In this episode, Siân Harrington interviews Catherine Garrod, author of Conscious Inclusion: How to ‘do’ EDI one decision at time who helped entertainment company Sky become the Most Inclusive Employer in the UK, about why, despite billions of dollars of investment, little progress has been made in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in organizations.
We discuss the importance of inclusion in the workplace, the challenges organizations face in creating more inclusive cultures and the practical steps they can take to make progress. We also talk about the traps that organizations can fall into when trying to create more inclusive cultures and how to avoid these traps to make real progress towards inclusion.
If you're interested in learning more about how to make your organization more inclusive, then this episode is for you.
About Catherine Garrod
Catherine is the founder of Compelling Culture and author of Conscious Inclusion: How to ‘do’ EDI one decision at time. She led Sky to become the Most Inclusive Employer in the UK, with 80% of teams increasing their diversity. Now as a consultant, she combines the power of listening, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, to make the complex simple. And collaborates to define practical actions people can implement today, tomorrow and the day after, to transform the organisations she works with. Clients using her inclusion diagnostic are achieving a 15% improvement within 18 months.
Catherine Garrod [00.00]
The diversity washing and the green washing challenges that we may be experiencing actually comes from not a lack of commitment and a lack of authenticity. I think it comes from a lack of experience and understanding. So I take heart in that because I don't think organisations are out there trying to fake it. I think what organisations are trying to do is catch up. quickly to a whole world of information that they just haven't got the skill set or experience of thinking about previously. So I actually think the real risk is equating programs, activity, comms and events with progress. I think that's the real risk that organizations are experiencing and if organizations want to make progress, they need to be really specific about what it is they're trying to achieve and then take actions that are specific to help them achieve those goals.
Siân Harrington [01.00]
Hey, everyone. Welcome to Work's Not Working. The show about forward thinking people leaders, innovators and academics, and how they think we can fix work to make it more meaningful, healthy, inclusive and sustainable. Brought to you by The People Space.
I'm Siân Harrington and on the show today Catherine Garrod on why, despite billions of dollars of investment over the years, diversity and inclusion efforts are not shifting the dial significantly enough.
The killing of Black man George Floyd by a white police officer in 2020 appeared to be a wake-up call to organizations across the world. The FT reported that 271 US companies pledged $67bn towards racial equity work. Companies rushed to hire chief diversity and inclusion officers and the roles became more in demand than any other corporate function according to executive search firm Leathwaite.
Indeed the global market for Diversity and Inclusion is projected to reach US$15.4 Billion a year by 2026, according to a study published by Global Industry Analysts.
And yet – little has changed. In fact I would argue DEI is failing – progress is slow and not sustainable. And recently there has been a rise in high profile organisations questioning investment in this area and laying off DEI positions.
This is because diversity, equity and inclusion is hard, says Catherine. And this is why no amount of time and investment will succeed in changing over and under representation in business unless organisations start consciously including people. For, as Catherine discusses, if you’re not consciously including people you are almost certainly unconsciously excluding them.
Later on we’ll discover why mandatory unconscious bias training can actually activate bias rather than stamp it out. We’ll look at the traps organisations need to avoid. And Catherine will share the three most important decisions leaders need to take in order to start making a real difference to equity in their organisations.
But first let me tell you about Catherine and her own journey in this space. Catherine began her career as a manager of a nursery but there are hints already of her people skills, with the site achieving nursery of the year in her first year as manager, staff turnover at less than 5% and Catherine becoming a trouble shooter for underperforming branches as well as a mentor for new managers.
From here she started her career in HR, with stints in organisation development, engagement and corporate HR before becoming head of inclusion at entertainment manager Sky in 2018. Here she led the company to become the most inclusive employer in the UK, with 80% of teams increasing their diversity.
She tells me she has an internal belief that when we feel good about ourselves and each other, our lives are better, and so the environment we spend our time in is really important. And from an early age she sense the world didn’t work fairly for everyone.
