Have you ever walked into a party pretending to be someone other than yourself?
It’s fun for an evening, but what if you felt you had to do this day in and day out? You’d probably be exhausted and would be unable to function at your full potential. This is exactly what some workers have been doing for decades. It’s time to take the covers off and talk about why most inclusion programs are failing.
In spite of the growing number of organizations with Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers and the array of programs being implemented by these companies, we are still failing to make significant progress. In a recent white paper titled Uncovering Talent, New York University School of Law Professor Kenji Yoshino and Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion Managing Principal Christie Smith cite how little progress we have really made when it comes to full inclusion.
The report suggests that full inclusion remains elusive:
- “Only a little more than 1% of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies have Black chief executives. . . . At the nation’s biggest companies, about 3.2 percent of the senior executive positions are held by African-Americans.”
- “A meager 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14% of executive officer positions and 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.”
- “There isn’t a single openly gay chief executive officer in the Fortune 1000.” As the Human Rights Campaign’s director of corporate programs noted, “Being gay in the corporate world is still far from being a nonissue,” given that many subtle biases remain in the workplace.
The authors suggest that most inclusion programs require people to assimilate into the overall corporate culture. This leaves very little room for people to actually be who they are at work. Yoshino and Smith offer a new approach to achieving inclusion in the workplace, so that people don’t feel they have to leave a part of themselves at home. Their research on covering, provides us with a startling view of how harsh the corporate world can be for those who don’t quite fit the mold. Stories of employees leaving their same-sex spouses at home while attending an event where significant others are invited. An employee who in spite of the pain, leaves his cane at home so he is not labeled as someone who is disabled.
There is an unwritten rule that employees will fit into the culture. This melting pot mentality has gone on for so long that it’s easy to readily dismiss the impact of covering. The survey conducted by Yoshino and Smith shows that covering directly impacts an individual’s sense of self as well as their commitment to the organization.
There appears to be much work that needs to be done in order for any real progress to occur. Yoshino and Smith suggest that leaders begin by uncovering themselves. I’ll start first. I have two children. I used to tell people that I had to end a call because I had a meeting that I needed to get to. I will now tell the truth. I need to end this article right now because I have to go pick up my kids from school.
It’s your turn. What will you do today to uncover who you really are at work?
[Image: Flickr user Vox Efx]