Is it just an alphabetical anomaly or does it have more to do with social justice warrior types along with identity politics and intersectional victimhood pushers who seem to be more interested in trying to right historical wrongs at all costs and without thought to what they may unleash in a population that on the whole have done nothing wrong and who in the main will have nothing to do with people who do.
In their rush to be able to tag themselves as being committed to diversity most organisations completely and utterly ignore inclusion. While they are writing policies and procedures to ensure they meet the requirements of diversity they ignore the people within their own organisations and the impact that they will have on them. They are no longer talking about recruitment and promotion based on merit, only to recruitment and promotion based on group identity and under-representation. Anyone who thinks that companys will only look at group identity and under-representation when they have equality qualified and experienced candidates are deluding themselves. Diversity is now the king; those targets must be met and organisations will do anything to see that they do. Failure is not an option in todays politically charged setting.
Organisations aren’t helped with this by the professionals they employ to help them understand what is required of them. Part of this is down to the professionals and professional associations who are promoting Diversity and Inclusion or by the government who keep moving goal posts in knee jerk reactions to the latest bit of research produced by one lobbying group or another. The professions and their professional bodies are too invested in it both professionally and financially to look at the research coming out that undermines their position.
A recent report commissioned by CIPD Diversity Management That Works reads like the conclusions and recommendations were written first and then the researchers went out and found the evidence that supports them. The methodology used is far too subjective for it to really have any real validity or veracity.
“We decided to investigate workforce diversity practices applying the principles of evidence-based practice and bringing together the different forms of D&I evidence. At the heart of this study is the concept of co-creation with real practitioners. By working closely with people professionals, we bring a new level to our analysis to build recommendations that are not only research-based, but also relevant to practice. The result of this collaboration and knowledge exchange is a rich and powerful collection of insights that illuminate the scope of the challenge and plot a path forward for practitioners working today.”
In effect they were asking those who have both professional and financial investment in diversity as to how they believed it was working in practice.
I also note that the Inclusion side of it was to a point completely ignored. The foreword notes that “there might be a lack of available inclusion expertise. Often the nature of the inclusion problem itself just isn’t well understood, and without enough information about the problem, it’s almost impossible to implement an effective solution.”
That admission in of itself should tell us that the whole Diversity and Inclusion agenda isn’t really about Inclusion at all, because it seems there has been no emphasis or will to go down that path. I would suggest the reason that there is lack of expertise in the inclusion side of D & I is because everything has been driven by those in the diversity bubble.
The report and the article in People Management that launched it Unconscious bias training ‘has no sustained impact’ on behaviour by Siobhan Palmer, almost immediately goes to unconscious bias being the need for Diversity and Inclusion. It is and it isn’t. The article does go on to point out that unconscious bias training has little or no effect on changing culture or behaviours. I and others have been saying this for a number of years. Some, myself included, have also been stating that far too often the way this training is designed and implemented is more likely to have a negative effect on those receiving the training whether they be in management or not. Diversity and unconscious bias training more than any other training is mandatory. The reasons given are far too often slanted “Your unconscious bias makes you potentially a discriminator in one way or another so to get rid of that you need to go on this training.”
There is a big problem with this approach and that is you have already accused your managers and workforce of being some sort of discriminator, whether or not they know it or whether or not those unknown biases manifest themselves in behaviour. Most of the discriminatory behaviour I have come across during my working life hasn’t been as a result of unconscious bias, but out right discriminatory views held by a very few, in various levels of management. It can be observed in lower level employees but this in my experience has been less and the manifestation in actual behaviour has been extremely low and quickly dealt with. This type of behaviour isn’t going to be altered by UB training or D & I policies and procedures, all that will happen is that those who have those biases will keep quiet about holding them.
If anything the results of unconscious bias training suggest that if anything such training is negative in that some of the participants that have gone through such training are more likely to have overt bias against other groups because they have been forced to sit through training being told that unconsciously they were already slightly racist, slightly sexist etc. Unconscious bias training is in of itself divisive and the more often people have to sit through it because of some box ticking requirement brought about by some D & I policy and procedure the more likely the resentment will grow.
The report in section six talks about Diversity training and it is at this point that the report lost any value to me as a HR practitioner. It states:
“Unconscious bias training (or UBT) involves teaching people about the psychological processes behind prejudice and why we are all biased, and techniques that can be used to reduce it. Assessments of people’s prejudice, for example the implicit association test (IAT), are also sometimes used as a way of highlighting bias.”
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been well and truly debunked to the point that one of the three psychologists Anthony Greenwald PhD; Brian Nosek PhD and Mahzarin Banaji PhD, of Harvard whose work produced the most commonly used IAT test has disassociated themselves from the group and the others are now saying that it is unreliable as a single test. In fact, it is unreliable as a diagnostic test.