This belief, coupled with her work in inclusion, led to her founding Compelling Culture in November 2020, which works with organizations to determine whether people from underrepresented groups are having the same good experience as people from overrepresented groups.
In 2023 Catherine wrote Conscious Inclusion: How to ‘do’ EDI one decision at time, which I confess is one of the best books I have read on this subject as it is so actionable and practical. It looks at 99 small decisions you can take to embed DEI in your organisation and we discuss some of these in this podcast.
But I start by asking Catherine about the idea of meritocracy and how this is actually a false belief that can undermine inclusion efforts.
Siân Harrington [04.51]
So I'm delighted to welcome you here today, Catherine, and we're going to talk about why diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives aren't really working at the moment and how we can change some of this by building in conscious inclusion.
So let's start with a bit of wider context. So a lot of us go into work and we think we're in this meritocracy. We just have to work really hard and that's our way to success, but it's a myth, isn't it? So I wonder, can we bust that myth? Why is it a myth?
Catherine Garrod [05.24]
Yeah, so meritocracy is an interesting one because people do work really hard all the time and they achieve brilliant things and I don't want to take away from that. But there is a bit of a risk in this belief because actually when you take a step back and you have a look at the people who hold the most power in organisations or in societies and the people that are making most of the decisions about how we live and how we work and how processes and systems work and all of those kinds of things, if they all share a similar demographic profile, then the people who also share that same demographic profile are much likely to have an easier and better experience. So for all of the people who don't share that same demographic profile, they actually have to work much harder. to achieve the same sort of opportunities and results in their lives. So meritocracy is a bit of a tricky one for me. It doesn't, you know, we must still recognise the truly brilliant things that people have done, but we also need to acknowledge that perhaps the world has been a bit easier for lots of people with a shared demographic.
Siân Harrington [06.34]
So there's a built-in disadvantage, whether we like it or not. And so you've written a new book, Conscious Inclusion, which talks about various practical ways that we can actually try and overcome this. Can we start by just asking what is conscious inclusion? What do you mean by that?
Catherine Garrod [06.51]
Absolutely, yeah. So conscious inclusion is really about equipping organisations and people to get their brain into the slower part of our brains. So if you aren't already aware, 90% of our decisions every day are automatic and our brains are these incredible machines making decisions on our behalf all the time, which is wonderful for navigating a busy life and it's as simple as yes or no, safe. or dangerous, watch another episode, go to bed, etc. So really, really useful, but it's much less useful when we're making decisions about other people because that 90% thinking is based on our own lived experiences and what we've tried before, who we know, what we trust, what's familiar, what feels comfortable to us. So if you're in a position where you're making decisions that will impact lots of people, you actually need to get your brain into that five or 10% thinking, which is the conscious bit. And that conscious bit goes and seeks research, it goes and gets feedback, it asks questions, it thinks, who else can I go and get some perspectives from? And it just slows thinking down before you make any final decisions. So the book - I love the title, my publisher helped me come up with it, but it's very deliberately about that slower thinking when you're making any decisions that impact lots of people.
Siân Harrington [08.18]
It's interesting because I think in today's world in particular, we are being rushed into making decisions quickly. And, you know, the quality of evidence that is accessible isn't always at our fingertips. We do need to take that time, as you said. So, you know, I think that that's a very interesting way of looking at it. So, you know, as I said at the beginning, we know that inclusion programs, despite the billions of pounds invested in them. haven't really delivered the benefits we would hope. We're not seeing the representation of groups that we'd like to. One of the things I constantly hear is that we need a business case for businesses to justify investment in inclusion. Do you agree with that? Or is it just something that's morally right to do?
