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Beyond Political Correctness: The Real Impact of Diversity and Equity

Beyond Political Correctness: The Real Impact of Diversity and Equity

In this thought-provoking episode titled “Beyond Political Correctness: The Real Impact of Diversity and Equity,” our host Jason S Bradshaw welcomes Advita Patel, a co-author of the best-selling book “Building a Culture of Inclusivity.”

Together, they delve deep into the essence of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), challenging the notion that these concepts are mere political correctness or hype. Advita passionately argues that at the core of DEI lies the simple, yet profound, goal of ensuring every individual feels included and valued in their respective environments—be it at work, home, or in social settings.

The conversation explores the misconception surrounding DEI initiatives as politically driven, with Advita emphasizing that true inclusivity goes beyond politics, aiming to make genuine human connections and foster environments where everyone can thrive. She highlights the book’s focus on practical ways to leave people better than we found them, advocating for small, daily actions that collectively drive significant change.

Jason and Advita address the critical role of leaders in creating inclusive spaces, the importance of visibility in breaking down barriers, and the transformative power of asking curious questions to challenge our biases and assumptions. They also discuss the legal and ethical pitfalls of tokenistic approaches to diversity, instead advocating for intentional representation that mirrors the diverse customers and communities served by organizations.

The episode culminates in a call to action for listeners to embrace curiosity and seek diverse perspectives, reinforcing the message that inclusion is not a transactional effort but a transitional journey towards a more equitable society.

Advita leaves us with a powerful reminder to always choose hope over fear, inviting us to make inclusivity a lived, everyday value.

JASON: Hey, Advita, it’s so great to have you on the show today.

 

ADVITA: Thanks, Jason. I’m looking forward to it.

 

JASON:  And I know that you’re a co author of a new best selling book. Congratulations on yet another success. The book being Building a Culture of Inclusivity, Effective Internal Communication for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

 

Congratulations. 

 

ADVITA:  Thank you so much. Thank you.

 

JASON:  Now, I want to get the elephant out straight away. Uh, isn’t this diversity and equity thing just some political, people being politically correct and it’s just hype? 

 

ADVITA: What a question to kick off the podcast with.

 

JASON:  Well, we’ve definitely got the audience listening now.

 

ADVITA: I would say, I would obviously say no it isn’t. But I would say that some areas of diversity, equity and inclusion is definitely being used in the mainstream media as a political agenda for some individuals who work in that space. I think if we really strip it back, ultimately what we’re talking about here is how do we as individual people make sure that the people that we work with, that we live with, that we support, feel included in the conversations that are taking place.

 

And personally, Jason, I don’t think that’s a big ask for us just to be decent human beings and making sure that the people that we, around also feel that they can be in that space and, you know, if we remove all of the other kind of political nonsense, uh, around it, that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do.

 

And that’s what the book is about, really. It’s about how do we  in everyday moments, make sure that we are leaving somebody that we work with better than how we met them. And that’s the way I kind of look at inclusion, diversity, equity as well. 

 

JASON: I think that’s such a key message there. It’s about how can people be included.

 

And if I may take liberty, feel safe in the environments that they work, live and play. 

 

ADVITA: Exactly. Yeah. How do we do that? How do we make sure that we’re not contributing to the environment that they’re in that makes them feel that they can’t be who they need to be to do the work that they need to do? And I think we all have a part to play in regardless of what our characteristic is, our demographic, what our background is, I think we can all play a big part in that.

 

JASON: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve recently moved to a new area and a more regional area and it’s the first time in, I’m in my 40s now, it’s the first time in probably 20 odd years where I’ve really got a sense of how important visibility is important to breaking down barriers and stigma. And, and that, you know, I think that visibility needs to happen before we can even move towards inclusivity because people deserve to be seen and to be heard and to feel safe.

 

So it’s such important work that you’re doing and the book is absolutely for anyone in a leadership role specifically to read and to put into practice. So you’ve talked to us a little bit about what the book is trying to tackle. What led you to write it in the first place?

 

ADVITA: Frustration, the frustration that there was.

 

As we just discussed at the start, there’s this kind of reluctance to make a difference because of the fear that people often face about working with somebody who is different to them. And when you, when we’re living in a world that is extremely diverse, you know, regardless of what people are saying or doing.

 

We do live in a, you know, the world that’s diverse. Travel has allowed that to happen. Technology has allowed that to happen. We’re kind of facing this extreme. behavior and viewpoints that people are retracting away from this book because they are either fearful or they’ve been reading misinformation or disinformation, although their surrounding environment doesn’t allow them to see the differences in the people that they work with.

