Let’s not let Brexit taint diversity

Anyone who was not born in the UK is likely to be feeling a little nervous right now.  The disproportionate focus on immigration has tainted the democratic vote to leave the EU.

It has given rise to more overt forms of prejudice and racism – from individuals attacking one another for their religious or political beliefs (how many Facebook/Twitter arguments about Brexit have we seen play out in recent weeks) to a feeling that the UK has run out of ‘patience’ in welcoming people from other countries.

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It’s a source to make more money

We would love to believe that the benefits of having a diverse team boil down to it’s the right thing to do, or a belief that our teams should accurately reflect the society we live in.  The reality is, diversity is just another source of competitive advantage.

As companies expand their products and services to reach customers on a global scale, they are increasingly needing teams that understand the market they are trying to reach.  If you have a team where everyone comes from the same background – be it gender, ethnicity, education – you will miss a vital opportunity to expand your market share.

Having diverse teams makes business sense.

Same, same but different

To tolerate diversity is not the same as embracing it. To embrace diversity means to:

  • Enthusiastically and willingly see the value it adds
  • Accept cultural differences
  • Continually develop a new way of thinking that challenges your traditionally held beliefs about people

Diversity is not just about race or ethnicity.

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Many organisations tolerate diversity. More need to embrace it.

Ask the hard questions

Ensuring you have a respectful and inclusive culture within your business is more than just sending individuals on a one day training course.

Diversity (of thought, action and individuals) needs to be woven into the very fabric of your organisation.  Visualise your team or organisation for a moment.  How would you answer the following questions?

    • Do you have a mix of age, gender, race and ethnicity for example? If you don’t, why?
    • How inclusive are your social networks? Does your business suffer from its own version of the ‘old boys network’ – a social network that tends to reinforce tradition power structures by limiting entry to only those who fulfill the ‘hidden brief’.
    • Have you examined the way decisions are made – do you focus too heavily on the views of a few who all happen to have the same outlook at you?
    • How do you treat your colleagues who are different?  Do you reduce their difference to their nationality, skin colour, gender or culture for example?

In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as racism, discrimination, prejudice or stereotypes however we live in an imperfect world.

I remember working for an organisation years ago that was worried about hiring another black person into my team (I was the only black employee in the Company).  The Director at the time was worried people would think he was making an equal opportunities statement…

Our willingness to examine our own biases (we all have them) is an important step in understanding where our prejudice behaviour stems from and what we need to do differently.

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Our responsibility

There is no point championing diversity if you don’t make individuals feel welcome when they come to your company or join your team.  This sentiment was shared by Suki Sandhu Co-Founder  and CEO of Outstanding – a business dedicated to helping organisation’s find more diverse talent.

Whether your business is ready and willing to go a step further in promoting diversity by setting out a clear strategy and initiatives to support, we cannot underestimate the importance of promoting diversity and inclusiveness in everyday business.  Our companies should not play out the anti-different sentiment that is permeating the political and social landscape at present.

We have a responsibility to remind our teams that we embrace and respect what makes us different but we are all united in a common purpose.

Brexit is a timely reminder.  We’ve got even more work to do.

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