Catherine Garrod [09.04]
So when it comes to whether or not you need a business case for inclusion, here's what I think. So I think we're actually moving away from that now, which is really helpful, but I actually think we more need a business case to not do inclusion, which is an interesting flip. Because if you think about inclusion, the fundamental definition of inclusion at its core is people being valued, heard and involved. And there's not many organisations out there that would think that's not a good idea, right? So that's one thing just in terms of people's experience, whether you're an employee or a consumer. But the other thing is society is constantly changing and our understanding of society is constantly changing. So if you just take the global population, at the end of 2022, we tipped into just over 8 billion people. There's a huge number. I can't quite wrap my head around it. But the reason that that's significant is just over 200 years ago, we were just over 1 billion. So society is changing rapidly. And as our understanding of society catches up with that, actually inclusion is about remaining relevant in the future. So if you've got an organisation that's got a long legacy or the industry has a long legacy or quite a traditional approach from maybe a hundred years plus, actually the way that you do things like research and marketing today needs to look very different to how you did it a hundred years ago or you're going to get left behind.
Siân Harrington [10.34]
Yeah, yeah. And it's interesting because there's been such a focus on this subject in the last two or three years. I mean, we've talked about it for a long time in HR, obviously, but I think there's been some seminal events, one of which was the killing of George Floyd in 2020. And I attended so many events where CEOs were unveiling themselves, trying to say, you know, we didn't really understand this. We've got to face this fear, we're now listening to people for the first time. They were listening to lived experiences. But not a lot seems to have changed despite that fantastic rhetoric at the time. I wonder, do you think we're in danger of diversity washing in organizations in the same way we've done greenwashing?
Catherine Garrod [11.23]
So quite often what I see in organizations is no shortage of ambition or commitment or activity. So I kind of describe this as good problems to have, but what they haven't necessarily got is the skill of turning that into a structured plan that the whole organization can get behind. with metrics to track that success. So, you know, we're seeing more and more organisations doing that, but I think that's where the risk is at the moment. It's almost like people are going to get fatigued. They're going to be like, we're doing all of this stuff, but still we haven't seen progress. My message would be carry on doing that stuff, but in a structured plan with a clear set of goals that you're trying to achieve, keep measuring that and tracking that progress and then talk regularly about what's working and what's not so that people can really understand the commitment on what you're trying to do.
Siân Harrington [12.19]
Yeah. So it brings me brilliantly to your book because it's packed full of actions. And in fact, you have 99 small decisions that need to be made. I think you yourself confess that you didn't realize there'd be that many when you started. Now, obviously for the sake of time, we can't go through all of them here, but I wondered if you had to pick three, four of those sort of decisions that you felt were absolutely fundamental to a business and without which, there is no chance of success in improving your inclusion. What would they be and why?
Catherine Garrod [12.52]
Yeah, I mean, this is a hard question. So the book has 99 decisions for an organisation to make it more inclusive. And the message throughout the book is pick one and do it brilliantly and then come back and do another one. So it's not that you need to do decision one, then decision two, then decision three. And that's absolutely in recognition that inclusion isn't one person's job. Inclusion is about the way that you do whatever it is you do, whether you work in HR or marketing or business development or customer service or whatever, it's doing what you do more inclusively. So I think that the foundations really is around using a model for change and recognising that people will be in different stages on the kind of maturity of understanding and connecting inclusion to their work and being really kind of kind and patient. about that because actually if you can inspire people to get involved in their own way and connect it to their work, organisations tend to go much further than they believed possible, than if you had like a really strict kind of set path to follow and everyone had to do you know lots of things in the right order in the right process. So I think using a model for change, and this is change across the whole organisation, get people involved in their own way, so that their own kind of passion and authenticity and skill and experience can come out. And then there are a bunch of decisions, decision 24 to 29 is all about using data to unlock sustainable progress. So it's really hard to pick three out of the whole book because you kind of need to do all of it but those things are really going to set people up for success.
