How to deal with Diversity, Equality and Inclusion issues in an authentic way?

Embrace uniqueness. Let our differences empower us, not divide us.

How to solve for gender equality by celebrating diversity and embracing uniqueness — by Be-novative

When we design a space that builds on everyone’s diverse viewpoints and promotes equality in an authentic way — it can seem elusive. In our experience, there is no magic bullet to leadership that drives diversity, equality and inclusion but addressing the topic is a must for every conscious leader and it is a prerequisite of creativity and a culture of collaboration. Besides the known: we need to accommodate diverse points of view as part of leadership criteria — how should we deal with diversity, equality, and inclusion as a part of the organization? Or even more, what if you are part of the minority group as a consultant or as team lead?

Walking into the all-male meeting room at your client’s office or checking in to the meeting online as a young female entrepreneur has some chances to create feelings of inequity, being treated as not an equal partner. If not addressed consciously and with empathy, it may create unhealthy dynamics in your business relationship.

Bringing this topic into our diverse, multinational, and multicultural gender-balanced group was a brave and useful step from our protagonist’s side.

Taking in everyone’s insights from our global expert network of the Be-novative Partner Hub gave us some insights and a deeper understanding of how this works at the moment in the ecosystem Be-novative is thriving in.

How to deal with Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion issues in an authentic way?

💆‍♀️ The challenge: The protagonist of our session this time was a young female professional in the consultancy business. Having built her international business up and leading an international team, she often finds herself in a situation where her being a female leaves her feeling taken less seriously. Most of her clients are the top managers, CEOs, CFOs, CIOs of companies — almost all the time, all man.

Signs of inequality to solve include :

  • Agreement on a project initiation level, but no budget allocated to actually implement it
  • Females and minority groups are often paid less for the same type of work
  • Prejudices play a role on the allocation of tasks instead of skills and capabilities, so stereotypes may influence who is asked to take the minutes of the meeting — as an assistant or secretary

🌐 Our process: We followed the steps of the Reflective Solution Focused Practice and in the end, it was not just our protagonist, who came up with this question, but all of us geared up with new ideas, tools, thoughts, and inspiration. Elvira Kalmar, our Partner Hub Program Facilitator in the Spark Creativity online sessions facilitated the session. Participants were from different continents as always, allowing a diversity of perspectives to cross-pollinate from the USA, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, and Brazil.

Here is a collection of our wisdom:

1. INTERNATIONAL GROUPS ARE CONSCIOUS AND THUS MORE OPEN. This has been the experience of many of us. Working in multicultural, multinational teams people tend to be more cautious with their own assumptions and tend to check more often if everyone is ok with the situation as cultural differences may happen often. Working on our own national level we noticed that people are so similar in their culture that even smaller differences may pop up as something you notice. Sometimes, locally accepted biases or patterns sneak their way into the meeting rooms.

2. DRIVE MEETINGS WITH QUESTIONS. Addressing open-ended questions at the beginning of the meeting will set the scene. Both leaders and consultants need to understand their team, clients, people they work with. If we find that there is a high chance that we have a missing or a different understanding of a project because we are from a different background, it becomes even more important than ever to start with asking questions, create empathy and as a side-effect, be in charge of driving the meeting towards shared and commonly understood goals. In that, questions play the most important part.

3. EXPERTIZE FIRST. Usually, meetings start with an introductory round. Share your unique expertise openly in the round besides your name and position. These are the strengths you gained during the past years, your previous experiences, studies, skills, or knowledge in 1–2 sentences. Don’t be shy, everyone wants to understand quickly, what is a unique strength and added value you can contribute to not just this meeting but to an envisioned outcome. Create the atmosphere where your knowledge, experience, and skills come to the light and set the tone of the conversation. Show your expertise by sharing client success stories and ask questions to find out what could create value for your partners. Sometimes we create roles already in this first introductory round. Take your seat accordingly and talk about your expertise in which others can count on you during this project.

4. PILOT PROJECT RESULTS. Respect often comes with experience. Don’t try to have it all in the first moment, be prepared to earn it. Aim for pilot projects first, where your client or team can gain confidence about the added value of your services and how you contribute to the team’s success. After a smaller project with overly convincing success, now everyone will be more open to dedicating more budget or larger project sizes independently from our background, purely for what we can bring to the table. In order to fast forward results, it is always a good idea to speak about your previous project outcomes, ROI, and experiences with measurable results. This creates a positive attitude that you can share best practices in a topic and at the time the team needs your support.

5. INVOLVE YOUR TEAM THAT SUPPORTS YOU. If you are involved in a large project meeting where among multiple roles and responsibilities you don’t want to do everything or you won’t be able to do everything in the project from note-taking to strategic planning, then bring someone along with you who supports you. This way, by showing roles in the team you can quickly demonstrate what tasks they can expect from you and which ones you will ask your team member to help you with. Bringing an assistant or a man that clearly respects you as their boss with underline your capabilities. And on the contrary: bringing an advisor or someone you think has more knowledge on the subject than you do will underline your supportive role instead of your leadership role — which is fine, but you need to be aware of that.

6. BE AWARE WHICH ROLES OF YOURS YOU ARE BRINGING INTO THE BUSINESS — and leave the others out of the meeting room. If you are the Founder, CEO, you need to show not only what you do and what you are professionally good at, but what you don’t do, what you delegate. Don’t be afraid to rely on other supportive roles, make sure it is your choice what roles you are comfortable fulfilling, and delegate the rest.

