Why inclusion is the key to diversity

Posted 11 Apr 2022 by by Kevin Wood, The Myers-Briggs Company

5 minute read

In previous DEI posts, we’ve emphasized the importance of inclusion in making diversity work. 

But are leaders, organizations, and managers responding to this message? If not, why? And what can we do to get people started?

Here’s a round-up of some points to consider.

Diversity and inclusion: a reminder

Diversity is the presence of difference. Inclusion is the welcoming of diversity. 

Inclusion creates the environment where those differences are recognized, valued, and get every chance to flourish. Inclusion is what helps people feel they really belong. 

Think of it this way. If four ski-cross competitors line up for a race but the starting gate somehow only opens for two of them, we don’t have an inclusive race. It doesn’t matter how diverse the starting line-up is. If they don’t all get the chance to compete, the impressive amount of diversity on the start line is for nothing. 

Inclusive behaviors remove barriers. Without inclusion, diversity is left behind. 

I don’t see the problem

In Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity, BCG writes that, ‘…. many leaders still have blind spots regarding diversity. They underestimate the obstacles confronting an employee of a diverse group, perceiving a workplace with far less bias than actually exists.’

These people control the budgets, too. If they approve development programs, they’re more likely to approve programs that make sense to them, their experience, and their norms.

There are two points to consider. One relates to unconscious bias, which we wrote about here. The other relates to the diversity of leadership teams. Data from Zippia 2021 finds that:

All figures are for the US, 2021.

What we see is that leaders are, in general, white males.

Our own research, which we used in the Promote a diverse and inclusive workplace webinar, shows that for those working at middle management and above, more than 70% have an MBTI® preference for Thinking. This is to be expected given that Thinking is the preferred decision-making style of men, and men hold most leadership positions. However, women in leadership positions are also more likely to have a Thinking preference. 

This means that decisions are made by people who favor objectivity and logic, rather than subjectivity and personal values.

This might not be a surprise. But it could be a factor if inclusion programs aren’t getting off the ground. 

More feeling, please

One way to start the journey toward a more inclusive culture is to start talking about—and developing—MBTI preferences for Feeling. 

Because the Feeling preference considers people’s situations and values, it aligns with discussions about inclusion. 

And it’s seriously underrepresented among leaders. 

Try out a decision-making workshop with leaders to develop awareness, understanding, and use of the Feeling preference. It’s no substitute for inclusion training, but it’s an accessible way in. If leaders understand that they have a perception gap, it’s a start.

Check the Show your feeling side blog to read a little more. 

Who are your inclusion cheerleaders? 

Developing inclusive behaviors does require training. But some people are predisposed to inclusive behavior already, so why not get them on board with inclusion initiatives at the earliest opportunity? 

People with an MBTI preference for Feeling are likely candidates. And if we move away from the MBTI assessment for a minute, the FIRO-B® assessment provides another lens to view personality differences. 

The FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation–Behavior) tool looks at interactions between people. It’s based on three ‘social needs’ people have, which explore what people want and need from others. The three social needs are:

FIRO-B Inclusion isn’t the same as inclusion in the acronym DEI, but there is overlap. The need for Inclusion in the FIRO-B tool looks at:

People who score medium to high on Expressed Inclusion want people to feel included. It’s in their nature. Do you have people like this in your organization? They could be natural cheerleaders for inclusion-oriented initiatives. 

The invisible I

Inclusion might also be more difficult to implement than diversity because it’s harder to see. Compared to diversity, which is quantitative, inclusion is qualitative. 

It could also be the case that people with a Thinking preference—which is most business leaders, according to the figures we’ve seen—respond more readily to quantitative measures. 

It helps explain why diversity measures are more likely to be implemented than inclusion measures. 

As Forbes magazine writes, inclusion is an outcome—creating a place where diverse people want to work. This means overcoming organizational constraints that have long defined traditional business practice but may now be unintended blockers to inclusive behaviors (see The Inclusion Delusion, The Myers-Briggs Company). 

More employee input

We’ve talked about the pivotal role of leadership in implementing inclusive behaviors and creating an inclusive culture. 

But it looks like leadership is often just not diverse enough (yet) to recognize and understand the obstacles many employees face. 

Alternative approaches, like MBTI decision-making workshops (to develop the Feeling preference), might provide useful nudges.

Another nudge is employee feedback. McKinsey & Company’s 2020 report, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, found that employees’ feelings about inclusion in their organization were 61% negative. Employees’ feelings about leadership’s accountability in diversity and inclusion (D&I) were also strongly negative.

So, to build a sense of belonging for everyone, invite more people to contribute. Give everyone the chance to get involved and be aware, especially if leaders don’t quite ‘see the problem.’ 

Summary: What can you do?

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