The Inconvenience of Inclusion

Apple, the very white and very male multinational technology company, recently made a claim that speeding up its efforts to be more diverse and inclusive was “unduly burdensome.”

Responding to one of its shareholders who introduced a proposal to accelerate the recruitment of more women and people of color in its senior management and board ranks, Apple essentially said, “not right now.”

By Apple’s own admission, they know they have a long way to go when it comes to building an organization that looks like their customers. Their leadership team is 72% male, 63% White, 6% Hispanic and 3% Black. Its 8-person board of directors boasts only two women and just two people of color. Its overall workforce is 69% male and 54% White.

To be fair to Apple, they are not the only technology company struggling with diversity and inclusion. Google and Facebook are in the same boat with diminutive representation of women and people of color in their workforces and leadership teams.

Apple’s maleness represents a common picture of companies in the Standards and Poor 1500 Index. Women represent just 16% of board of directors in this 500 company country club and only 3% of their chief executive positions. Here we are 16 years into the 21st Century and the pistons of the financial engine that fuel most of the economic growth in this country resemble an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.”

This is not surprising. In the real world, inclusion rarely happens even in the federal sector. Based on the observations of cultural competency expert, Fernando Ortiz, here are some of the reasons we avoid the difficult work of inclusion.

I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong
We point the finger at the other person responsible for the difference we have to embrace. We get angry. “Why can’t they be like me? I am not the problem, they are the problem.” Like a fish, we are the last ones to know we are out of the water.

I Could be Doing More
We make ourselves feel guilty by listening to our inner critic. We are unable to process the ambiguity of the moment because we are searching for the quick fix. We need to make peace with the difference in order to gauge the opportune moment to recognize and embrace it.

I Am Doing Enough Already
We get offensive. “Hey, I already serve on the diversity committee. What more do you want me to do?” Our entitlement is deafening. We forget that even as inclusion practitioners, our stuff stinks too.

Others Things Are More Important
We feel turned off. We allow issues like sequestration, budget cuts, reduced travel, limited training and sparse career development to distract us from the heavy lifting demanded by inclusion. We forget that the very inclusion we ignore can soften the blow of external factors beyond our control that threaten engagement.

The Problem is Too Big
We feel helpless. We want to do something but we do not know where to start. We can’t get our arms around the challenge. We sit back and let others do the heavy lifting.

Something May Happen If I Do Something
We feel afraid. “If I have that courageous conversation about a difference, someone may file a discrimination complaint against me.” We need to accept the hard reality that inclusion is a contact sport.

We can postpone the challenging work of inclusion or we can start confronting behaviors that prevent us from reaching our full potential in the workplace. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who can bring their full selves to work. Those of us whose differences remain unembraced are left wondering if we will ever enjoy the same luxury.

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