Siân Harrington [14.33]
Great. And I will come back to the data bit in a minute but just before we get to that, can we tackle a bit of an issue, which is unconscious bias training? It's the tick box to me of what everybody does as their step to try and to get towards better inclusion. But there's so much evidence out there now that unconscious bias training in its own right isn't really making a difference. In fact, in some cases, there's evidence that it's actually made it worse. I just wondered what your perspective on unconscious bias training is. Is it something that is great or is there some elements of it which aren't so good?
Catherine Garrod [15.13]
So when it comes to unconscious bias training, I've got a few thoughts. So one is if you're doing some education and awareness as part of a broader plan, and unconscious bias fits in there somewhere, great. But I would actually clue in the title of my book, I would flick the focus to focus on conscious inclusion rather than unconscious bias, because that gives people really practical things that they can go do today, tomorrow and the next day. The research in this space when organisations have made unconscious bias training mandatory is that actually it can make things worse because the best case is you've got people really engaged and enthusiastic about the organisation making this commitment and they feel good about it. The more likely cases you get lots of people through the programme they think wow this is really interesting I'm fascinated by it but two weeks later when they're under pressure and they need to make a decision about something, they kind of forget everything on the training because most of our brains are making these automatic decisions. And the worst case that the research has shown is that actually people who aren't so interested in this area now have a reason for some of the kind of behaviours that you might want to see less of in your organisation because they can say it's my unconscious bias, I didn't know that I was doing it.
So I think rather than kind of spending huge amounts of time and money investing on sending people through mandatory programs, you're much better equipping people with information to slow down their brain at the point of decision making. So at the point when somebody is going to start hiring, or at the point when somebody is going to decide who's going to get a recognition award that year, or at the point when you're deciding who gets nominated to go on the leadership program. or at the point when you're going to go and gather feedback from customers, drop reminders into governance materials or process documentations to say, just before you do that, remember these things, remember we all have bias, here's some things for you to think about. That's a much more successful way of helping people, like genuinely helping people to look at their own bias and make a more inclusive decision.
Siân Harrington [17.28]
You also talk about other traps to avoid when you're approaching inclusion. Could you highlight one or two of those and why you think they need avoiding?
Catherine Garrod [17.40]
So I think it's part two of the book talks about the traps to avoid and they fall into three big themes really. And these are the things I sort of see most often coming up. So I'll talk about the actual themes rather than the traps themselves just for the interest of time. But the first theme is fear, blame, compliance and insincerity. So this is about kind of making people feel uncomfortable, telling them they should know better, worrying about needing to have a certain level of understanding before you can get started. I talk about fear with clients all day, every day. I've posted about it on LinkedIn today. I've written an article about it. I was talking about it with clients yesterday. Fear is a huge one that stops people making progress. And what I would say is if you've got that fear, it's really good because it means you care. It means you're thinking about the impact you have on other people and it means you're much more receptive to learning. So fear is actually a good, good driver.
The second big theme in this place is accountability is in the wrong place. So perhaps you've got some really passionate, committed colleagues across the organization. They might have been organizing events, they might have formed a network or a forum and they might be kind of really championing. voices and experiences on what they'd like to see change in the organisation, but the big trap here is it gets left to those people to do all of the work and the reality is those people all have day jobs usually and I've yet to find, I'm not to say it doesn't happen, but they usually don't have the experience of taking an organisation through change and to embed conscious inclusion into an organisation is a skill set that needs some commitment so I talk about later in the book combining the will of all of those people. If you've got those people, you're really lucky. It's fantastic. But combine all of that will and that motivation with the skill of taking an organisation through change, and then you'll go really far.
And then the last trap, the theme is the illusion of inclusion. So that's lots of tasks and activities and programmes and comms and events and all of those things are great. But if they're not leading you towards an overall plan and you can't track the progress, the trap here is you're busy being busy. And that's, you know, it's just disheartening for people. I saw a really wonderful visual in an HBR Harvard Business Review interview recently and there was about 40 or 50 people on a tennis court, each with a racket and a tennis ball, all trying to play tennis at the same time in different directions. And it just articulated this beautifully. So there was no shortage of people participating and taking part, but nobody really knew what the rules of the game were and whether or not they were winning. So that's a big trap for me, is lots of activity, but without knowing what you're aiming for.
