How do we create an inclusive intercultural mindset

In our first blog in the series on Diversity & Inclusion, we got a better understanding of how we form our unconscious biases and the various dimensions, often not visible, of diversity. In part 2 from ‘Diversity to Inclusion’, Annelieke Jense & Frouke Horstmann focus through the lens of the organisation and shares how to create an inclusive organisational culture.

How our mindset towards diversity has changed

Over the decades our attitude towards diversity and inclusion has changed, much like our mindset about the right leadership style has changed. We have moved from a top-down command-control style versus virtual, empowerment and/or network leadership styles as in our current situation.

Humankind started with a monoculture mindset, evolving through significant changes, maturing to our current intercultural drive for greater diversity and inclusion.

During our monocultural mindset ‘episode’,  we were in denial and unaware of cultural differences, not with bad Intent but with limited exposure to different experiences we had a limited view.  People were just simply not aware of all the factors involved in an open diverse inclusive culture. The initial stage of realisation was actually one of polarisation in line with what Frouke mentioned in our first blog; the ‘us’ vs ‘them’.  Defences of our own personal practices start to play out, certain cultures started taking on a superior role above other cultures as we judged the perceived differences.

This moved to minimisation which was a big improvement as it highlighted commonalities as we started to de-emphasise differences. But it still lacked the real understanding and appreciation of differences. The real intercultural mindset came with acceptance and adaptation. Acceptance, where we recognise and deeply comprehend cultural differences, showing an eagerness to learn and self-reflect and adaptation where we bridge across differences and shift our mindset and behaviour accordingly. This has resulted in today’s ambition for an intercultural mindset, in which we fully embrace cultural differences.

The best is that it implies that our mindset around diversity AND inclusion can change. Hurray! We have come a long way but we are not there yet.

The business rationale for Inclusive Leadership

A topic often linked to diversity & Inclusion is the business rationale for an inclusive organisational culture. In a recent McKinsey study, research clearly showed a marked increase in performance in diverse workforce companies; gender-diverse companies outperforming by 15% and ethnically diverse companies outperforming by as much as 35%. However, the studies show there is still an under-representation of women (23% white women), significantly so for women of colour (only 6%)  and men of colour (only 13%) in senior ranking positions.

It is fair to say these results are disappointing and not a true reflection in representing our diversity. These important issues have been on the agenda for years, but we seem to be stuck.

What it seems to show is the business case is not enough

There is an implication that there must be economic grounds to justify investing in people from underrepresented groups. But why should anyone need an economic rationale for affirming the agency and dignity of any group of human beings? New studies show that making the economic business case with the focus on financial benefits, diminishes the sense and the strive towards equality.

It will be the voice and core values and purpose of the business leader that will need to be heard as we, as individuals, stand behind this. In our final chapter in this series, we will discuss the personal dimension to diversity; how to embrace diversity and inclusivity on a deeper level as individuals and leaders.

We invite you to follow us on LinkedIn, check out our blog page for original content and actionable insights or contact the authors (Annelieke Jense &Frouke Horstmann) to continue the discussion.

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