7. WE ARE ALSO TAKING OUR BIASES INTO THE MEETING ROOMS. No matter which gender or ethnic group we belong to, we should be aware that we are also taking our own previous experiences, prejudices, biases, hypotheses, and assumptions in our backpack with us — and all these acts as a filter when we interpret our client’s behavior, so we are also responsible for the dynamics in the room. Being asked to take a memo might talk to your consultant role, not to you as a minority.

8. WE ARE ALL HUMANS WITH UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITIONS. We could all find differences between ourselves but just as well we can focus on what connects us on the equal partnership level. We are not just humans, but in a business proposition to each other — and both parties are checking if the other side is offering to bring enough value to the table with the partnership. Try to shift your concentration and others’ as well to this unique value proposition.

9. TREAT AND TACKLE DETOURS IMMEDIATELY. Getting a comment on your looks, hairstyle or charm is the moment to respond with humor that clearly indicates that the remark was off-the-track and bring the conversation back to the professional level.

10. KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES AND PROTECT THEM. Be aware of what is acceptable to you in your role as a leader, an employee or a consultant and what is not. When you are asked to step out of your barrier, make it clear that it is not what you are ready to do.

11. EXPECT TO BE TREATED EQUALLY AND ACT LIKE THAT. Set your tone, show what your team’s effort was, and give credit to them. As well, assert yourself in your leadership role. Share how important diversity is for you and what benefits this brings to you and your potential client.

12. SET YOUR FAIR PRICES. This is something you control, and if a client is not ready to pay it, you can just walk away. You have to be prepared to defend your prices, show how you create value for the customer, but no one can force you to accept a price you find disrespectful.

+1. IF AT ANY MOMENT ANYTHING MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE, CHANGE IT. Clearing the air and drawing your boundaries at the moment will create the opportunity to channel back the conversation into the track you would like it rather than ending you in a T-junction and a bad feeling afterward.

What we gained in the experience?

Our Protagonist took away 3 main thoughts from this session:

  • She is going to put a lot more attention into creating the right appearance and atmosphere by inviting relevant team members, driving the conversation with questions, and showcasing previous success stories as examples to set the scene from the first moment
  • She will be more confidently positioning herself as a leader of not just her team but the industry by supporting the value her team can create with use cases, ROI examples, good results, and asking a fair price for the value they provide
  • She is going to celebrate the international diversity of her team as a strength in her argumentation reaching multiple countries and continents with the services and embracing multiple viewpoints.

We also have learned a lot by taking this topic to discover deeper:

  • Many of the things we, women, might address to be because of our role as women are actually because of our role as consultants. During the session, our male participants shared similar experiences about note-taking, memo writing, and supporting tasks.
  • We need to involve more men in conversations on topics around DEI. Talking about this topic between ourselves as women, in this case, might have driven us to a completely different conclusion than having our male counterparts in the conversation too. This might be equally important in other DEI-related conversations also to be able to see the situations not just from our biases to have the other sides at the table too.
  • Diversity is a strength — in a team, at the workplace and in our Partner HUB also: it creates the opportunity to have a conversation we would never have in our safe boundaries and this opens the horizons for new learnings.
  • We all felt we would like to further discover dimensions of the DEI challenges, and how actually using the be-novative platform lifts us all into the same equal position during the ideation process by an anonymous gamification element that creates equality and fosters diversity. Just focusing on the ideas and their impact and feasibility without the bias of whose idea it was, lifting us up from second-guessing and reassuring that we can just focus on the best solution involving everyone’s diverse viewpoints and get the best out of everyone.

If you have an important question or topic, or would like to learn together with our community, just reach out to us applying to our Be-novative Partner Hub.

Gathering knowledge and best practices through Collaborative Learning

About the Be-novative Partner Hub:

The Be-novative Partner Hub is an ecosystem of people and resources whose main goal is envisioning, accelerating, and scaling the success rate of both organizational and product development, creating impactful projects and meaningful solutions locally or globally. We share knowledge, inspire people and actively co-create new methods. We contribute to a better, more creative Earth.

The Be-novative Partner Hub members, consultants in people experience, organization design and development, Design Thinking, innovation consultants, and management consultants from around the globe are committed to learning from each other and with each other about the future of facilitating workshops and improving consultation impact and scalability in a remote world, so we focus on finding what works, we are non-judgmental, curious and tentative, rather than absolute in our sharing.

Each participant at our online biweekly meeting introduces the topic or case that occupies their mind and thoughts and chosen the method that would fit it best:

  • Deconstructing success: a new use case or step with clients or achievement in the organization, that went really well
  • Best practice & wisdom seeking: with a topic to collect best practices, methods, and tools that have worked for others within this theme
  • Shopping for ideas: a challenging project to gather peer ideas to figure out how to move forward best

This session was about searching for wisdom but a lot more came out of it, than just our previous experiences. We have felt the power of co-creation and meaningful conversations, the power of connectedness even if most of us have never met in person.

Let us know if you would like to join our expert network or take part in the Learning Community.

Be-novative is a Design Thinking and Innovation platform that helps organizations build breakthroughs collaboratively. http://be-novative.com @benovative