There is a rule for diagnostic tests and that is the test re-test reliability has to exceed 0.8 the IAT comes back at being approximately 0.5. Nowhere near reliable enough to be considered valid. It doesn’t matter when the test is taken, the subjects results are likely to be skewed by what is happening in their life and society as a whole at the time the test is undertaken. If they were to undertake the test again, knowing what the results of the first test, subjects themselves are likely to change their answers to change the original results. What is most damming of all is that there is no evidence that it actually predicts behaviour.
That being the case, what use is it at all in assessing the level of unconscious bias we all have and what use is it in developing both diversity and unconscious bias training?
My own thoughts are that if you prioritise Inclusion and make that the driving force for change then diversity will follow quickly behind it. Not only that, it will stop dead in its tracks the tribalism that is starting to gain momentum. The narrative peddled by the promotors of identity politics and intersectional victimhood is that if you don’t agree with what we say, what we want etc then you are against us and should be vilified, lose your job, never be able to work again etc. Labelled as misogynists, racists, homophobes and an ever-growing number of labels these groups want to pin on people for purely questioning their views and actions both violent and non-violent.
We cannot increase diversity and inclusion by alienating majority groups. We will not increase purely by introducing quotas, targets whatever you want to call them. #MeToo was a great movement to highlight the sexual abuse of women in the entertainment industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. However, it has overstepped the mark. Those who headed the organisation went from highlighting actual cases with plenty of evidence to going after any man in a position of power regardless of whether or not there was evidence to back those allegations. “The victim must be believed” mentality that the case of Brett Kavanaugh highlights all to well. This is what happens when a group opposed to another group uses and used uncorroborated accusations against a person, not so much because they actually believed the accusation but because the “victim must be believed” narrative allowed them to redirect their political hatred of one man on to another.
I have said it before the present focus on Diversity is decisive and exclusionary in its methodology and action. It is following the same path as that sort by the pushers of identity politics and intersectional victimhood in that it is not just looking to change the future, which of course it should, but constantly tries to justify other actions it wants taken and are being taken because in the distant past one group treated another group badly.
We need to shift the focus. We need to develop inclusion expertise and experts so that the changes that are necessary in our organisations and society as a whole benefits. There are already experts in inclusion within the education system who are driving inclusive practices within all our schools however I see little evidence that any one or any organisation has taken it to the next step and that is to bring it into the world of work. What happens when our children who have come through our education system knowing and living in an inclusive environment enter the world of work where none of it actually happens. What is going to happen to those children who have benefited from such inclusive practice find that because organisations have been too engrossed with diversity, they don’t know how to be inclusive and wouldn’t know where to start. What you have is an inclusive educational system and an exclusionary work system.
Yes we have all these rules that organisations must provide x, y, z to help those who have protected characteristics and these organisations will do just that, only what is required by law.
Organisations and society need to move on from diversity and put money, time and effort into research and development of inclusion as a subject. We need to develop people who will undertake this research. Let’s be honest, it’s going to have to start in academia, businesses already dealing with new laws and societal pressure around increasing diversity are unlikely at this time, to have either the time, money or inclination to do this. Diversity is the easier subject to research, the data is readily available or easy to produce, the questions are easy to formulate and the answers are easy to calculate. It will not be easy to do this in respect of inclusion because inclusion and feeling included is more to do with feelings than facts, emotions than statistics and perceptions. Do I feel included? Do I feel valued? Does my belonging to this or that minority group hold me back? Does not belonging to a specific minority group hold me back?
There is now anecdotal evidence that these pushes towards increasing diversity are starting to cause resentment within the different groups of those possessing protected characteristics themselves as well as those who aren’t. It is starting to increase fractures within these groups and where they fall on the intersectional victimhood scale.
Now more than ever we need to look to inclusion and developing it as far as we possibly can. Even then it won’t be perfect, but then again no system ever is. That said, if we don’t start now, the tribalism that is growing as competing minority groups scream and shout at each other that they are more of a victim than the others are. That only our views matter and if you do not agree you are x, y or z label will have serious implications for our organisations and society as a whole. A prime example of this is the growing tension between Womens groups and Trans groups. At the moment this is being played out in society but it will hit our organisations if or when new employment laws are framed around menstruation, menopause and self defining of gender identity, to name but three.
Even if we achieve a fully diverse workplace, it won’t matter if the Inclusion element hasn’t moved on from where it currently is. Inclusion/belonging is what we as humans long for, want more than anything else. If we don’t feel included then what’s the point of achieving diversity?