Drop the Business Case for Diversity, Please

In a dark grey bubble on the left with white text reads the title of the blog. On the right hand side is a photo of Jonah in a colourful top and black top hat in front of a yellow background.

Two years ago I took a leap of faith and traded my career in accounting to pursue work that was more aligned with my heart. You can now find me as a Workplace Belonging Advisor & Facilitator in Kjipuktuk, Halifax.

What I’ve learned in my work at P4G, is that there is no point in recruiting people to organizations where they don’t feel like they belong.

Where people are met daily with offhand comments, aggressive or downright racist and discriminatory acts. Places where they don’t feel welcome and certainly don’t feel safe.

I know many in the business community are eager to begin or continue their journey to becoming more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive.

In this video from the SURGE conference hosted by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, I cut to the core of what can prevent meaningful diversity, equity and belonging work in the first place. You can also keep reading for a summarized version of my insights.

Take a moment to reflect on why diversity, equity and inclusion work is important to you.

  • Are you doing it because you’ve been told to do it?
  • Maybe you’ve heard that diversity is important and that a more diverse workplace allows us to capture new innovations and solutions?
  • Maybe you want to gain more customers, and make more money by appealing to a more diverse clientele?
  • Do you want to take advantage of the business case for diversity and inclusion?

I can appreciate the business case for diversity, but if that’s the reason you are doing the work, I need to challenge you. It might be preventing your organization from fostering human-centric change.

If you are here because you’ve been told diversity, equity and inclusion “makes good business sense” or is good for your reputation, I need you to dig a little deeper.

You see, there was also once a business case for feeding enslaved people twice a day. It was simple math, if you fed people more, they worked harder, and you got more out of the resources on your plantation. It made good business sense. 

If the notion of that business case makes you uncomfortable, good. It makes me uncomfortable too.   

You don’t need a business case when you value humans, human life, and dignity. 

When we talk about diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, we need to talk about what we value. 

We need to talk about what kind of society we want to live in and how we want that society to treat its citizens. 

When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion within the context of your organization, we are talking about your employees, your customers, and the suppliers you work with. We are talking about your neighbours, the people with whom you share space and community. 

This work starts with a personal journey, one that requires each of us to reflect and examine our worldview, to consider our personal circumstances and our privileges, and how they contribute to workplace belonging (or lack of).

We then move from personal reflection to considering our systems and institutions, who made them and who benefits from them? – and even more importantly, who do they not include, and who do they further marginalize?

100 years from now, I hope your organization or business is still in business.

You should think about what kind of story they will tell about you and your organization. For example, what would the history books say? 

Are they going to be talking about your business case?

Diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion is not a goal to achieve; it’s a way of being

It might take a while to start to notice the puzzle pieces of workplace belonging as you adjust your way of observing and thinking about your organization’s systems, structures and processes. But, as you do, you’ll also see opportunities to adjust those systems to make meaningful changes. Changes that reflect the kind of society you want to live in. 

As you continue to explore the ways you can make your organization more inclusive and human-centered, I encourage you to have your why front and center. Feel free to share your thoughts and reflections on this blog with us, in the comments below!

And if your curiosity is peaked, dig a little deeper with us here: One of the most common questions we get asked at P4G. And why we don’t recommend starting there

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