The EDI journey is always changing. It is always evolving as we understand more about the experience of being othered and part of a minority group.
The Higher Education sector is made up of highly intelligent, focused, and innovative universities, who are shifting our world forward in many ways. Yet, as a sector, we aren't matching those strides forward with our EDI progression. To make change possible, we need to understand what EDI is, what we are missing, and then critically evaluate our progress.
EDI has to be woven into ALL aspects of the university operations with strong vision and intent.
EDI leads to better business outcomes, increased revenue, and attracts great talent from a wider pool. EDI is also shown to improve staff satisfaction and culture.
Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their talents and lives. Equality recognizes that historically this has not been possible for some groups. And is now pushing towards social justice and changing the systems not seeing the deficit in the individual or group.
Bersin from Deloitte defines diversity as the variety of diverse people and ideas within a company, and the creation of an environment in which people feel involved, respected, valued, connected, and able to bring their 'authentic' selves (e.g. their ideas, backgrounds, values, perspectives) to the team and to the University.
Inclusion is really want makes equality and diversity possible. So in many ways, it should come first.
Inclusion requires the removal of barriers, whether attitudinal, structural, or societal, to allow the full and equal participation of all individuals. In a University, removing barriers could require adjustments to policies, environments, habits, cultures, as well as fostering open communication and trust.
Why is Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Important?
There are three main reasons why EDI is important:
The Business Case - it has a positive financial and reputational impact
The Legal Case - it is a legal requirement
The Moral Case - it creates a better society for everyone.
Building the case for diversity and inclusion requires engagement from leadership. The business case needs to be tied down to the bottom line. Countless studies have shown how diversity and inclusion are good for business. But you have to understand what does it mean for your department?
Building a strong business case will help you to get strong support for EDI initiatives and progress your department's capabilities.
The Formal and Informal Organisation
In order to truly understand how the informal culture impacts the formal organisation, it is important to consider the organisational iceberg.
The graphic illustrates how the unseen culture of 'default norms' influence the seen culture and systems.
It is only by seeing and changing the unseen that we are able to make genuine change and progress towards a truly inclusive, and diverse culture.
Working effectively in EDI requires brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts.
Dr. Brene Brown in her book 'Dare to Lead' demonstrates through her research how courageous leadership and the willingness to be vulnerable is vital to create genuine change.