Whose job is D&I?

I just saw a hugely interesting point raised on twitter - that minorities (eg women in tech) shouldn’t actually spend time working on D&I because it harms their career. But conferences don’t want to have a straight white guy talking about D&I because “bad optics”. Really interesting tensions there!

We know that D&I benefits everyone, and is really everyone’s job (witness a 40 yo white guy starting the AeRO D&I group :wink: ). And we also know that it’s easier for middle aged white dudes to make change because they are more likely to have power. But, with good reason, we want to hear from minorities about issues that impact minorities… I was pleased that Hopper Down Under had a session something along the lines of “what can men do to make inclusion a thing” that was mostly men speaking… But some of the participants were nervous of getting pushback for having a manel.

D&I work is largely emotional labour that is unrewarded in terms of KPIs and promotion…

So… how do we resolve those tensions?

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A really good question and one which I recently considered in the context of applying for a D&I committee position.

Spending time on comittees or being pigeon-holed as a D&I speaker can be harmful to a career if it gets in the way of other opporuntities or takes away from your day job. These are typically voluntary / unpaid / unrewarded activities.

I’m sure many women resent being invited to speak about ‘women in tech’ rather than their actual area of research / expertise. Yet the visibility might also advance their career, build out a network, or open different doors. Similiarly, membership on a committee can be a benefit as it is an opporuntity to demonstrate leadership and strengthen a CV.

More importantly, a committee needs to include and take advice from those with lived experience, the minorities it seeks to help. It also needs to capture a range of views not just those of the majority.

So (perversely?) those with priviledge may need to step aside and encourage minorities to take up these roles. However that only works if they also put their hand up to take on the invisible workload - it’s not an excuse to do nothing.

Ultimately I don’t think many D&I committees have effective levels to pull to create change so those in power should at least accept accountability for reform (e.g. CEO KPIs). That may lead to sufficient resourcing so that it is not always volunteers spending time working on D&I.

I think having a mix of senior leadership that has the ability to reward along with the marginalised sharing their lived experience at conferences is the best of both worlds provided that the marginalised see a clear net benefit to themselves as well as their community.

A strong, clear benefit for the marginalised that outweights the costs, both in terms of time and emotional sacrifice needs to be defined for each marginalised individual. Those benefits might be financial, emotional, tangibly career benefiting or a combination of those and possibly others.

For those senior leaders, being able to recognise that this D&I work is actually a form of leadership and that it should be rewarded is key. . I hope to present this as a framework at eResearch “CMM for Diversity in Organisations” which highlights that by being neutral when we recruit/promote we are actually maintaining the inequity in the system. Attending D&I committee meetings on a regular basis and also participating at conferences etc would help reinforce this at the senior level.

I love that idea - that d&i work is a form of leadership. That’s something I’ve not seen articulated before. How do we build that into promotion criteria etc?