 

To your point, Jason, you know, they may live in a community that doesn’t have any different diverse voices or of people and there being, you know, lots of propaganda is coming their way that isn’t accurate or true. So we wanted to  write a book that allowed people to understand in a very practical way what they can actually do to make a difference.

 

So the first part of the book is all about why. You know, so if you, if you’re not, we talk about the why a lot, you know, there’s lots of studies and lots of research, lots of information out there. Most individuals understand the why to an extent, but we dig a bit deeper. We talk about some of the case studies that we’ve come across, some of the stories that we’ve heard, some of the stats that are accurate and reflective of what’s going on right now globally. And then the second part of the book is the critical part, which I would say is the how.

 

So how do I do this? So how do I make this difference? What do I need to do? What  role can I possibly play in this whole slightly chaotic space that we’re in right now, and what difference can I make to my everyday life to help other people belong and feel included? And we talk about frameworks and models in the second part, and that was critical for Priya and I, because there’s so many books out there, so many brilliant books out there telling the stories and the case studies, but very rarely sharing the how, how do I do this though, without causing people to kind of feel that they don’t have the capacity or the resources to do that.

 

So we’ve been very practical on that side and done one little thing every day to make a big difference.

 

JASON:  Yeah. And it is about taking those small incremental steps towards more inclusion and deeper understanding than it is, you know, creating a project team that spends two years working on the perfect solution.

 

Meanwhile, you continue to exclude people. So I love the practicality that you’ve taken now. Chapter one. We started with a controversial question, potentially. Meanwhile, in chapter one of the book, you don’t necessarily come out all quiet either. It’s titled, Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are Integral to Organizational Survival.

 

So I’m going to take your chapter title and ask you, why is it integral for organizations to focus on this going forward? 

 

ADVITA: Like I said, you know, we are moving into a more diverse world that the generation that’s coming up behind us are more diverse than they’ve ever been. You know, they’re digital natives, they’re connected with different people, they’ve got different thinking, different thoughts, they’ve had access to so much more than my generation ever had access to in terms of different perspectives from across the globe.

 

So they’re asking curious questions when they go into organizations for interviews. You know, they’re asking the questions that we probably didn’t ask when we were being interviewed because for us it was about impressing the employer. I would say there’s been a shift now and the employer has to impress him, the potential employee because of talent and lots of these, the Gen Zs, you know, if we talk about the 18 to 25 year olds, they’re very entrepreneurial.

 

You know, they have access to create their own business. I’ve met so many 21 year olds now who haven’t gone into the corporate life and have actually set their own businesses up, competing with these long, longevity businesses that have been going around for 20, 30, 40 years and competing directly because they didn’t like what was shared in that interview.

 

And organizations are now seeing that, you know, if we don’t change our behavior and we don’t adapt our policies and procedures, we’re not going to attract the talent to continue our legacy of this organization. And before we know it, in, you know, 5, 10, 15 years, we’re not going to have anyone to take over the reins because these individuals just don’t want to commit their career or time to businesses that are not paying attention to what it means to be inclusive.

 

And it’s as simple as that, Jason, to be honest. So, and as we’ve seen in the UK specifically, lots of businesses who have gone. You know, who have been around for, you know, 50, 60, 80 years and who have just disappeared overnight just recently Wilkinson’s. I’m not saying it’s because of inclusion, but I’m saying it’s because things haven’t probably progressed as quickly as they should have done behind the scenes.

 

That’s not allowed them to thrive as well as they could have done. So things like Wilkinson’s, Topshop, those big organizations that were integral to the high street no longer exist. 

 

JASON: Yeah. Well, even if it’s not completely because of inclusivity, that would play a part in it because of the diversity. Every diversity at the table when you’re making decisions means that the decision is going to be a better one.

 

I remember just a couple of years ago, I was doing some interviews and this impressive candidate that pointy end of the interview where you say, Oh, do you have any questions for me? And most people come back with something that’s really safe and generic. And this individual came back with a question around diversity and inclusion.

 

And it was a perfectly reasonable question. Nothing wrong with it. And the person ended up getting the job. But I remember that afternoon I was talking to some of my colleagues. It’s the first time as the interviewer I’ve been stumped because usually you don’t get questions that require you to think from, in that situation and it certainly led to a great conversation internally around the important, not only the importance of it, but that we have to actually be doing what we say we’re going to, what’s important as opposed to just talking about it.

