On the 16th July, I attended the virtual Diversity and Inclusion in UK Nuclear 2020 Conference.
The first part of the conference started with pre-recorded interviews from industry leaders, followed by a Q&A with pre-selected leaders who picked up on questions asked via the chatbox at the start, and a keynote speech from Frank Douglas.
The main point I took away from the industry leaders was that employers should make their colleagues feel confident; this includes the need to hear from people who do not agree, and being brave to recruit the “troublemakers”. Confidence comes from being inclusive to all colleagues – and not by excluding the “norm”. Confidence allows people to call out objectionable behaviour. Having confidence allows for better performance.
A discussion about D&I objectives at work challenged my view; experience from one of the leaders in Women In Nuclear is that having an EDI objective ensured people were able to attend events more – some individuals were unable to attend in the past without this.
We have to have D&I objectives at work, my view on these was negative as I felt that forcing people who do not have an interest in learning more will feel even less willing to attend events. I feel we can do better at work, and as mentioned in Frank’s excellent speech, D&I initiatives need to be led from the top from the CEO down to the managers, and then down to the employees; in the same way the industry has done with Behavioural Safety.
On the other hand, having a D&I objective (should) allows the individual to attend without question from a manager – this is important especially during busy projects (the only downside to me is that forums – both D&I and technical – have been held over lunchtimes – all fine except our daily project meeting for the critical path project is held over these times! I was lucky to attend this conference as I had booked annual leave prior to signing up).
Frank Douglas’s speech was powerful, and touched on how companies are very good at getting a diverse workforce, but not very good at inclusion. Companies work on getting employees assimilated into the company structure; while their working practices remain fixed. Inclusion should allow the diverse talent to flex the company, tapping into collective wisdom.
Frank made a good point regarding equality vs equity; where the former means everyone is treated the same regardless of background, and the latter gives more to disadvantaged individuals to allow them to catch up with their privileged peers. This is poignant to me personally, as I am struggling to progress as I have not followed the traditional route; as the traditional route did not exist for me.
The Benefits of D&I
Frank quoted McKinsey and other studies that show D&I is good for business; companies that excel in D&I 35% more likely to outperform their competitors that do not excel.
Psychological safety is good for collaboration and creativity. If staff are uncomfortable to challenge inappropriate behaviour, the company loses out. The company culture is defined by the worst behaviour tolerated.
Where D&I Initiatives Fail
Earlier in the conference, leaders were citing the use of blind CVs to improve diversity. Frank challenged this; asking what is our problem that we need this? The bias will still be present when the person comes to the interview. This challenge changed my view to somewhere closer to Frank’s; I do wonder how this can be overcome? How do we ensure the hiring manager (or whomever) is unbiased or if they need educating?
Unconscious Bias training leads to people being let off the hook. I agree this can be used in such a way, and there is no actual training on how to get over one’s biases (besides the “think twice” approach).
What does Good look like?
Lead from the top – the CEO should mobilise their company to lead the way, and the Chief Diversity Person should report direct to the CEO.
Calling out behaviours – managers need to lead by example, and call out before the victim.
Part 2 to continue…