Professionally, I have found the lack of diversity and inclusion a deterrent of the sector. There are almost no meaningful initiatives supporting diversity and promoting inclusion.
If nothing changes I will continue to be the only person of colour at the table. Do I continue a career where am the defacto representative? It predicts a lonely road to leadership. Without having diversity in the workplace underrepresented demographics are consistently being disadvantaged from the great work the sector achieves. We need all voices heard. To do this we need all perspectives at the table.
As a leader, you will never be able to relate to every perspective. Surrounding yourself with a range of views and working styles is critical in delivering good work. For some, this may obstruct synergy, but good leadership requires flexibility, trust and calculated risk. Allowing those around you to also nurture these qualities is critical for an organisation to flourish. It allows innovation from different mindsets, cultures and a variation of resilience types.
Supporting diverse ideas at recruitment and at entry level speaks to a culture of an inclusive organisation. Without diversity, the sector will continue to fail where it has failed before. Leaders will face the same old challenges and will not grow in a way that reflects our reality.
Meaningful inclusion and diversity is not easy to achieve. The current landscape makes it difficult for the sector to engage in positive action. But there needs to be a conscious drive to ensure everyone has a chance to become a leader in the sector. We need to change attitudes about what it means to be a valuable and effective professional.
Recruitment that values unique life experiences. Workplaces that support a variety of lifestyles by flexible or remote working. We all need to make space for those who do not reflect our experience but embody our values. Creating a culture that truly encourages everyone to embrace and seek out diversity will encourage a more representative leadership for the future.
This is the third of four articles curated by the Ellie Munro, a social policy researcher at the University of Birmingham, for Civil Society Voices. Lots of people have been talking about ‘diversity’ in the voluntary sector recently.
This is great; it has been encouraging to see senior leaders reflecting on what statistics tell us about ‘pale, male and stale’ boards, spaces and leadership teams. But some voices have been missing. As much as we need leadership at the top to open up room, or to get out of the way, we need to listen to people just starting out on their careers in the sector, those who have experienced oppression when building theirs, and those supporting others to develop as leaders too. This short series of articles aims to bring those voices forward, reflecting on experiences so far, what inclusive leadership looks like, and how we can foster it.
The final piece will be published next Tuesday.
More from this series