The current political climate has many questioning the future for those who are often marginalized. Many diversity and inclusion practitioners may even view their role as less significant and threatened as a result of the newly elected commander in chief. The work of inclusion is complex enough. Having a president-elect whose actions and words left many feeling vulnerable creates frustration, and can compromise the mission of establishing acceptance and equality for all. What we must ask ourselves now is how can the outcome of this election work to our favor? I believe it’s to our benefit and see the election results as an opportunity. Through this historic election, we have been presented with a chance to work even harder to more effectively shift the paradigm of inclusion from one of obligation to one of opportunity. Some of the best solutions to social complex issues have come as a result of a crisis situation causing many stakeholders to become involved in instituting change. My hope is that the election outcome will spark urgency for those of us in the discipline of diversity and inclusion to refocus. And for those who do not carry the D&I title, my hope for you is that you will also find it necessary to get in formation to ignite greater inclusion in your respective organization and circles of influence.
Early in my career as a D&I practitioner, one of my mentors (also in the discipline) shared with me that the longevity of a D&I officer is typically around the five-year mark before it’s probably time to transition. The notion is that if a D&I officer is effective, he or she has most likely challenged the status quo multiple times, instituted about as much change as the organization can stand, and may have made some people uncomfortable. This often leads to the officer transitioning from the organization (sometimes willfully and other times not). But, in the end, that officer can rest well at night knowing that he or she was effective in making a difference. Diversity and inclusion is all about change and change management. We must ask ourselves as D&I professionals, how do we effectively manage the change and still get the results we seek. Here are four essential practices to not only survive, but thrive as a D&I practitioner in today’s society post-election.
- Stop avoiding the leaders who don’t believe in the D&I mission. You must find a way to get the skeptics involved in the work. Most often, the reason the skeptics don’t see the value of diversity and inclusion is because they view it as activity that will eventually take something away from them. Find a way to seek those leaders out and engage them in the process.
- Stop shaming, condemning or manipulating leaders to do the work of diversity and inclusion. This will backfire and is counterproductive. Remember, you are trying to shift behaviors and attitudes. You can’t guilt someone to do the work of diversity and inclusion without it negatively impacting the outcome. The goal is to get leaders to engage in diversity and inclusion because of, and not in spite of. D&I practitioners have a much better chance of influencing leaders through knowledge, strategic thinking, and a strong narrative around the business case for diversity and inclusion.
- Start treating inclusion as a leadership function. Being inclusion-minded must be treated as a leadership attribute that is not only encouraged, but expected. This means that organizations must stop treating the work of D&I as the responsibility of the diversity officer only, but rather as a mandate for every person in the organization. Regardless of your title, if you consider yourself a leader (a person of influence) you must become inclusion-minded and begin to exercise intentionality in doing your individual part in creating an inclusive environment.
- Start reminding yourself daily of the why behind the work of inclusion. We must renew our commitment to the work so that we can continue to fight the good fight. Leverage small wins to build momentum, but recognize that a single victory is not enough to sustain the work of D&I. Create a series of actions that can help build your confidence, speed, and power.
About the Author
Dr. Nika White is the Greenville Chamber's Vice President
of Diversity & Inclusion.