By Michael Stuber, the European D&I Engineer
Although D&I practices have evolved for more than two decades, the political, societal, and economic environments have recently changed in a way that requires drastic paradigm shifts. Empirical findings and practical learning presented in this section and elsewhere show areas where new approaches can contribute effectively in this changing context.
1. New Considerations
The ongoing challenge to define diversity, including its limits, contains a desire to focus on areas of pronounced disadvantage, as well as a need to be broad, comprehensive, and hence, inclusive of many topics or groups. The current trend to look at intersectionality in a new way is an important step toward working across traditional boxes. However, in order to effectively pursue value-adding D&I strategies, more business-related diversity topics must be considered going forward. Working with educational, functional, or skill-based diversities can make our D&I work not only more relevant to many business priorities, but also more precisely tailored to a specific organisation.
2. New Conversations
In addition to the encouraging kudos in social media and echo chambers, we need more critical discourse in order to get to the next level of D&I. This is even more important as simplified filter bubble messages (for vs. against, yes vs. no, true vs. false) show that there will be no automatic or natural (dis)solution of D&I issues any time soon. Binary thinking and a bias for well-presented messages tell us quite clearly that a thorough discussion of mind-set issues will become even more relevant in the future.
3. New Contributors
In order to shift the focus from special interest groups to everyone, and from white-washed stories to authentic, critical thinking, new stakeholders must be involved. So far, women, minorities, and the ‘younger generation’ dominate the D&I landscape. The anecdotal reports of business leaders or the occasional meetings of D&I councils are not enough to drive the required change. Mature managers, research or sales people, engineers, and finance managers must be regular stakeholders going forward. This should also make D&I a more professionally tackled issue—hinting at the many companies that delegate the topic to the lowest levels, including to interns or temp students.
4. New Contours
Taking into account the vast insight we have been gaining, and the extensive experience—both positive and challenging—with a large number of formats everywhere around the world, it is evident to me as the D&I engineer that our field has to be transformed in a fundamental way. On several occasions, I have given examples of things and formats that we should stop using, even if they were successful in the past. Divisive events and polarising messages have already contributed to current resistance. And the tasks and challenges D&I will face in the future will be even larger and more complex than they have been to date.
“So let’s make sure we combine our different strengths and perspectives to advance D&I in a role-modelling way.” Michael Stuber
Michael Stuber’s company hosts a D&I knowledge blog called DiversityMine, which contains more than 1,900 articles. He contributed an article on the future of D&I to the fall 2017 issue of PDJ and wrote about diversity and group think for the magazine’s fall 2018 issue.