Is Diversity off the Business Agenda?

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Is there a move to a lack of focus on Diversity & Inclusion in companies or is it a new working world with a level playing field for all?

I’ve heard a lot of chat and comments about businesses taking their focus off diversity and inclusion in their organisations at this time. If that is true it, then maybe these businesses were not serious in the first place? When a business is built with a top down culture of true inclusive leadership it is ingrained in its beliefs and so will never leave the core of their actions although I appreciate that at a time where retaining people’s job and worlds is a priority everything else slides down the list of priorities.

I believe there is deeper movement at play here, something much bigger around what the working world looks like after Covid19 and what that means for the individual? Can we build a human centric workforce that gets the best from everyone and resets the rule book?

We have currently been forced to work from home, something many of us were told would be impossible to do in our roles but it turns out we can do it successfully in most cases. I agree that forced working can at times be unproductive, for me trying to set up a Minecraft realm and making lunch, whilst marking maths school work and talking about a fund raise for a large technology business come with challenges. I’ve had the days I am winning but also the deeply dark days of despair and loneliness and yes, I have cried on a call.

BUT – What about when we are no longer forced to work from home, what happens next?

Social distancing says we can’t all go back to the office, transport says we can’t all get their safely anyway. Do we all want to go back to a 9 – 5 existence? And I say that tongue in cheeky because it isn’t those office hours we lose, it’s in my case as a single mum the chase of getting a child fed, dressed and clean for 7.45am, by which time I need to be “office ready” and prepared for the day. Even if I leave the office at 7.45am I won’t be at my desk till 9am after the drop offs, and I won’t see my son again until 6pm when I am the last mum to make it to after school club. We’ll rush home to eat at a reasonable time, read, bath and get him to bed at its 8.30pm… Better check my emails???

That isn’t 9 -5pm really is it? It’s 12 hours of nonstop activity without little time to be creative, supportive, a friend, a mother, a lover… Is that cycle inclusive for all? Does that work for all humans, all walks of life? I don’t think so…

So let’s think of post covid, a bank based in Yorkshire,( a more traditional industry) has said its going to have 80% of its workforce home based until further notice, Facebook are actually advertising their first fully remote working full time senior Technology roles, I know I won’t be back in the office more than the odd few days this year… Are we going to move from forced home working to a new more flexible model that by definition works for more of us as so is in fact by design inclusive ?

It’s currently 8am, (on a work day) and I am sat in the sunshine in my back garden, writing down my thoughts. I’d currently be sat in traffic now, probably on a call but today I have time back to think. Time to be present and create. After this I am going to write the strategy document I have dreamt about delivering for months but have never had the time.

I can work now to fit in with my life, I choose to work the same hours but get back 4 hours a day, some days I get in a run, something I had envied for a long time of others.

I get to take 3 meals a day with my son during lockdown, 3 conversations, 3 meaningful interactions that I could never have found time for before this pandemic.

So… to take women or lead parents as a starting point, as we head towards this new normal and children go back to school, do we have a level playing field? If there is an event, can we just dial in like everyone else? Can mothers and father make those evening meetings or breakfast briefing online without shame, because it is normal? Can we choose to plan our day around our loved ones and ourselves and have that freedom and space to think and not react, can we too be equal at the table?

Can the old boys club even survive in the new virtual world? because some of these guys really aren’t that IT literate. 😊

But does this go further than gender? I talk a lot with friends who own technology businesses and they are keen to say that those who may never have been a natural leader in a face to face world have stepped forward virtually and are bringing a new dynamic to teams, many of them bring inclusive leadership. For those who are neurodivergent feeling that they can operate freely without the boundaries they face in the complicated world of the office? They are not set free to work in a way that works for them?

Does it even mean that the rise of the online interview creates that you can’t be judged by your weight if someone only see’s you head and shoulders? Is there less barrier to entry for junior members of the team who had socioeconomic struggles and may be held back from attending an office-based interview, for the cost of travel, clothing etc?

Does the world we move in to offer a working world for “the individual?” are we all humans with our own personal requirements and that we tear up the HR contracts and start again? Build a flexible offering that adapts with us as we grow and change, because I think as creatures of habit sometimes we forget, just because we have done it one way for a long time doesn’t mean it is the best way… we can step out of the rat race.

So, I come back to my question, are we building a better working world for all with D&I at the heart? have we all learnt a little more about each other? Have we as humans regained some compassion as we peek around each other’s kitchens, meeting each other children and pets and see inside our colleagues and clients lives and sometimes their struggles?

I guess we can only wait and see if we take these lessons onboard, if we as employees walk with our feet from those businesses who don’t change. Let’s all remember that the future of a diverse world is in all our hands.

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