Siân Harrington [20.35]
And is that fear related to people not being sure that what they'll do is the right thing, that they could actually make a mistake that would come back to haunt them, particularly with social media and things like that. And is it one of those cases that in most cases, when we have fear, we actually just have to take that first step and be open about the fact that we don't know it all. This is a journey.
Catherine Garrod [21.03]
Yeah, so for fear, I think there's recognition that you don't know everything and you won't get everything right. And there is a bit of courage involved when it comes to inclusion. There's a lovely quote by Brene Brown, who's a fabulous kind of social worker by background, but she studies shame and vulnerability and she talks about leadership and courage. But she talks about, I'm here to get it right, not to be right. And I think that's such a lovely phrase because it gives you the permission to keep trying. And in my experience, when you do get it wrong, as long as people can see that you're wanting to get it right and you're wanting to learn and you're receptive to feedback and you acknowledge it and you maybe apologize if that's necessary, you get forgiven really quickly. Because what people really appreciate is that commitment to wanting to create the change.
So I think the fear comes from, we all acknowledge now that perhaps the influences and the learnings and our views of the world that we've maybe consumed just growing up with are ever changing. So the world is ever changing and our understanding is ever changing. And that can feel a bit scary. And I think particularly for leaders that have perhaps grown up and grown their career in a more command and control world where people look to the leader to have the answers and make the decisions and tell the organization what to do. Suddenly being expected to know all about inclusion can feel quite scary. So again my message is you don't need to have all of the answers but if you always think about build with not for move away from that command and control go and listen invite people in collaborate make it safe for people to challenge your ideas you know and tell you actually I've got a different suggestion here that's going to set people up for success hugely.
Siân Harrington [22.51]
How do you measure that success? So you talked earlier about the importance of evidence and data and looking at that. So when it comes to metrics, what are people doing from your experience of either working in businesses or going to consult with them? What are they doing? Are they doing the right things? What really does help us to measure whether we're going in the right direction here?
Catherine Garrod [23.12]
So the things that I would encourage organizations to measure, and I recognize they're not going to do all of this at once, right? This might come kind of, you know, in progress with confidence. But the first thing is about employee experience. And I'm going to come back to that. The second one is around recruitment and career progression. The third one is about customer experience. So whether that's satisfaction or retention or, you know, those kinds of things, like really have a look at that. And the fourth big chunky one, there's lots of things you can measure, but the fourth bit is your supply chain. So who are you spending your money with? Who do they employ and what are their experiences? How many of those organisations, for example, are owned or led by women or people from underrepresented groups? So they're the kind of big chunky things that I talk about most often.
If I come back to the employee experience, what I've seen in the last couple of years, actually, since the murder of George Floyd, was lots of organisations worked with their engagement survey provider and said, we need to do more inclusion, please can we include some questions on diversity and inclusion in our engagement survey? And I think it's put those survey hosts under quite a lot of pressure because they weren't necessarily experts in inclusion. So what I've seen is lots of questions being dropped in about the perception of inclusion. So those questions might sound a bit like, I think this organization is committed to diversity and inclusion, or people are treated fairly here regardless of their sexual orientation or their religion or their et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So what they do is measure a perception of inclusion.
Now, even your organization, you've got huge overrepresented populations that are going, yeah, I think it's all great. It's not really telling you much. What I encourage organisations to do is look at the other questions that you've probably already got that measure personal experience and these questions usually start with I. So they're things like I am empowered to do a good job or make decisions about my work or I have good opportunities to grow and develop my career or I am confident that if I spoke up and offered another opinion people would listen. Now you notice that's centred on ‘I’. If you then, when you get your results for those questions, if your total results are let's say 85 out of 100, historically you might have gotten that's a pretty good score, not much to worry about here. Again the step further for inclusion here is break those scores down by your different demographic groups. So if you're overrepresented population actually scoring 86 or 88 out of 100, but your smaller underrepresented populations are scoring 62 or 67 or 69 out of 100, that's when you can really pinpoint, ah, that's where we need to focus our attention. What are the things that we need to do about the day-to-day experience of working here to close that gap? And that's when you can be more confident that you've got an inclusive culture.
