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6 min read

Some reasons why we are still miles away from inclusion

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Depending on whom you speak to, the opinions are many and varied on the reasons we are still miles away from inclusion. Take your pick from sociologists, anthropologists, economists, psychologists, political scientists, historians, or futurists. There are also plenty of academic papers and theoretical books that discuss the causes of inequality and discrimination. So, instead of getting all technical, I'm simply going to share with you in my own words some of the reasons I believe we haven't yet made the strides in bridging the gaps many of us would have liked.

The Ball and Chain of History
You would be hard-pressed to find a Continent or Country that doesn't have a history that underpins key aspects of their national identity and consciousness, cultural norms, and subsequent social issues. North America's history includes the slavery of people kidnapped from the continent of Africa. South Africa implemented racial segregation with apartheid and Nazi anti-Semitism, and the pursuit of supremacy fuelled the murder of an estimated 6 million Jewish people in Germany. There were three decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland as the provisional Irish Republican Army demanded British withdrawal. At least 270 frontier massacres over 140 years occurred in Australia as part of a state-sanctioned and organized attempt to eradicate Aboriginal people. Russia's history is dominated by communism and the government controlling all resources, and the conflict between North Korea and South Korea resulted in 2.5 million people losing their lives. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

The 'ball and chain' of history is heavy. You would have a tough time arguing that the history of slavery in North America is not contributing to the current state of inequity for African Americans. The same goes for Black South Africans or the lingering impact of the holocaust on the world's Jewish population. The unresolved legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland still hangs over them. Australia's indigenous citizens remain heavily discriminated against and are at the bottom of just about every socioeconomic indicator across the country. Russia has reinstated a Soviet-style political monopoly with uncontested governance, and in North Korea, freedom of speech and thought is still a mirage.

The thing with history and its strong ties to deeply held identities (conscious or not) and subsequent social issues, when you are using this as your starting point of reference to try to work out a solution to fix inequities, it becomes an overwhelming, seemingly insurmountable and unsolvable problem. 

Poor Leadership
Leaders of our countries, governing bodies, organizations, and health and education systems are all accountable for setting expectations and leading by example. If inclusion is not a priority for them, it is tough for it to be a priority successfully addressed by others. Leaders are critical to creating a world where everyone is included and a significant contributor to why we are still miles from inclusion. To avoid diving down a rabbit hole and writing a whole thesis here on the role of leadership in inclusion, I'll illustrate with an example supported by data.

Have you heard of the 'Trump Effect'? The Trump Effect was originally defined as an increase in bullying in schools caused by Donald Trump's rhetoric during his presidential campaign throughout 2016. Continuing into Mr. Trump's presidency, the definition of The Trump Effect expanded to include religious and racial bullying by adults as well as: misogyny, sexual assault, and other socially unacceptable behaviors.

To set the scene and illustrate, the following comments are directly extracted from Donald Trump's Twitter account.

August 14, 2018
Speaking about a woman he hired after she spoke up about his racism:
"When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!"

December 8, 2018
About one of his own staff members:
"… didn't have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn't get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell…"

July 14, 2019
In reference to four Democratic congresswomen and African American Rep. Elijah Cummings:
"… originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all)…Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came from..."

These are just three examples of how Trump speaks about his employees and colleagues. There are countless more, not to mention how he talks about other groups of people. But instead of giving his words more airplay, let's now look at the compelling evidence to support the Trump Effect hypothesis. 

It has been shown that Donald Trump's election in November of 2016 was associated with a statistically significant surge in reported hate crimes across the United States, even when controlling for alternative explanations. Further, counties that voted for President Trump by the widest margins in the presidential election also experienced the most significant increases in reported hate crimes. In fact, counties that hosted a Trump campaign rally in 2016 saw hate crime rates more than double compared to similar counties that did not host a rally. Researchers hypothesize that it was not just Trump's inflammatory rhetoric throughout the political campaign that caused hate crimes to increase. Rather, it was Trump's subsequent election as President of the United States that validated this rhetoric in the perpetrators' eyes and fuelled the hate crime surge.

I recognize this is an extreme example, but when you apply this to your own organization, it's not hard to see that a leader demonstrating the 'wrong' kind of behaviors is a guaranteed way to prevent your organization's ability to create an environment where diversity thrives. Our leaders set the tone of our organization and what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. We need authentic leaders, value diversity of thought and contribution, consider the needs of all people, and inspire action toward a greater good. Unfortunately, our leaders under pressure to generate revenue, reduce costs, speed up processes, and increase shareholder returns perceive the effort required to create an inclusive organization as a "nice to have" if there is time.  

The critical and influential role of leaders and the misunderstanding that inclusion is a "nice to have" rather than a business imperative…is another reason we are still miles away from inclusion. 

Activism as a Fight Response
What do you think of when you hear the word 'Activism'? For me, activism conjures images of protests and strikes, hordes of people marching through the streets, and police barricades. While that may not be entirely accurate, activism does tend to be about fighting for a cause. 

By definition, activism is the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one. Activism certainly brings attention to a cause and can spark debate, but it tends to be more combative than collaborative as a behavior. I guess it's understandable because when you are passionate about an issue, and you're frustrated that nothing is being done about it, it's a natural response to get angry and fight for what you believe in. 

But here's the thing, being confrontational in the approach to change is more likely to create more friction and push back. It's human behavior 101. Like when your parents yelled at you not to do something, and you did it anyway (and probably ended up doing it with even greater conviction).

While I'm not suggesting, you have been walking through the floors of your organization with a placard that says "Diversity or Die," we do need first to be cognizant of how diversity and inclusion issues are being played out in society. And how this could be influencing the beliefs of those we are working with. I am grateful to the activists that have raised awareness and sparked the debate up to this point, but activism is not the solution to create rapid change, and that's another reason we are still miles away from inclusion.

Check out part 2 of this blog "The current way of trying to improve diversity"

About the Author:

Dr Liz is the CEO and Co-founder of Include, a behavioral scientist and organizational transformation expert with a career focus on assisting businesses, teams, and individuals to be the best they can be. Now known as ‘The Inclusionist’, Dr Liz is on a mission to create a world where everyone is included. Her innovative, yet pragmatic Include™ approach is creating a global movement of change through the organizations, governments, and institutions we all interact with daily.

Connect with Dr Liz on LinkedIn:

 

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