The call for ‘diversity’ across industries and organisations is a message we’ve been used to hearing for the past decade. However the fact remains that ‘diversity’ initiatives just haven’t really been that effective. That’s because gestures have been tokenistic rather than focused on real meaningful inclusivity and change in company culture at root level.
In the words of Shae Collins, ‘diversity is often used in self-serving ways, especially when an organization is trying to prove it’s progressive when it actually isn’t.’
Inclusion takes ‘diversity’ a step further.
To use the garden metaphor, ‘diversity is the vegetation planted in the garden and inclusion is the soil.’
To read more on this, read Collins’ full article here: Why Striving For Inclusion Is More Necessary Than Diversity
Another strong case for moving away from ‘diversity’ and tokenism and moving towards inclusion is the question of who is ‘diversity’ for? As Kavita Bhanot noted in her landmark essay, ‘Decolonise, not Diversify‘, with reference to the publishing industry:
“The concept of diversity only exists if there is an assumed neutral point from which ‘others’ are ‘diverse.’ Putting aside for now the straight, male, middle-classness of that ‘neutral’ space, its dominant aspect is whiteness. Constructed by a white establishment, the idea of ‘diversity’ is neo-liberal speak. It is the new corporatized version of multiculturalism. It is about management, efficiency, box-ticking. As writers of colour, we parrot this idea back, reminding white institutions that they need to increase their diversity; appealing to them to let us in, to give some of us a seat at the table too. To help convince them, institutions are reminded that ‘diversity’ is actually good for them too, that it will help them to make more money.”
The real problem is not simply a monoculture but a mono-ideology, a mono-perspective, and an assumption of one thing as the ‘norm’.
Creating an inclusive space requires work and effort to un-learn the assumptions we’ve been taught. But if we want companies, classrooms, industries, movements, and the people involved in these spaces to thrive, it’s worth the effort.