 

So, you know, diversity comes in so many different forms. Do you feel that for a company to be inclusive, they need to simply put quotas on everything, you know, there’s certainly companies I’ve been involved in where they, their response to diversity and inclusion is to say, well, we’ll just have X percentage of our workforce fit this box or tick this box.

 

That’s not what I think you mean by inclusion. 

 

ADVITA: No, no. Well, it’s illegal anyway, to do that, to put quotas on anything in that sense. You’ve got to be mindful on tokenistic gestures. To make yourself look good, you know, it’s all about representation. It’s all about fair representation when it comes to your organization.

 

I will always encourage leaders to look around the table and see if they’re representing the customers that they serve. Are they representing the colleagues on the work, you know, on the factory floor or on the front line? Does your boardroom table represent any of that? And if not, what is happening in your organization for you not to either attract the talent to be able to take those positions?

 

Or are you, is your bias, groupthink, getting in the way of you approaching certain individuals in your organization to apply for promotion? Because what, when it comes to these kind of representation and fair representation you do have to be a bit intentional about what are you doing personally to attract the talent that you need to come and apply for these positions because as a woman of color myself, if I don’t see a boardroom table with somebody that I can connect with, or feels that could represent me in terms of lived experience, or even just in terms of diversity of thought, I will probably not think I can progress in that organization and be looking elsewhere to see where else I can go.

 

And I will always say to leaders, you know, it isn’t about saying 25 percent of our workforce should be like this or 30 percent of our workforce should be like that. That is important in terms of making sure you’ve got fair representation. But I would think, I would ask you to think a bit deeper about why is your table, your boardroom table, not as representative as it should be when you’re serving a clientele or a customer base that’s very representative.

 

And that’s where I would say, where are the gaps in that and what’s happening? And that’s where that bias, we’ve got a whole chapter on bias and how we make decisions based on our, you know, the environment around us. The other part is also thinking about who do you go to for advice? And I will always ask people to do an exercise where they write down the 10 names on a piece of paper and have a look at the diversity of those people.

 

And is there a pattern of behavior? Are you only conversing with people who have the same educational background as you? Are you only talking to a certain gender? Are you talking to a certain race or religion? You know, have a think about where am I getting my advice and support from? Because that can influence how you think as well.

 

JASON: Yeah, some absolute wisdom there. Intentionality to make sure that the workforce represents those people that you serve and be as diverse as your customer base, as the people that you serve. And the intentionality of where you get your, where you share your ideas, where you get your advice from. If you go to the same 10 middle aged white guys, as a middle aged white guy, I guess I can say that, if you go to the same 10 middle aged white guys every single time you have a problem, well then, you’re not getting any diverse thought, you’re getting groupthink at best, and you know, I am generalizing there.

 

And of course, there’s a lot more to it than just that. But what I’m hearing from you is intentionally seek out diversity in who you seek advice from, so that you can make your own informed decision versus a groupthink. So some great wisdom there. Now, you mentioned the word biases. And I certainly was thinking of that earlier in the conversation as well.

 

How does as a leader, I, well, how do I, as a leader, to speak correctly, how do I, as a leader, remove those biases that inherently we all have a bias for something?

 

ADVITA: It’s about slowing down your thinking. So when we’re doing the research around the biases, we have to make almost 30, an average human being makes around between 30 to 35 thousand decisions a day, an adult human being, which is a lot of decisions.

 

And if we didn’t have bias, we wouldn’t be able to do anything. We wouldn’t move. We would be frozen in fear because we’d be just, you know, trying to decide what to do every single day. So we need the bias, right? That’s important. The coffee that we buy in the supermarket, the regular, you know, we probably buy that coffee because our parents drank it or our carers or friends recommended it.

 

That kind of bias is important. But what we need to do is slow down our thinking and be reflective. So what I just shared with you there, Jason, about being mindful and intentional about who are you seeking advice from? You know, who are you going to ask these curious questions? Who’s around your table advising you as a leader on what the next steps should be for the organization?

 

You know, if you are surrounded by the same types of individuals, but you’re serving a customer base That’s very diverse and different. Are you getting the best advice in terms of where the business should go? And often we have to make these quick decisions as leaders because time, money, resources, all that kind of plays a big part, but I will always encourage leaders just to have that reflective time to step back and think, I need to go and seek out an opinion that’s complete opposite of mine to hear their point of view, then I can balance the two.

