Equity, diversity and inclusion: we’re already behind

Sharon Newport on how diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures are created by good leadership

Research tells us that diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures are more creative, more effective at navigating conflict, and more profitable, and more successful in delivering sustainable solutions. 

Yet, it is commonly misunderstood that creating diversity alone is a worthy step. Diversity doesn’t create inclusion or equity without specific actions and behaviours behind it. In fact, that approach can create more harm than good. We must recognise EDI as a larger concept with multiple layers of strategy and education required.
When implemented well, there will be ROI across the entire organisation.

EDI is also a deeply personal. If you ask your staff or customers: “how does EDI personally impact you?” it is likely that everyone will define it differently. You will hear that it makes some nervous, or they are interested in learning more. A few may even share their family’s history of bigotry and their commitment to breaking that pattern. You will also hear about their gay or transgender relatives, their disabled child, or their interracial or multi-cultural marriage or family that you never knew they had. You may also hear from those who are a first, such as the first black leader or openly gay leader, and how hard it has been to be a first, but they will not be the last, and they will make it better for future leaders. 

EDI teaches us that there are systemic frameworks in our environment and in our behaviours that are unconscious and invisible to us. This means our impact on others is happening unconsciously as well, and in EDI we are committed to becoming more conscious about our impact. Good intent is great, but impact is what matters with each other and in our organisations.

We must first begin with ourselves as leaders who are learning. 

As part of your first steps on this journey, the CEO and the leadership team should take thoughtful and meaningful steps to explore their own perspectives and goals. This includes getting support from experts to help prepare as leaders who model the way for the organisation. Like all strategic and cultural change that is holistic, it must come from leadership. 

Lead with empathy

Empathy is deemed to be one of the most important qualities of leadership. Empathy helps us attune to others and get a glimpse of what someone else is feeling. It also supports our discernment around meeting people where they are and leading with
greater compassion. 

Cultivate your courage

Cultivate your courage and step forward in your integrity. This is part of brave and compassionate leadership that is intrinsically rewarding. It takes a conscious effort and will require support and skill to change old patterns and show up differently. Embrace this opportunity and experiment in steps. 

As a GAI member recently pointed out to me, ironmongery is over 700 years old with a rich history behind it. There is so much to be proud of as a member of GAI and in this pivotal moment in our modern history, with the pandemic and uprisings around racial and social injustice, you have an opportunity to change the future of the sector for the better. The question isn’t ‘why should we do this?’, but ‘what happens if we don’t?’. n

Sharon Newport, CAE, is the former executive director of Door Security & Safety Foundation, and former Interim CEO for DHI – Door Security & Safety Professionals.
She is now an organisational consultant specialising in cultural transformation, including diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sharon also serves as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University’s Institute of Transformational Leadership.
For more information visit www.sharonnewport.com.

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