Is Inclusion a trend or will it last forever? We asked Shata Diallo, Inclusion Lead at Mida SB Spa

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As we commemorate March, the international month for women’s rights, a critical question arises amidst the plethora of pinkwashing campaigns: has the noble pursuit of inclusion transitioned from an ethical imperative to a mere trend? And if so, does every trend have an expiration date? This dilemma prompts us to examine the evolving landscape of workplace diversity and inclusion, where ethics intersect with economic and societal benefits. To delve into this discourse, we engage in a thought-provoking conversation that transcends temporal confines and underscores the urgency of our collective responsibility.

“The true magic lies in acknowledging that this trend may not last forever. The day when the data is so encouraging that they are no longer considered worthwhile. Until then, it's our collective responsibility to drive forward with urgency and dedication.”

It’s March, the international month for women’s rights, a month in which we reach the maximum capacity of pinkwashing campaigns. We cannot help but wonder if the goal of inclusion has shifted from an ethical objective to a mere trend, especially if, like any trend in this world, there is an expiration date. What is your opinion on this?

The concept of inclusion has undeniably become a trend. But it’s not merely about ethics anymore. It’s about creating sustainable societal and economic benefits. It encompasses dignified work, active participation in the workforce, and economic growth, affecting both high and low-income countries, informal workers, those lacking protections, and even in times of conflict or pandemics.

To ponder how long this trend will last implies that there’s plenty of time, no urgency, and that we can continue living as we are indefinitely. It suggests that the world can function adequately without prioritizing inclusion and that we can postpone our efforts because there are seemingly more pressing matters. Such thinking, to me, is far too comfortable, almost opportunistic, and superficial.

 

The true magic lies in acknowledging that this trend may not last forever. The day when the data are so encouraging that they are no longer considered worthwhile. Until then, it’s our collective responsibility to drive forward with urgency and dedication, recognizing that the time for action is now.

Between 2018 and 2021, 60% of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leaders in the 500 companies listed in the Standard & Poor’s index left their positions. In your opinion, why did this phenomenon occur, and what’s next?

The transition of Diversity and Inclusion from being merely a token gesture to becoming a crucial lever for business success has been accompanied by a shift in the qualifications and expectations of DE&I leaders. Previously, passion for the cause might have sufficed, but now companies are seeking individuals with a blend of expertise in diversity, inclusion processes, and business acumen. There’s a huge danger of being overly idealistic, proposing initiatives that fail to resonate with the organisation’s culture and priorities. Yet, this also leads to what is called “Diversity Fatigue”. 

Diversity fatigue is characterized by the frustration experienced by DE&I professionals when they see little progress despite their efforts and poses a significant challenge. When an organization’s culture remains resistant to inclusivity, employees become disheartened and leaders disengaged. 

 

Companies must prioritize not only diversity and inclusion in their rhetoric but also in their actions, providing adequate support, resources, and training for DE&I leaders. Only by fostering an environment where passion is complemented by expertise and where DE&I efforts are aligned with organizational goals can companies navigate these challenges and drive sustainable progress towards a more inclusive future.

What are the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) objectives companies should embrace in the coming years?

Based on insights gleaned from the latest reports by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum, companies should prioritize eight key Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) objectives.

  1. Developing a systemic and holistic approach that extends beyond internal policies to encompass the entire supply chain and community impact. 
  2. Aligning strategies with business objectives by exploring how products and services can contribute to positive societal impact.
  3. Focusing on inclusion and not just diversity by recognizing that diversity alone does not guarantee positive outcomes.
  4. Understanding root causes to design ad hoc solutions that are informed by comprehensive analysis.
  5. Setting clear, measurable, and aspirational goals by making them tangible, measurable, and aligned with a shared vision.
  6. Engaging business leaders. In fact, without leadership buy-in, efforts may falter.
  7. Designing tailored solutions that are designed to the unique needs and context of each organization, grounded in humility and awareness of local dynamics.
  8. Continuous listening and learning by establishing feedback mechanisms and listening to dissenting voices.

In the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the departure of 60% of leaders within the Standard & Poor’s index companies between 2018 and 2021 signals a pivotal juncture. 

This phenomenon underscores the evolving expectations placed upon DE&I leaders, demanding not only passion but also a nuanced understanding of business dynamics. Yet, amidst the challenges of “diversity fatigue” and organizational resistance, lies an imperative for genuine action. By embracing systemic approaches, aligning strategies with business objectives, and fostering inclusive cultures, companies can navigate the complexities of DEI with resilience and purpose.

As we embrace the objectives outlined by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum, let us not view inclusion as a fleeting trend, but rather as an enduring commitment to equity and dignity for all. The time for action is now, and the trajectory of our collective future hinges upon our unwavering dedication to the principles of inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

The People Behind Osservatorio DIS - Diversity, Inclusion and Smart Working

Shata Diallo

Born into an intercultural family, her name can be translated as Aisha (in Arabic) or Hope (in Italian). She is deeply engaged in fostering inclusion across various domains. In the organizational sphere, she serves as the Inclusion Lead at Mida SB Spa, where she spearheads consultancy projects on Diversity and Inclusion.

In academia, after completing her studies in Italy and the Netherlands, she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Organizational Psychology, focusing on inclusion processes within companies. Since 2015, she has been the founder and president of YOBBO – Youth Beyond Borders, a cultural association that develops youth projects aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, inclusion, and active citizenship under the Erasmus+ program. As a content creator, she has shared her insights as a TEDx Speaker and contributed to various Italian newspapers, such as Alley Oop (Il Sole 24 Ore). On the institutional front, she is a member of the parliamentary intergroup on fundamental human rights, where she contributes to initiatives aimed at social and economic integration.

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This article is part of "Mind The Gap" a Newsletter we have recently launched, dedicated to DEIB & those who actively work towards making the workplace a more inclusive space.

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