Are We at a Tipping Point for Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion training has increased, results are stagnant

We are at a real crossroads on diversity and inclusion.  At the same time many Fortune 500 organizations have proclaimed to be deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, offer diversity training programs, and encourage employee resource groups to support inclusion, we are still seeing very little progress on diversity metrics and representation.

Critical Mass Theory 

Critical mass Theory suggests that when we have as much as 30% of the population represented that group is seen more as an influential body.  This is important to the diversity and inclusion conversation because once we have 30% representation of the leadership team being diverse, identifying as women or people of color perhaps, people start to feel like they’re part of the group even if they’re unique. 

That is also why it is challenging to only have one or two diverse candidates in a hiring process.  They are often seen as tokens of diversity.  Same goes for a leadership team.  If there is only one or even two women or people of color, they often feel isolated and like the “only.”  Their differences are more likely to be pointed out and they’re less likely to feel a sense of belonging in the group.  They don’t see themselves reflected. 

Currently, Corporate America is led by 92%+ white males and most C-suites hover around 20% diverse representation.  Yet, these numbers have been stagnant for many years.  What will it take to reach a tipping point?  Getting those numbers closer to 30% critical mass.  Getting the 80% majority to help support others in leadership.

Your Customers and Employees Want Diversity

Most people believe in equality.  In a variety of polling over time, most people when asked support diversity and inclusion.  Most people want to do positive things.  Most people want to influence positive change. They just don’t know what to do or what to say to signal to others that they want to be supportive.

This means now is the time for allies. People that believe in diversity and inclusion yet feel like it’s not there cause to support. That somehow because they’re white or cisgender or straight or able-bodied or a man that somehow their opinion doesn’t matter. That’s simply not true. to reach critical mass we need the people that want to help to be able to help. But we’ve got to make it easier for them to engage in the conversation.

Focus on the Magic Middle

While leadership teams are generally white male, so are the middle layers of most organizations.  Roughly two-thirds of middle managers identify as white male.  I call this the magic middle.  As we sit now, it is more often the frozen middle with regards to diversity and inclusion.  Many mid-level managers that are of the majority group don’t feel like they are “diverse.”  They are fearful of joining the conversation.  It doesn’t feel like something that’s for them.  Diversity training and employee resource groups sometimes feel like they are against them.  

What will it take to engage the magic middle? 

Education + awareness = less discrimination and more inclusion

I facilitate a Lead Like an Ally diversity and inclusion training with middle managers.  It teaches them the skills to engage in the conversation.  Tools like vulnerability, empathy, and emotional intelligence can help people understand how they need to show up with curiosity instead of having all the answers. Rarely do allies have the magic bullet solution to the diversity problem.  It’s more important that they listen, invite different perspectives, ensure inclusive behavior in meetings. 

Inclusive leaders get better outcomes from their team too. Inclusive leadership helps leaders be better leaders.  It makes sense for business.  People need tools to lead inclusively.  It doesn’t have to be so hard for people to learn about supporting others that are different than themselves. 

If you liked this post, check out my Next Pivot Point podcast.  We have over 100 interviews with diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders all over the world.  Be an ally and leave a review on Google Podcasts – it helps other allies find it.