Siân Harrington [26.23]
Some really good advice there. And I think you're so right that so often it's easy to just throw those questions into a survey without really thinking it through. And I love the idea of looking at over-representation in the context of the individual organization, because of course we talk a lot about it in the wider population so we need to totally mirror wider populations. But we could argue that in HR there seems to be a preponderance of women. and so getting more men in is an important area. So I think that's really good that in your book you make sure to identify all different representations of populations that could be underrepresented in a different area.
So one thing that we all come against all the time is time. There's constantly a million things to juggle, particularly for organizations at the moment where change is so rapid, where we've got financial challenges, technological challenges, health challenges, you name it. You mentioned, if I could just check with myself, you said one board member said that you needed to set a time for the strategy to be done. It had to be achieved in a certain timeframe. There's never enough time to do this properly. I'm sure you hear that all the time as an excuse for not going down the path of true inclusion. What's your response to this issue of time?
Catherine Garrod [27.48]
So in terms of the time it takes to do inclusion, what I would highlight is inclusion isn't a task or set of tasks to get completed. And those tasks or set of tasks aren't to be delivered by one person or one team. Inclusion is actually about how the whole organization operates. So it is about the work that you are already doing and doing it more inclusively. And actually, if you can embed that culture of conscious inclusion and kind of slow down the thinking at certain decision points to get the brain into the, who do we need to involve and who do we need to invite to get feedback or ask to help us with testing or when we're looking at research, those are the ways that make the organisation more inclusive and the more you can equip people with those nudges and those reminders to build that into the work that they are already doing, you can actually make huge change within a couple of years.
But I think, you know, if anyone's thinking, well, we'll do these 99 things in Catherine's book, the organisation will be inclusive, and then we'll never need to think about it again. It's just not going to happen. It's about that constant listening and learning and new information will come in. Who knows if I wrote the book again in two years’ time, there might be 200 things that I suggest that you do. And that's really okay. The work of conscious inclusion is, is just that what else do I need to go and uncover and learn and listen to and find out what's challenging and how do I tie that to the work that I'm already doing? So I'll work with clients that are maybe introducing a new HR system. I'm like, that's great. Think about these things in September when you're introducing the new HR system. It's not about needing to do everything today or tomorrow and deleting the current sort of to-do list and writing a new to-do list. It is about tying those actions to the things that you're already doing as an organisation.
Siân Harrington [29.50]
I think it is interesting on inclusion, how we seem to see it differently to other things. So you wouldn't just say, oh, I've trained this person once, that's it in the 10 years with me,. We just for some reason seem to think inclusion is this, as you said, it's almost an initiative as to oppose to a cultural constant journey. So if you had to pick one thing over the time that you've been studying this , what's the biggest mistake you've seen organizations make?
Catherine Garrod [30.22]
So I think the biggest things that sets people up for success, organisations up for success, and kind of avoids mistakes, if you like, is having a plan that everyone can get behind. So that can take a little bit of work at the beginning, you know, to do some research, work out where you are, understand what's happening internally, understand what's happening externally. This is quite a lot of the work that I do with clients - deep dive on policies, your website, your approach to marketing, the whole lot. Do the whole lot initially, work out where you are and then identify what the overall plan is and help people towards it. I think that the biggest risk for organizations is not doing that or having a plan that's been put together by people who are hugely passionate about this stuff but who again just don't have that experience necessarily of taking an organisation through change. Because what I will quite often find when I work with organisations is a huge shopping list of activity and it's great stuff that's on that list, I very rarely disagree with the content that's on that list but the weight of it is almost all on one person's shoulders or a group of people's shoulders and they're not really sure what it's all adding up to. So that's the biggest mistake I think that I see organisations making is not making that initial investment in the skill to define a plan that everyone can get behind.
