by Trevor Wilson, Author and Global Human Equity Strategist, TWI Inc.

One of the essential elements to evolve the discussion beyond diversity to human equity within an organization is an effective human equity champion.

This is someone who will stand up and lead the transition beyond the group-based conversation of diversity towards the individually based, talent optimization discussion of human equity. A true champion understands the subtleties of introducing this discussion without appearing to step away from previous commitments to gender equity, improved race relations, and gay rights. The champion’s role is to position this transition as the next step versus a retreat from previous commitments.

There are four specific characteristics that we have found in an effective human equity champion. We can neatly summarize these attributes as the head, heart, arms, and legs.

Head: When we talk about the head of the champion we are referring to someone who understands the need to move beyond diversity towards human equity. This starts with the champion being able to make the distinction
between diversity, inclusion, and human equity. The champion can trace and explain the evolution from diversity in the late ’80s to inclusion in the late ’90s to human equity in the last decade. The champion is also an individual who understands positive psychology and talent differentiation through a diversity lens, understanding that talent comes in all packages.

Heart: The second characteristic of a strong human equity champion is heart. These are individuals that have a gut level understanding for the issues surrounding inclusion because they themselves have experienced some form of exclusion. This can be firsthand or indirectly through a relative or close friend or associate. A CEO I know who regularly supported LGBT issues became a true champion when his 25-year-old son came out of the closet. Suddenly the issue shifted from statistics and reports to real life. It is my contention that while head and understanding can be developed in an effective champion, it is very difficult if not impossible to transmit “heart” if it is missing.

Arms: The next characteristic of an effective human equity champion is the ability to reach the executive agenda. I call these the arms of the champion. In light of the recent, turbulent economic times, keeping something on the executive agenda in most organizations is more than a challenge. Those who champion human equity within their organization have figured out how to do this and have the power and the access to make it happen. These are individuals who follow the adage “what’s of interest to my boss is my interest.” One human equity champion I know has made diversity, inclusion, and human equity a standing agenda item on his executive agenda. This means the top twenty individuals in his organization are having a focused discussion about these topics at least every ninety days.

Legs: The final attribute of a good champion is legs, i.e. they walk the talk. One of the key principles for proper implementation of human equity is that actions speak louder than words. The champion demonstrates the traits of a truly equity and inclusive leader. True to the adage “what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying,” the champion within an organization demonstrates what we call unconscious competence in the equitable leader, competencies such as dignity and respect, openness to difference, and equitable opportunity.

In 1996 Wilson started TWI Inc. to specialize in the area of equity and diversity as a business issue. In the same year, Wilson published Diversity at Work: The Business Case for Equity.