 

Everything, if you think about the world we’re living now, because of personalization, everything is targeted to what we like and what we read, what we hear. So I go on to, let’s say Amazon right now, and Amazon will show me products that I have looked at previously, you know, to entice me to buy different things.

 

I go on Instagram, they’ll show me reels and stories of people that I have watched time and time again. Because they, the algorithms on those sites want you to stay on those websites as long as possible. And if there’s something that conflicts your point of view, you’re more likely to leave it because you’re annoyed or feeling the rage that someone has disagreed with you.

 

But you have to tap into that as uncomfortable as it may make you to understand why is that person saying that and what do I need to do? Where does my reference points come from? Is it from my environment that I grew up in? Is it the society that I live in? Is it the organization that I’m in?

 

And being quite fair and honest with yourself. And that takes a lot of unlearning. A lot of unlearning and a lot of mistakes as well. And we fear making mistakes because, you know, if you look at some of the big headlines about people being canceled for saying something that was incorrect, that can scare you.

 

You know, and that can be a bit worrying. So you stay in your safe space. And think, do you know what? I want to stay here because it’s safe and my people understand me, they agree with me because we all like people to agree with us. I’m just going to stay here. And we don’t tend to make that transition that we should be making.

 

And that’s the difference. It’s not transactional diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s a transition. And that’s what we need to remember. 

 

JASON: Not transactional, but a transition. That’s absolutely essential, I think, for our audience to understand. And as you were talking then about, you know, we get served up all the stuff that we like because the platforms know if they do that, we’re going to stay with them versus, you know, getting irritated and moving off.

 

I was thinking, you know, even, even as children, as we start to age, and become teenagers and talk about different things around the dining room table. If our parents always voted together politically, then we’re conditioned to, well, that’s the party you vote for. And part of that’s because mum and dad always did, but also part of that’s because mum and dad wouldn’t let you talk about the other party because by default, the view was.

 

Or the bias was, well, that party’s hopeless, whatever it is. And, and that would play out in other ways. So I’m thinking if you’ve been raised in a household where mum voted for A and dad voted for B, you’re already at least know to question things a little bit more. And I saw a tweet from you the other day where you were amplifying this idea that you just spoke of asking questions, being curious and taking the moment to just ask another question before making a decision, because that, you know, even one question can make a difference.

 

 In the book, we don’t have time to go through every chapter in detail, of course, and we’re not the audio, we’re not trying to create the audiobook version of it, but there’s a chapter where you talk about using inclusive language. What do you mean by inclusive language and why is this so important?

 

ADVITA: The inclusive language is about being mindful about how we may speak about others. around us and how we may reference different communities around us. And this is an ever learning opportunity, Jason. This isn’t something that you will know straight away. Language evolves, as we know, every single day.

 

What was acceptable yesterday may not be acceptable today on the larger scale. And this is where we get that reaction or from individuals who go, Oh, we just become so PC now. It’s ridiculous. I cannot believe we can’t say that anymore. And I would urge those individuals to really think about language as a whole in terms of, well, there were certain words that we used to say in the 1800s that we just no longer say anymore.

 

And we kind of adjusted ourselves to say that. And there’s language that are now in the dictionary that never existed. Things like Google. Facebook, you know, those words never existed yet we’re quite comfortable to say, Oh, I’m going to Google that. We never said that 20 years ago, but yet we’ve adjusted and we’ve adapted and we’ve managed to do that.

 

And so when people say that we have gone a bit PC around language, I would ask them to really think about why they believe that, what harm is it to us if somebody wants to be referenced in a different way to how we may want to be referenced? You know, what difference does it make if somebody wants to be called something else and we don’t, you know, and that’s why I would just say to individuals and it takes, you know, people will make mistakes in this space.

 

I do it all the time. I am, even though I’m in this world, there will be mistakes that I make and I will make references that were acceptable maybe five years ago, five months ago, and things have adjusted and moved along. And you will only really know about inclusive language is if you’re curious, if you ask individuals.

 

And say, turning around and saying, Oh, my friend doesn’t mind. My mate doesn’t mind when I call him that or call them that. They’re okay with that, but everybody is different. And just because your friend is okay, doesn’t mean that somebody else will be. And you can’t make that assumption. So curiosity is a key part for connection.

 

And if we’re curious about individuals, and we’re finding out a little bit more about them, then we can adjust the way we may speak about that individual based on what they would like to be included in what’s going on around them. So inclusive language is definitely just being a bit careful and a bit mindful about how we may reference certain groups based on the stereotypes that we may have grown up with and the assumptions that we may have made based on our parents point of view or our friends point of view or even teachers In a point of view, I want to use a practical example.