Siân Harrington [31.50]
Of course, at the moment we've got such a lot of changes, as we alluded to earlier. What do you think some of the new technology and trends and changing nature of work, how are they going to impact this whole area of inclusion? We've had a lot of discussion about people not being seen when they're in the workplace, let alone when they might be working from home, for example, or there's new AI algorithms which we know can have bias inbuilt. This is a big topic in its own right. So given time, we can't go into it in too much detail, but what do you think the impact of some of these new technologies and trends are going to be on our ability to be more inclusive?
Catherine Garrod [32.35]
Yeah, so I think when it comes to flexible working, this is such a hot topic in the inclusion space at the moment. Whether people are working remotely or hybrid or going in person, this is a big area. I would say use data to have a look at the impact that's having on people's careers. Is there a proximity bias? The people that are in the office more often, are they getting more invitations to join new exciting projects, for example? Are they getting promoted more often, for example? And the risk here is that actually lots of people, all different ages, different genders and all the rest of it have really recognised the value of trading the five day commute for making the rest of the things in their lives work a little bit easier. So I think you've got the risk of having a disproportionate impact on women because at the moment society tends to load childcare responsibilities and the running of the home and all of that on women. and earning the money and growing the career, the load and the pressure tends to be more on men. I'm making huge generalisations here but if you think about gender pay gaps, for example, I think organisations need to be really alert to those risks.
And then, of course, you've got, you know, the younger generation in the workforce who perhaps haven't ever met their colleagues if everybody's working remotely. And what does that look like? And what are the experiences for those? So we need to be really aware of the different choices and decisions that we make and how they affect all groups. And you can't make a decision that benefits one group at the cost of another group. So again, data is always going to be the way to look at that and really test yourselves. But also then building that new approach with your colleagues, again, build with not for. You don't have to have all of the answers. Nobody does. We are living through a period that people will study, you know, in 50 years, 100 years from now. And we are finding our way. We don't know. We don't know what the answers are. So continue to evolve the people in your organisation that understand what your organisation's purpose is and what you need to deliver. And they understand what's happening in their own lives and what they need to make it all possible and experiment and try some things. So that's what I would say in terms of kind of flexible working.
And then when I think about the evolution in technology, and I'll talk about AI just as a specific, I think it's as exciting as it is terrifying at the moment because those machines that are very, very clever and are speeding things up and helping us, the risk is they're just coded with bias depending on the data sets that are being fed to them. So that's going to accelerate bias and going to create even more disparities in society if not looked at properly. So again, you need to involve people in the research and the design and the testing, and you also need to look at the outcomes. And the example I would share with you here, which I talk about in the book, is Amazon wanting to use AI to help shortlist people for interviews. This goes back to 2017, I believe. They were getting such a high volume of applications, they wanted machines to help them identify the top four or five candidates, I can't remember exactly the number. But what they realised quite quickly is the machines had identified that being a man was a definition of success, because the data sets, if you think about people working in technology, it's quite overrepresented with men and obviously they were wanting to get more women into technology. The data sets that have been fed to the machine from the last 10 years had lots and lots of men in it. So even when you had men, if they had on their CV that they're an ally to the women's network or if it had anything that indicated anything to do with supporting women or being a woman, the algorithms rejected those applications and Amazon tried to fix it and they couldn't. So in the end they had to stop the initiative. I think being aware of these things and really testing them and always looking at the outcomes is the key part here. Who is it benefiting and who isn't it benefiting? And if there's a gap, what do you need to do to close that gap? And if you can't close that gap, don't rely on machines.
