Diversity, equity and inclusion will remain important as talent shortages continue to be a hot topic. Although many steps have been taken in DEI in recent years, research shows that there is still a long way to go. Experts believe that 2023 will be the year of diversity, equity and inclusion. The fact that all Fortune 100 companies made a public commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in July 2022 supports this view.
The roles of diversity, equity and inclusion leaders
Forty-nine per cent of Fortune 100 companies have gone beyond making a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and have launched a concrete initiative and appointed a leader. So what are the top priorities of DEI leaders?
- Understanding the systemic challenges of both employees and society
- Recognising and creating diversity in the workplace
- Seeking to tackle equity issues, including policies
- Making sure diversity is welcomed
To date, work on diversity, equity and inclusion has generally been a task for the HR department. This situation has not changed in medium-sized companies. The issue of diversity, equity and inclusion is tried to be solved by adding it to the duties of one of the existing specialists. Larger companies, on the other hand, hire managers whose sole job is to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion issues, sometimes under HR, sometimes as a separate unit. A different approach of companies is to have a committee within the company lead this issue, act like a board of directors, elect its own leaders and work in a project management format.
Regardless of the format, diversity, equity and inclusion leaders need to have certain characteristics.
Characteristics of diversity, equity and inclusion leaders
Working on diversity, equity and inclusion requires some competences beyond technical knowledge. As human beings, we all have beliefs and behavioural patterns that come from the society, environment and families we live in. In order to change the beliefs and behavioural patterns within the company, we first need to get rid of our own patterns.
The leadership qualities required for this are listed as follows:
Curiosity is the shortest way to learn and it is also the common characteristic of the most successful leaders. Considering that every leader is also a student, learning by being curious will be the most important advantage of a DEI leader. Being open-minded, curious and respectful of people’s rights and opinions are the most important traits of DEI leaders. Curiosity enables DEI leaders to be proactive, constantly looking for ways to improve and go beyond the status quo.
Understanding someone’s point of view is not enough for the DEI leader, he must also empathize with how they feel and live. The most critical characteristic expected of DEI leaders is to listen to people without judgement, no matter who they are, and to be able to see the world from different perspectives.
Do you realise how the opposite of the title, arrogance and conceit, contrasts with the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion? Self-awareness and humility are essential traits for any DEI leader. DEI leaders must be aware of their unconscious biases and be able to admit their own mistakes. There is no leader who will understand all perspectives, everyone and everything, and the DEI leader must first and foremost be aware of this.
Working on diversity, equity and inclusion can sometimes be uncomfortable. It is not an easy endeavour for people to break out of centuries-old stereotypes and become open-minded. It takes courage to question the status quo and implement change. Opening up uncomfortable topics for discussion in order to promote positive change is part of the DEI leader’s routine and must be uncompromising.
DEI leader’s support: Senior management
Regardless of the level of institutionalisation, every company’s culture is influenced by the culture of its leader. If an effective diversity, equity and inclusion transformation is to take place in an organisation, the first step must come from the top. Senior leadership is critical to articulating the vision for change and modelling how change will happen. DEI leaders can only do their job properly with the support and role modelling of the senior management team. If you advocate equal rights for women within the company, you should have women leaders in your management team. If you really want to experience the creativity, innovation, development and performance advantages that diversity, equity and inclusion will bring to your company, your entire leadership team should shoulder the responsibility.