If you’d asked me about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) a few years ago, I would probably have responded flippantly or dismissively, disregarding it as a “box-ticking” exercise. But after the year we’ve all had, and everything I’ve learned, the value of EDI seems clear to me.
EDI is not anti-racism.
It is not a panacea.
But it is a good start.
And here’s why:
1 Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, at its core, includes EVERYONE.
No human is left behind. Whether you believe it applies to you or not, EDI is there to protect and support you – to create a space for everyone to be themselves, and live their lives freely & fully.
You may think EDI only relates to people with different skin colours, or levels of ability, or different sexual and gender identity, which you may feel is not relevant to you. And maybe it isn’t. Yet. But we don’t know what the future will hold. Perhaps you, or a friend or family member will suffer an injury, or be diagnosed with a life-changing condition? Or someone you know will share their sexuality with you, or a change in their gender identity? Being EDI aware means you have the openness and the language to support the people you love with the challenges in their lives.
EDI also includes issues relating to families, and perhaps you plan on having children someday, or you or your partner intend on taking maternity/paternity leave? Or, whether you are young and new to the workforce, or nearing retirement and aware of your length of service, EDI supports you to have a fair opportunity to achieve your full potential, regardless of your stage in life. So even if you think you can somehow manage to avoid every other protected characteristic, eventually we will all get older, whether we like it or not! EDI will be there, by your side, every step of the way. By being involved, you get to shape what that support looks like, and how it can help you.
2. No one can do their best if they feel they don’t belong.
If one person is afraid of fear and judgement, then other people are afraid too. EDI means everyone gets to feel safe, which means everyone gets to be and do their best. Creating a culture of inclusion is an investment that benefits everyone. Rather than struggling to “fit in”, people can save time and energy, and are able to do their best work when they can simply belong. @lizandmollie capture it perfectly here:
3. You can’t win when half your team are still on the bench.
You need to play all of your players. Not just the ones who act, look and think like you – every team needs a mix of skills, strengths and perspectives. Otherwise you don’t know what opportunities you’re missing, or what is being overlooked in the many blind spots created by groupthink. So look around you, and see who is missing from your team – who’s still on the bench, and how many people are actually playing to their full potential?
EDI is not just a “nice to have”. It’s not a charitable act, taking pity on “poor underrepresented minorities” in society. It is giving people a fair chance, letting everyone achieve their full potential. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart, strategic thing to do.
It benefits you.
It brings out the best in everyone.
And you get to play your whole team to its full potential.
Share your reasons for why you believe EDI is important – either in the comments below or using the hashtag #WhyEDI.