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I have always felt that diversity is a little bit like marmite. It is one of those topics that either intrigues you, or makes you want to roll your eyes.

Whether you like it or not (and I suspect you do or are at least curious to find out what the fuss is all about) it’s a hot topic right now.

It’s a powerful enabler for growth, yet is so often misunderstood and overlooked. There is so much research that proves diversity is good for business, creativity, innovation and to outperform competitors. So many underestimate the power and opportunity diversity brings by not taking it seriously and end up falling short.

Why do we underestimate the power of diversity?

…Bias and fear.

Fear of causing offense, getting it wrong, saying the wrong thing. The fear perception, of what others might think if your business “needs help with diversity”. The fear of what you might uncover when you start exploring and confronting biases in the workplace.

In brief, bias means inclination or prejudice for or against one person or a group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. Therefore, unconscious biases are social stereotypes we hold about certain groups of people that we form outside of our own conscious awareness. People often believe they don’t hold bias or prejudice, that ONLY ‘cruel’ people do. This is a myth. It is not about being a good or bad person. It is about self-awareness. If you are human you 100% have bias.

Bias affects who we trust, who we like and who we fear. It also affects who we hire, who we promote and who we think are more capable. In an instant bias affects the way we behave around each other in relationships, in the workplace and beyond.

Not knowing what individual and collective biases are can lead to poor retention, difficulty diversifying client and consumer base, homogenous brand aesthetics, a general culture of feeling unsafe in the workplace. At worse, collective biases that normalise discrimination can lead to institutionalised racism in the entire industries.

Fear is not an ingredient for growth, it keeps us comfortable and comfort leads to complicity.

If you think you should feel comfortable doing this work you are mistaken and any diversity efforts will fall short and you run the risk of tokenising.

The gateway to successful diversity, unlocking the power and enjoying the opportunity and sustainability it brings, is transparency and honesty and that comes with discomfort. You cannot grow without growing pains.

Successful diversity and inclusion form the core part of business values; it is an ongoing journey and if we are doing it well it should stretch us. Diversity goes beyond policy. Policy on its own is not enough, it’s in the people, in the culture of your organisation and in the individuals you hire and the customers you serve. You can’t improve inclusion without tackling individual bias and mindset change first. And that starts at the top down.

If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not listening and you’re definitely not progressing.

Are you ready to lead by example and have the courage to get out of your comfort zone to role model better inclusion?

By Nova Reid

Diversity Consultant, Inspirational Speaker and Anti-Racism Educator

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