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The limitations of diversity and inclusion

In this video, Mark Martin, Adiba Maduegbuna and Alex Fefegha discuss the limitations of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
<v ->When we think about participation</v> it’s much more than just inviting people to our offices or our workspaces. And a lot of times I get asked “Mark,. what’s your definition of D&I? How do you look at D&I? How should we look at D&I as a collective?” And there’s this old school way of saying what D&I is in the sense that diversity gets you into to the party. Inclusion gets you into the particular room but participation gets you into the design into what music should be played in terms of how that room should look. And it gives you more of a ownership and also stake in the process of bringing or coming into the room and being comfortable in the room.
And when we look at diversity and inclusion it’s very easy to remove that participation out in the sense that we just want representation in and that’s going to help us with our stats and our data and it’s going to look good on our records. But ultimately for us, we want to make sure that people are embedded into the most exciting parts of organisations doing amazing work. Because one of the things that we don’t want to see is that we don’t want to see talent feel that they have to give their creativity and innovation outside of the workplace. And then when it come into the workplace they’re just like a robot or, they’re just there just to do the menial task.
We need to be thinking about how can we get talented individuals performing at their top premium rate. And in order to do that. We need to make sure that they’re themselves they have a sense of belonging. They have their own identity. Their voice is heard. We are all aware of the differences that we have amongst each other. So when we think about diversity and inclusion and participation, those are few thoughts that come to mind. <v ->There’s often the big spark.</v> So the big spark happens when you realise there’s a problem you look at your data and you say, oh, we don’t have enough people in the sector. Our team is not representative of what we wanted to be like.
And then you maybe do one key hire who’s now the head of diversity at the company, or you get one engineer who happens to fit into a group that you don’t necessarily have within your team. But when that key hire or when that employee starts to actually speak up and talk about some of the issues or the culture the wider company then shuts that down. So most of these initiatives such as a big spark as I like to call it it’s mostly just to save this.
<v ->It’s an interesting one.</v> I know for me, I ran away from diversity and inclusion conversations for a very long time because one of the things about maybe being a black person in tech for my experiences that is very easy for you to be boxed into a particular angle is either people want you to talk about your blackness or on your struggle, but never about the work you do. And so for me as an individual, one of the key things I tried to do was stay away from any diversity and inclusion conversation literally, I’ve stayed away from everyone and try to do stuff by my work. Just don’t treat people like
they are diversity hires,
because I think sometimes people get this thing of like you hire someone and they’re like, hey, look at us we just hired this diverse person. Or look at how inclusive we are but don’t create the space to keep them there. Don’t create the space to allow them to grow. A lot of people coming into the workspaces with a lot of anxiety,
And working in the creative or tech industry, failure is a big part of that. And a lot of these individuals at times don’t feel like they can fail. They feel like, they’ve already got this pressure of, oh my God you’re the one that’s been hired and you’re hired under the scheme but the organisation doesn’t know how to look after you to get the best out of you, and getting the best out of you. So also when you fail, allowing you to fail and teaching you how to be better so next time maybe you don’t fail or you fail gracefully. But when you don’t have those environments forget amplifying voices properly give me the environment that allows me to thrive.
That’s a deeper amplification, the same, in my opinion. So that’s how I see it, to be able to do this stuff. You have to see it as important. There’s no point of me trying to say to people we need a diverse, inclusive workspace. We need to have these things because if people don’t see it as important they’re never going to do it. They’re going to say it looks nice. Or maybe they start it, but they don’t maintain it because it’s not important to them.
And I think my key thing with all of this stuff is diverse innovation, diverse talent all of these things is the only way this stuff bears fruit and does well is you have to see it, as it’s important it has to be critical to everything you do in order for you to benefit from it. We’re already seeing this stuff with big tech and how they’ve let go some of the best talent for certain, because they don’t see it as a priority. They thought it was cool and nice but in terms of it being like, we really care. They don’t care in it. And that’s how I feel. And that’s why we’ve a lot of this stuff.
Maybe I do have this apprehensive energy and I’m like bruh people don’t care, they ain’t going to do it. And that’s something it’s hard, it’s harsh but I think we need to talk more about we actually need to care.

In this video, Mark explains the importance of participation in genuinely embedding diversity and inclusion in organisations. He draws on Vernā Myers’ statement: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” (1), and says that participation allows you to design the party itself and be comfortable whilst you’re there.

Adiba and Alex discuss some of the limitations of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and the importance of creating spaces where people feel they can experiment, fail, improve and innovate.

Alex talked about the importance of being able to fail and learn from mistakes in the creative industries. In the comment section below discuss the following questions:

  • What helps you feel confident about ‘failing’?
  • How can supporting diverse groups to fail create a more innovative environment?


  1. Diversity and Inclusion Training, Vernā Myers.
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