So Why Focus On Inclusivity, and Not Diversity?

Monica Berg profile

The words “diversity” and “inclusivity” are so often used together that it’s an easy mistake to think they also mean the same –or in fact are the same – when in reality they are two clearly defined subjects not interchangeable. But what is the difference?

Let’s start with diversity, which you can say represents the “what” in this discussion. Most of us understand what diversity is on a superficial level; it is the characteristics and distinctions that identify us – and separate us – such as gender identity, age, nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation – but on a deeper level it also includes socioeconomic background, religion and education, to name a few. At this point in time, I think most businesses would agree that having a diverse team is an asset – regardless of the motivation behind – and in best case studies, you’ll often find that diverse workplaces are considered better to work for, enjoy higher staff retention and also higher revenues.

But, because there is a but, and an important one, you can also have a workplace or an environment that is diverse, with a team from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, and not reap any of those benefits – very often because there is no inclusivity. So what does that mean? Inclusivity is essentially the “how” in this equation. It’s creating and nurturing an environment where people – regardless of differences and backgrounds – feel both welcomed and valued. It’s about developing and accommodating the diverse group of individuals you now employ, encouraging and advancing them on equal terms and with the same opportunities. The tricky part can sometimes be that it also means to change old practices that unfairly benefit only some, or challenge unconscious biases that are inherent in all of us – because as we’ve seen in the past – it’s perfectly possible to be inclusive but not diverse.

If you want to foster inclusivity, it requires not only commitment – it also needs thoughtfulness, understanding and intent. Most importantly, it relies on empathy; the ability to understand someone else’s point of view without the interference of your own. I think this is where the challenge lies for many of us – not because we don’t want to be openminded and inclusive individuals – but because our own insecurities often prevent us from asking for help when we come across topics or problems we don’t fully understand. Especially with sensitive topics, which ironically, are the most important to discuss openly if we want to cultivate positive change. Understanding the distinction between diversity and inclusivity, is to understand the importance of both, and how they equally need our time and commitment. Being different is something we should celebrate, not feel intimidated by, and creating spaces that encourage this is not only important – it is the future.

On an individual level, it means being more self-aware of our own personal biases and keeping them in check. The realization that there are several ways to achieve something is an important lesson to learn, but it can also be a hard lesson to learn.
Progress often comes through trial and error, but in today’s environment, that can sometimes be a rare luxury to come by. On a bigger scale, it means having the courage to ask ourselves the difficult questions around the current status of our industry, and stop making excuses when we realise the answers.

Monica Berg