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Diversity and inclusion: key themes from this year

By Asif Sadiq is Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at adidas

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are not new business concepts. Organisations have long recognised the importance of having a diverse workforce and an environment that truly includes everyone in the conversation.

However, this year has brought several key themes to the forefront. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, the Black Lives Matter movement has opened conversations and D&I is being increasingly seen as less of a tick-box exercise and more a business imperative. 

Here are some of the key themes I see emerging in D&I.

We need to talk about belonging 

We have all heard about diversity. Diversity is the differences, whether it’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, neurodiversity or any of the many other ways to identify ourselves. Lots of organisations focus on inclusion, ensuring that people feel welcomed.

But we should think beyond diversity and inclusion. Belonging takes inclusion one step further. To give a realistic example, you may have a predominantly male board. Then a woman joins the board and is included. But if she must adapt her behaviour and personality to be more like the men on the board, then she does not truly belong there. Belonging is about ensuring that people can bring their whole, authentic self to work.

Remote working doesn’t suit everyone

One of the key 2020 trends has been more people working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to acknowledge that this has been good for some and hard for others. Some people have been able to better balance work and home life. For others, it has been a huge strain — those in younger generations who might share accommodations with others and have found it difficult to concentrate. Some working parents have found it hard to manage with kids at home, whilst others have loved having more time with family. 

Diversity and inclusion have always been about nuance — recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach never works. Organisations need to be aware of this in the context of remote working and ensure that they account for the different experiences people are having through the pandemic.

Black Lives Matter has opened conversations

The Black Lives Matter movement has spread across the United States and more widely. This has advanced conversations about acknowledging and understanding the inequalities and discrimination Black communities face in many countries. Organisations are thinking more about how to support marginalised groups. 

It will be important to consider how we can sustainably continue these conversations. Racism shouldn’t just be a topic of the week or the month but one that we continually think about alongside everything else we do in D&I. Organisations need to look at sustainable actions that they can continue to build on every year to ensure that we keep making progress. 

D&I is not a tick-box exercise

Diversity and inclusion are not just moral imperatives. They make business sense. We increasingly see businesses recognise that having a high-profile programme or publishing statistics annually isn’t enough. We need to see cultural shifts in organisations that weave D&I into everything they do. Diversity and inclusion are becoming a business imperative. If you get it right, you get higher productivity, more innovation, better performance and higher retention. 

Diversity and inclusion experts like myself cannot solve the problems for an organisation. We can support others to embed and champion it. Finance professionals and accountants can be part of this, working with D&I experts to identify challenges and embed long-term changes in their part of the organisation.

About the author: Asif Sadiq is Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at adidas. Before that, he was the Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging for The Telegraph Media Group. He is a multi-award-winning Diversity and Inclusion expert with over 15 years’ experience and a proven track record in achieving operational and strategic targets, managing quality, performance, risk and change. Asif is also a board member of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.