand that people are so diverse. We have no control over so many factors of our diversity, so the values that we have in our home become extremely important.”
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