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equality, inclusion and diversity

Human Resources

Championing justice: How your organization can ensure its EI&D strategy is on the right side of history

Published 6 September 2021 in Human Resources • 5 min read

Organizations can impact equality, inclusion and diversity (EI&D) through collaboration with a broad base of stakeholders. Such partnerships can have far-reaching effects, from transforming organizational culture to benefitting wider societies and nations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” As individuals, societies and nations continue to push for increased social and political justice across the globe, business too must play its role. By implementing robust EI&D strategies in-house and broadening collaborative efforts to include community-led, grassroots activist movements, organizations can ensure their presence across global territories is actively engaged in improving representation and justice across all their spheres of influence.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to lay bare stark societal and health inequities across continents, a new generation of global solidarity movements have come to the fore. Seeded in response to a rise in far-Right politics, racism and homophobia, these movements have effectively leveraged the power of technology to collaborate and campaign transnationally. From Black Lives Matter to the #MeToo movement, their influence and reach has been unprecedented.

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Black Lives Mater and #MeToo protests around the world

Against such a political and societal backdrop, organizations could be at the forefront of positive change through accelerating their EI&D strategies. Progressive demands from a broad range of stakeholders, from employees to shareholders, customers to suppliers, are calling for business leaders, to not only fortify and refresh EI&D commitments in-house, but also to leverage their multinational platforms in active support of marginalized communities in the territories where they operate.

The moral case underpins the business case

In terms of an organization’s internal culture, an EI&D strategy has significant repercussions on the lived experience of the workforce. Data tells us that having to ‘mask’ oneself daily to colleagues for fear of negative career repercussions takes its toll on mental and physical health. An LGBTQ+ staff member feeling unable to ask for parental leave or a person of color (PoC) fearing that their dress code or religious beliefs will be ridiculed or met with hostility leads to an organizational atmosphere of fear and tacit bullying. As such, the moral case must be central to any EI&D strategy and every organization should collaborate and co-create policy and process that actively minimizes such workplace tensions for all employees.

However, those corporations that accelerate their EI&D efforts – both in-house and externally – also impact their sustainability, brand, and inclusiveness in positive ways. Productivity is shown to increase when employees no longer have to ‘mask’ themselves to colleagues daily; as a natural consequence of that ease, staff turnover decreases as the working environment becomes more inclusive. Over the past decade research has repeatedly proven that organizations that are diversely populated enjoy a stronger performance over those that don’t .

‘mask’ themselves to colleagues daily
“Data tells us that having to ‘mask’ oneself daily to colleagues for fear of negative career repercussions takes its toll on mental and physical health.”

Robust strategies, engaged alliances

The first steps towards an EI&D strategy that not only meets current needs but can evolve to remain relevant involves a multi-dimensional approach that reaches across the organization. It must continually engage and support collective ownership of EI&D across the business. It must ensure credibility and relevance through partnerships with internal and external stakeholders. It must also commit to organizational governance and oversight. In addition, following the three steps below will ensure that your strategy remains robust.

  1. Engage internal representatives and independent advisors who can inform, direct and champion the EI&D strategy. These partners will ensure the strategy is muscular and in line with current employee needs. Remember: what gets measured, gets done, so apply independently assessed metrics to gauge success over time and to ensure the organizational focus is maintained.

  1. Commit to regular, anonymized employee surveys that seek to reveal the lived experience of diverse communities within the organization. Often, the data gathered elucidates issues that can be addressed and offers leadership teams a vastly different understanding of the inclusivity of their organization to those who are experiencing bias, discrimination, and inequity.

  1. Externally, explore how to leverage the acumen, insight, and support of grassroots activists. Such groups offer a distinct set of research and experience of target groups and present additional support, dialogue, and partnership to accelerate EI&D. Often at the frontline of change, activist groups expose key areas that require immediate attention. They partner with governments, private foundations, and well-established NGOs to accelerate equity and inclusion where it is most needed.

Collaboration is vital

An environment that supports both the professional and personal life of every employee is central to a sustainable EI&D strategy. Organizations that initiate EI&D-focused, collaborative dialogue in-house can spark shifts in both culture and policy to positively impact the daily, lived experience of the workforce.

Furthermore, in our increasingly intertwined and technology-mediated world, collaborative approaches enable powerful insights and, therefore, persuasive movements for change. Through building coalitions with academia, NGOs and grassroots activist organizations to address racism, homophobia, sexism and religious intolerance can inspire wider social transformation, organizations can play a powerful role in driving meaningful change for individuals and societies in turbulent times. 

[1] 1 Nishii, L. H. 2013. The Benefits of Climate for Inclusion for Gender-Diverse Groups. Academy of Management Journal, 56(6): 1754–1774.

Shore, L. M., Cleveland, J. N., & Sanchez, D. 2018. Inclusive workplaces: A review and model. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2): 176–189.

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