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Guilty or not Guilty? That is the question…

In a recent article, I made the case for Fairness-based Inclusion Solutions as opposed to Guilt-driven Inclusion Initiatives. The difference in these two approaches can appear to be subtle but the difference in their impact is huge. 

In an understandable bid to right the wrongs of the past, many professional service organisations (the focus of this article) are bending over backwards to show that they have changed or are changing. Their focus is often on generating evidence of such change: typically, through “inclusion initiatives” that set out to redress the balance of disproportionately under-represented minorities in white collar roles. 

Let’s be clear: these efforts come from a good place. But we need to question the extent to which they are examples of “unconscious tokenism” from ‘C’ suites, driven by guilt and a desire to prove that this company ‘cares’, that it is different, in a good way. 

What’s the alternative? I would argue that corporations wishing to do good in this space need to be thinking about long-term initiatives that address underlying barriers and that are truly win-win, i.e. rooted in the interest of both the disenfranchised ethnic minorities and the corporate ‘majority’.

Let’s look at a few examples: 

Recruitment Initiatives

We are seeing more examples of recruitment initiatives that seek to signal a corporation’s commitment to increasing the number of ethnic minority hires and / or source a greater diversity of talent.

But we have to ask: how much of an impact do these measures really make on the underlying issues of inequality and unfairness? To make a real difference such initiatives must be underpinned by more radical, yet breathtakingly simple shifts in policy and corporate solutions. For instance: why not adopt a clear policy that requires job advertisements to openly encourage applications from the minority that the corporation has decided it wants to open up to. 

By encouragement I don’t refer to the empty, generic ‘ we are an equal opportunities employer…’ statement. This clearly hasn’t worked. Rather, why not try something like:

We need a more diverse work force. For this role we are actively encouraging applications from afro-Caribbean candidates as well as from others including [xxxx] who are also under-represented in our organisation.