In 2022, I’m noticing a monumental shift in how leaders approach inclusion:
More corporate leaders are speaking openly about how privilege has shaped the course of their careers.
This is a marked tone-change. I can see it clearly after spending a decade studying inclusion and diversity. I am guided by intersectionality — a concept coined by the great scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how marginalized identities like race, ethnicity, gender and class coalesce to create overlapping and compounding forms of discrimination.
Understanding intersectionality is central to understanding our own privilege. If we cannot see and name in which ways our identities grant us access, and in which ways they deny us access, we can’t ever fully name our privilege.
And at last, corporate leaders are talking about privilege––not “I’m white and male but grew up poor so I’m discriminated against too” but “I’m white and male and those privileges have provided social mobility even though I grew up poor!”
It gives me confidence — and hope — that the business community will make strides on inclusion in 2022.
Diversity, equity and inclusion has, for too long, centered around “empowering” underestimated folks. Many corporate DEI programs are grounded in the awful misconception that those people out there are lacking and if only they worked hard enough to get the same opportunities as me.
Now I’m seeing white and male leaders say, “the system was designed to benefit me. Here’s my role in using my privilege to dismantle this system.”
There will be challenges, of course. I anticipate a reckoning around microaggressions.
There is an urgent need to update workplace discrimination policies to address them. I’m sure we’ll see at least a few senior leaders default to defensiveness when they make an error or gaffe.
While these stumbles might make you and me groan, the very fact that we can know and discuss them is a sign of progress and must continue. While change may seem to move at a snail’s pace, it is happening. We have the responsibility and privilege of witnessing it and holding ourselves and our leaders accountable to it.
It’s on this cautiously optimistic note that I welcomed the New Year — not only a year in which I anticipate progress on inclusion, but the year that my book Inclusion on Purpose comes out!
Speaking of which, some unexpected events happened when I returned to my office last week:
My book launch got pushed to March 1, 2022 due to global supply chain issues. My child was sent home from school within two hours of being back. More people than I’ve ever known have Covid at the same time (and thanks to vaccines and booster shots, everyone is recovering)!
It’s a poignant reminder that the best-laid plans can fall apart, and the best thing I can do about them is to shake it off (after time to acknowledge the disappointments) and be grateful.
Perhaps that’s my wish for all of us in 2022: that we cope with setbacks, disappointments, or errors with humor and gratitude. Yes, we will hold ourselves and leaders accountable to progress. Yes, we will roll up our sleeves and do good work.
And yes, things will almost certainly not go according to plan. Let’s do our best to greet those surprises with self-compassion.
What inclusion progress do you expect or hope for in 2022?
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