Respectful Questions to Ask About Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion conversations require bravery and courage, and you do not have to do it alone. We need people in the majority group (white, cisgender, male, straight, able-bodied) now more than ever engaged in the diversity and inclusion conversation. Yet, these folks are sometimes afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

While the benefits of diversity are well-known, most organizations are going through the motions rather than truly holding people accountable to embrace diversity and inclusion. The more organizations mirror their customer bases and communities in which they serve, the more innovation, higher revenues and profitability they see. Yet, at most organizations, the higher you go into leadership in an organization, the more male and pale it looks. We’re missing out on an opportunity to be an ally.

Those that are generally considered diverse talent do not identify with the majority group by one or more dimension (non-white, LGBTQ+, female, disability). Diverse groups cannot solve the equality problem alone. A small percentage of the population will only solve a small percentage of the problem.

Therein lies a chance to be an ally. Allies are people that advocate for people different than themselves. Allies talk bravely and candidly about it. If you strive to be an ally for others, consider asking these five questions at your organization:

  • Why does our organization care about diversity and inclusion?
  • What would our organization look like if it were more diverse and inclusive?
  • What would we gain by being more diverse and inclusive?
  • What is holding us back from maximizing diverse groups of people?
  • What is one thing we can do to positively impact diversity and inclusion?

These questions can be used at your next team meeting, leadership team discussion, or at lunch with coworkers. They open the door to a bigger dialogue. They work because they address the cultural transformation needed to be more diverse and inclusive.

With any cultural transformation, that means change, and humans naturally resist change. Change is scary. Some even deny the problem exists altogether. They may say, “it’s a lot better than it used to be (as if continued inequality is okay) or “we cannot find diverse talent” (as if recruiting the same way will yield wildly different results).

There is no organization that has this figured out. Most want to better mirror their customer base, better attract a diverse profile of talent, and retain more diversity. To achieve this cultural shift and provoke real change, leaders must be willing to tackle the tough stuff.

Allyship is a journey. Along the diversity and inclusion journey, organizations must address key areas to sustain the positive cultural transformation:

  • Why: People need to know that the organization is authentic about diversity and inclusion.
  • Visualization: People need to see it to believe it can be true.
  • WIIFM: People need to see the benefits to change.
  • FOMO: People do not want to miss out on the benefits or be left out.
  • Personalization: People need to personally identify with the cause and weigh in to buy in.

Look back at the questions provided. They hit on these key areas needed to sustain the long-term shift that this change requires. They identify the why, evoke visualization, speak to the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and FOMO (fear of missing out), and personalize it to one simple action item.

Diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. It requires bravery and candor. These questions are only the starting point to the ongoing discussion. Consider asking them and you might just be a better ally for it.


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