It is easy to avoid diversity and inclusion when it doesn’t feel aligned with your experience or if you feel that what is represented in those conversations somehow isn’t related to you.
This is a basic human response — Does it have anything to do with me? Does it benefit me? Does it reaffirm my view of myself?
Whether you belong to a minority group(s) and/or mostly identify with the majority groups the ability to choose not to care about diversity and inclusion yours or others … is a privilege.
The ability to assess if its relevant to you is a privilege.
I know this because while developing Diversity Beyond the Obvious with Yvette Elcock and my PhD research on Inclusive leadership I was confronted by my motives — I had to ask myself …
Why do I care? Why now? Why this?
The truth is I got fed up of experiencing or witnessing exclusion … I got fed up with misunderstanding loved ones who have a very different experience to me based on race or ethnicity … I got fed up of really great talent being overshadowed by mediocre majorities … I got fed up of people projecting onto me and onto others.
I got fed up of realising that the majority of psychological theories used in coaching psychology were western — abled bodies white-based theories — limiting the complexity of the human experience. I got fed up with training men less competent (and often less qualified) than I to do a job I was told I wasn’t ready for, I got fed up that in my whole time in university education in Ireland there still hadn’t been a female president of any Irish university and that was up until 2019. I got fed up that despite 98% of my clients to date being far older than I, I have never won a contract based on my age however I have lost many when my age became evident.
My point is I first had to feel something before I felt it was important for me to be involved in diversity and inclusion conversations.
I say all this to acknowledge my privilege in avoiding it until it made me angry, distancing myself from minorities I belong to because I “passed” and didn’t feel aligned with the negative associations I had experienced that related to them, that came with those intersections of my identity.
Not wanting others to define my value, my worth and my opportunities (Often completely outside of their awareness) and be faced with even more unconscious bias.
Because it was annoying at times — the ageism, the classism, the pathologising of nuerodiversity, the sexism, the homophobia, — I was still able to “do ok” within the system I was functioning as long as I was assimulating — but I could see that thriving wasn’t an option and as I witnessed others with less privilege I started to realise my own unconscious bias, compliance and avoidance was harmful, was keeping the status quo.
Even in writing this — I have a choice. I can avoid the discomfort and not write it. Its a privilege to get to choose.
As a coach with a long history of supporting people, teams and organisations moving from surviving to thriving — I couldn’t avoid what I was seeing anymore. It was impacting the performance, wellbeing and thriving of people, the people I am paid to support.
The interconnectedness between inclusion, performance and wellbeing is something we can no longer ignore within our work as coaches and supervisors. If you are responsible for coaching people, you have a responsibility to understand the components of inclusion — it is fundamental in performance, moving forward and wellbeing.
You may not feel fed up yet — but when you do you will have been glad you started when you did and for those who might never feel fed up — when inclusion isn’t front and centre — none of us are free to really be.
If you want to start now, join Yvette and I, on Diversity Beyond the Obvious.