Forget Diversity, Equity Is The Goal For Society And Business Alike

Forget Diversity, Equity Is The Goal For Society And Business Alike
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B&T enjoyed a fireside chat with Natalie Burke, CEO of public health organisation CommonHealth Action, and social activist for equity at HubSpot’s Inbound 2016 conference in Boston. Equity is an issue gaining prominence in the US and will be just as pertinent in Australia. Marketers will do well to be across it so they can position their brand as being part of the solution.

“You can have diversity in society, organisations and not have inclusion, or you can have inclusion and not diversity, but you cannot have equity without diversity AND inclusion of all members of society,” Burke asserted as we began our conversation.

Burke’s presentation at Inbound 2016 yesterday was on Privilege. She delivered it a day after America’s flirtation with maintaining white privilege was cemented in the election of Donald Trump. Having not slept a wink, and reflecting on her life as an American daughter of Jamaican immigrants living in NYC in a multi-generational household, she pushed on through to deliver some uncomfortable truths about privilege.

The notion of privilege is a vexed one insomuch that those who experience it and enjoy it, naturally want to hang on to it, but the flip side is when one group is privileged, another is oppressed. How do organisations improve their diversity, inclusion and equity while convincing those who are privileged of the benefits? Privilege is a problem when it keeps us out of relationships with people who are unlike us. Residential segregation is an example of this. How can you possibly even know what someone who is poorer experiences when you don’t even see them in the neighbourhood streets, schools or shops?

Burke describes privilege as  “never having to explain to your child how to survive being stopped by a police officer. Privilege is never having to discuss your sexual attractions or correct your gender pronoun. Privilege is feeling physically safe regardless of where you are walking or what you are wearing. It is never being asked what country you are from even though you were born in the United States. It is not having to explain your religious holidays and knowing they are legally observed. Privilege is knowing your rights were written into the original version of the Constitution, not retrofitted as an amendment, and they can’t ever be threatened or overturned.”

In 2015 McKinsey released a study, Diversity Matters, which found that apart from the social and enriching benefits an equitable and inclusive society brings, from a business perspective leaders who use an equity lens in all their decisions and in how they run their companies are significantly more likely to perform better financially.

Equity Lens

Equity Lens

Below are Burke’s six things you can do right now to crank up your equity lens and help you to broaden your perspectives for your brands, clients, customers, friends, family, your country, the world.

  1. Identify why equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is valuable to you personally (NOW). You need to do a little self-reflection. Think about the role that diversity plays or doesn’t play in your personal life. In what three ways does it add value to your life? If it doesn’t play a role, what are you missing? If everyone around you is just like you, trust me  – you have yet to tap into important parts of your humanity.
  1. Identify your social identities and write them down. Social Identity is how you view yourself based on the groups (such as age, race, gender, class, physical ability, religion, education and so on) to which you belong. What are your identities?
  1. Assess your personal networks. What does your personal network say about the value you place on diversity? Is there anything you can and will do to diversify your most personal, authentic relationships? Make a plan. Be specific. Tell someone your plan as a way to hold yourself accountable. Then connect in a real way with someone who is different than you and different than anyone in your current network.
  1. Take the IAT (WITHIN 7 DAYS). The Implicit Association Test measures attitudes and bias you have based on the social identities. The IAT is free and available online. Identifying your unconscious biases is the first step to being conscious and aware of them and ensuring your decisions, behaviours and actions are never a victim of them.
  1. Identify your privilege. Privilege and oppression reflect how society assigns disparate value to all of us based on social identities and how we, consciously or unconsciously, assign value to ourselves.
  1. Leverage your privilege. People with privilege are uniquely positioned to be heard, acknowledged and believed by others with power and privilege. You can assume risks that others without your privilege can’t afford to take. Deal with people who share your privilege. Talk about it. Explore it. Challenge it. Use your privilege to call into question inequities and bias. Regularly consider who experiences the benefits and burdens of what you do in the world. Then, dare to co-opt systems, question the status quo, and use your super powers for good  – because make no mistake, privilege is a super power!

As human beings, we are hard wired for fairness and the neuroscientists have evidence to prove this. A world that is equitable is one we all want to live in. Isn’t that what a democracy is supposed to give us?

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