 

So colored, colored was a word that was used frequently in the UK and I’m pretty sure in Australia as well, and in us, you know, so this, these colored people are coming into the shop or these colored people are in our organization and it was accepted, but accepted to in the seventies and eighties, that implies oppression.

 

When you say, you know, you’re offering that individual. So they shifted it out now and said, you know, people of color, even that term is a bit uncomfortable for some people of color, they don’t like to reference that. So I don’t personally mind. I think it’s much better than using an acronym that’s meaningless.

 

But other people will find that a bit uncomfortable, but we’ve adjusted a lot of people don’t tend to say that anymore now, and we do change the way we may talk about individual characteristics when it comes to race. I would just say, you know, it’s an education, the UN website, which is a global website has great resources on there for anybody who is interested in this space and just want to understand what are the reference points globally and culturally, because everywhere is different and that will help you kind of stay on top of some of the language that’s around there.

 

And if you’re not sure, then ask is always my advice. If you’re not sure whether you should say that, is that the right phrase, or have you got that wrong or right, then just ask. And say, I’m not sure if this is the correct way of me referencing this, could you help me understand what it is? And most people will be very happy to support and help.

 

JASON: Yeah. So today we’ve covered the importance to have the people  that you work with, that you take advice from, whether it be your board, your team members, your co workers that really that do they reflect the customers, the people that you serve? We talked about making sure that you intentionally take the step to ask the next question.

 

Be curious around a different point of view. It doesn’t mean you have to change your point of view, but at least consider it before you make your decisions. And then the third area that we just spoke about was what I’m going to sum up as respectful language. And what I mean by that is being as intentional with your language as you are with who you choose to surround yourself with in a diverse sense.

 

But if you don’t know whether it’s offensive or not, ask the question so that you can show that you may not be perfect, but that you are wanting to be respectful and inclusive. And I think all of us have the ability to do that. And we’re not asking anybody listening today to completely change their point of view on things.

 

We’re simply saying. Be open and be curious to what you don’t understand or a different point of view. So these are absolutely golden nuggets that you’ve been sharing with us and really practical things that we can all do. I’ve been following you on social, so I know how much value you drop on them.

 

But I’m wondering what’s the best way for someone listening today to keep following your work and learning from your wisdom. 

 

ADVITA: I would say LinkedIn is the best space. I do tend to write micro blogs on LinkedIn with practical advice and top tips. And my DMs on LinkedIn are also open.

 

So if anybody does have a curious question or are fearful of asking it openly, then I will, my door is always open and I think it’s important that we take and treat people with kindness where possible because in my experience, Jason, 99 percent of people don’t mean malice. They’re just learning, and if you can create a learning environment that’s safe, then people will adjust and adapt as they progress.

 

JASON: Brilliant, brilliant. Well, in the show notes, we’ll be sharing links to your book, links to your socials, to make it really easy for people to continue to be inspired by and to learn from your work. So I appreciate that. But before I let you go, I have one last question. Someone listening today or watching the show, what’s one thing that they can do almost instantly to be more inclusive in the way that they operate, to have a more diverse team?

 

I’ll let you choose the angle, but how can they embrace this work and help people be more included? 

 

ADVITA: I’m going to go back to what we’ve been speaking about in the last 20 minutes, and that’s curiosity. Curiosity is the one thing that can hold us back, but also help us move forward. So if we’re not curious about individuals, and we’re making assumptions and stereotypes, then we’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to make errors of judgment, and that’s going to cause chaos in our organization.

 

Whereas when we bring curiosity to the front of mind, and we ask the curious questions around business, around people, things will change, and people will appreciate the fact that you’ve listened to them, and what you shared before Jason about moving to a new space about visibility, you know, when people feel heard and they feel included, they will build more connection, they will have more confidence and they’re more likely to stay and help the business evolve and progress and thrive.

 

And that’s where I would say that people need to be, you know, one thing that you need to do and be is be more curious. So as soon as you stop listening to this podcast, go and ask somebody a curious question about anything, you know, it doesn’t need to be diversity related, it could just be, I want to get to know this individual a little bit more.

 

And the quote I will leave people with is, Always choose hope over fear. And that’s something that I try to live my life by.

 

JASON: Always choose hope over fear. What an excellent way to end today’s show on. Advita, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you again for being so generous with your time.

 

ADVITA: Thank you, Jason.




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