Siân Harrington [36.50]
New legislation will tackle some of this, I think. But on the other hand we do have the opportunity potentially to develop machines which don't have bias in them, which would be better than our human inbuilt biases. So it's an exciting time, but we've got to be able to start at that beginning, as you said, and make sure right from the beginning those right data sets are in it. But, you know, who knows in a few decades time, we might be talking about discrimination against robots or we might be talking about discrimination against humans by machines. It's an interesting world that we're embarking on at the moment.
So the book's great. There's so many practical actions. When I was reading it, I was thinking, it's so clear and concise and I was like, oh yeah, I can do that. I can do that. What do you think to end with would be the first three steps that you would recommend organizations take to, to start on this conscious inclusion journey?
Catherine Garrod [37.49]
So the first three steps to start on the conscious inclusion journey, I could say go and read the book, do a bit of private learning, see where you're at, see what resonates for you. There's these reflection sections at the end of each part of the book that kind of get you to really think about your own understanding and awareness. I also encourage people to tick the things off that you're already doing and kind of highlight the things that you can do really easily. So if that's a style of learning for you, you want to go and do that in private and independently. That's a resource that's available now. So definitely do that.
The thing that I tell all organisations to start with is start with inclusion, not diversity. You need to build the culture and the environment that helps people understand what you're trying to do and is safe for people to speak up and share different opinions and get involved in their own way if they want to and is more collaborative and is kind of constantly looking at this so that it's a safe place to then look at over addressing over representation and building more inclusive and diverse teams A couple of years ago, I saw people really rushing to diversity first when they wanted to increase diversity in senior positions, which absolutely I endorse, but if you haven't done the work on inclusive culture, it's just not a good experience for people with that. If your organization wasn't previously inclusive to people with mixed demographic backgrounds and then you've suddenly rushed to bring people in, their experience isn't going to be fun and actually for all the people working around them, they're not going to be equipped to be thinking about the things they should be thinking about to make the environment more inclusive.
So definitely start with inclusive culture and go and start with, however you do it, what are the good things that you're already doing and what are the gaps? Because I've yet to meet an organization that's starting from zero. There's usually lots of wonderful things happening or people that want to be involved or are getting on and doing things anyway. You can kind of bring all of those things together and perhaps map them out on a big sheet of paper for all of the things that you are already doing and raise awareness of those because you'll probably find there's things you didn't know that were happening and if you didn't know then the next person doesn't know. So it gives you this kind of nice base to start building your stronger foundations from as you then get kind of stronger and stronger in your maturity journey.
Siân Harrington [40.15]
I love that. Look at the good things you're already doing. I think that's a really good positive place to start. So thank you so much. I've really enjoyed the conversation. I think my number one takeaway from it is the, what's the business case for not doing inclusion? I really like that. So I think that's a great takeaway for people.
That was Catherine Garrod on how we can improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our organisations one decision at a time.
It’s a subject that resonates with me and in fact inclusion is one of our five pillars of the human-centred organisation model in our Future of Work 4 HR community-powered learning platform (check out the links on the podcast if you want more information on this).
There’s an interesting reference in Catherine’s book to Getty Images, one of the largest photo libraries in the world. It spent two years creating the Black History and Culture Collection to rebalance the historically white focus of the photography industry and archives. As someone who sources images for our website I can vouch for how difficult it is to find photos and graphics of underrepresented groups, particularly in a business context. This is just one example of unconscious exclusion today – and it’s great to see Getty taking some steps to remedy this.
If you want to find out more about Catherine check out her website at compellingculture.co.uk where you can sign up to her wonderfully named Crown Jewels and Whoopsie Daisy newsletter, highlight the great – and bad – things happening in organisations around DEI.
But for now, thank you so much for listening to the show this month. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Follow me on LinkedIn at Sian Harrington The People Space. And if you want more insights and resources on the future of work, check out thepeoplespace.com.
This episode was produced by Nigel Pritchard and You’ve been listening to Work’s Not Working – Let’s Fix It!