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Myth of Meritocracy & Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet

Nicola Sturgeon quipped that when she created one of the world’s first gender balanced cabinets as First Minister, plenty of people noting this progressive and even feminist move, asked ‘But were the women as well-qualified?’ She remarked how frustrating it was that no one ever asked if the men she appointed were well-qualified. The assumption was that giving women equal representation was a ‘favour’ whereas the men unquestionably had a right to their seats. This gets to the heart of the myth of meritocracy, something we talk about at our events. Clients often say ‘We believe in ‘right person for right job’ – we’re very meritocratic!’ 

However, the numbers don’t lie. If you believe that women are as intelligent, hard-working and capable as men, a belief most ascribe to – and you still struggle to get to equitable   leadership then you don’t by definition have a meritocracy. You have a system of habits, traditions and biases – unconscious or otherwise. And that’s what will limit the innovation of your organisation  – not the quotas or targets you fear. Let’s be very clear, at InclusIQ we hate the idea of quotas or targets, but we love their results. Since we all know ‘what gets measured gets done’ they could be the key to driving action in your organisation. 

'This World Should End'

What’s going to be your small part in promoting inclusion in 2017? A Year in Review

Aftershocks abound after 2016 – and will continue for years to come. It certainly was a year of events significant, but challenging to inclusion. These events accentuate an unsettling truth – violence and discrimination is widespread, we are not as diverse and inclusive as we would like to give ourselves credit for being. It’s enough to make you agree with the progressive rapper Prince EA that This World Should End. A quick review…

2016 opened on a sour note following the mass assault on women in Cologne at New Year celebrations and continued with a downhill spiral of turbulence and division. The UK voted to Brexit largely based on issues of immigration which saw a post-vote rise in racially or religiously aggravated hate crime. We witnessed the baffling election of a US president known for racism, sexism and his comments about the physically disabled. Perhaps not surprisingly, similar to the post-Brexit atmosphere reported an increase in racist attacks within days of Trump’s Presidential election. Divisions based on difference held fast with Eastern Aleppo’s fall and too many devastating terrorist attacks to list.

Yes, 2016 was quite a year – frightening at worst, dispiriting at best there are still green shoots. We still have 2017 and beyond to be the change we’ve historically expected our politicians to deliver – but too often fail to make real. Prince EA reminds us that Robert Kennedy said ‘Few of us can make history, but each of us can work to change a series of small events which create history’.

So let’s share some of the high points of 2016 for inclusion. Airbnb was forced to address racism and discrimination issues and a consequence have made amendments to its platform and started the #airbnbwhileblack campaign asking people to report racism. Slack became the first company to release a diversity report which included LGBTQ. Netflix announced unlimited parental leave for parents, both men and women, in the first year following the birth or adoption of their child. ‘Project Include’ was launched by a ‘war room of diversity advocates’ such as former Reddit Interim CEO Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, Software Engineer at Pinterest, and Erica Baker, Senior Engineer at Slack Technologies among others. ‘Project Include’ is described as an ‘open community working toward providing meaningful diversity and inclusion solutions for tech companies’.

For those of us who believe in the power of diversity and inclusion, the events of 2016 prove how much more we still have to do. As Jenny Yang, the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said, “Standing still is not an option. Expanding diversity and inclusion is critical to unlocking the full potential of tomorrow’s economy.” Globally, we clearly have some tough times ahead. But we can individually work to spearhead change. At InclusIQ, our small part will be on looking for partnerships to bring our innovative unconscious bias games-based workshops to an even larger audience than we did in 2016. The question remains – what’s going to be your small part in it?  

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DNA tests at work bolster D&I insights and empathy

We’re always interested in new ways to approach inclusion so were intrigued to hear about the travel company Momondo Group’s decision to give its top management team free DNA tests, as an experiment in improving the company’s workplace culture. While we normally think of DNA tests as being useful in health assessments, but Momondo’s motivation was simply to create the self-reflection necessary for people to challenge their own assumptions and biases.  The pilot was so successful they have started offering it to all staff.

The premise is that we all have expectations about who we are as White European lawyers or Afro Caribbean British accountants, but our DNA usually highlights a much more mixed lineage than we anticipate. Seeing the truth about our own gene pool can be a shock, but seeing we are all more ‘mixed’ creates paradigm shifts and empathy with people we previously thought of as ‘different.’ We’ll be watching to see how Momondo’s experiment unfolds, but we love the innovation in this approach. You can see a short clip on how the project unfolded amongst the seemingly homogenous group of Momondo executives on the BBC here

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Privileged backgrounds help men land jobs, but not women

It’s been long known that social class is vital in how likely people are to access higher education. But it appears even earning the degree is no guarantee of success in the hiring process for economically disadvantaged students. New research from Northwestern University and the University of Toronto and detailed in The Atlantic shows class continues to play a big role after you’ve graduated and are job hunting. Researchers sent fictitious CV’s to law firms in 14 US cities for summer intern programmes, identical in experience and university, but with slight changes to names, gender and extracurricular activities. Higher class students had old English names, membership in golf, lacrosse, skiing teams and an interest of classical music. Students from fictitious lower class backgrounds were demarcated by signs they had received financial awards, an interest in country music and membership in track and field teams.  

Male applicants from privileged backgrounds got nearly two-thirds of the the total call backs for interviews than students from perceived low income students or women from any social class. Lauren Rivera, one of the researchers said ‘female applicants from privileged backgrounds faced a penalty because they were deemed to be less committed to full time and demanding careers’. We see this with some of our clients in that women are deemed to ‘need the money less’ or are biding time until they find a successful husband. This contributes to the assumption women don’t ‘need to work’. This bias is both discriminatory and a complete fallacy for 21st century families. 

Class was vital as ‘fit’ was a the key factor. Many professionals spend more hours at work than they do at home, which is why rapport and shared extracurricular interests mattered so much – even if on a subconscious level. In a previous study by Rivera, she showed just how important fit is deemed to be as she witnessed one law partner reject a Yankees fan applicant, simply because the partner himself was a Red Sox fan. In fact, hiring attorneys interviewed for the study said they felt lower class applicants were better suited to public service or government law.  InclusIQ sides with Rivera’s recommendation that firms ban extracurricular activities from CV’s.

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‘Can’t You Take a Joke? Calling Out Bad Behaviour’ Workshop on February 7

‘Can’t you take a joke?’ postured John. ‘Lighten up!’ If this sounds familiar, you’ll know calling out ‘jokes’ or inappropriate behaviour at work is one of the hardest things to do. All workplaces need to be fun – but not at the expense of someone else. No one likes to be told they can’t ‘take a joke’ but ignoring inappropriate comments rarely works, and sends the wrong message. Knowing when and how to draw the line between banter and potential bullying will earn you the benefit of the doubt as a leader, and create a more inclusive and innovative environment.

On February 7, 2017 InclusIQ will be running an evening workshop in collaboration with BCSWomen in Edinburgh using one of InclusIQ’s Serious Games: “Can’t You Take a Joke? Calling out Bad Behaviour”. Book your place at this event 

The workshop covers:

  • Understanding the fine line between banter and bad behaviour and excusing stereotypes as ‘just jokes’.
  • Anticipating the hidden message such humour has on the audience who hear it firsthand, and those who hear it later.
  • Recognising that people denying they are offended with “I’m used to it” or “It doesn’t really bother me” is not an excuse for inaction.
  • Learning when to respond with humour, candid feedback and delegation – and how time and place makes all the difference.
  • Calling out bad behaviour whilst retaining strong team relationships.

If you are based in Scotland, we’d love to see you there, but if you like the idea of this or any of our other workshops get in touch.