Analysis: 10 D&I Pioneers outline the Future of D&I

While for some, D&I still feels like a new (ad)venture, others have already witnessed 20+ years of development in the field. One of the leading D&I magazines presents ten critical expert analyses including learnings and recommendations.

The ‘Profiles in Diversity Journal’ was established as a specialised media in 1999 to showcase successful people and projects in the field. In 2007, they featured leading experts who looked into their crystal balls to describe the future of D&I. Now, ten years later, ten D&I pioneers were asked to summarise what the global D&I community had learned over decades and what (still) lied ahead. While the short statements and articles are must-reads, especially for International D&I practitioners in North America and Europe, this summary looks for common threads, differences and specifics.

Numbers and inter-group competition

In the light of current developments, it might come as no surprise that a few experts made clear and sometime strong statements about the downside of the representation focus in D&I. While Edward Hubbarb suggests a stronger emphasis on the utilisation of difference, Trevor Wilson points to the negative effect of inter-group competition. Stephen Young and Michael Stuber both criticise the use of numbers combined with a pledge for active – although not prescribed – inclusion to contribute to business-related performance goals. However, three experts present an alternative perspective in this respect.

Ethics and sustainability

Julie O’Mara, George Simons and Jude Smith Rachele propose to reframe D&I with a stronger linkage to ethics or sustainability. While O’Mara claims that D&I could no longer stay away from politics, Simons calls for a humanisation of the entire framing. Smith Rachele discusses the need to stand up against unethical behaviour, tying in with populism and referring to backlash from those who feel left out.

Majorities and privileges

Stuber requests dedicated strategies to engage what he calls ‘mainstream groups’, while Judith Katz points to existing privilege and demands ‘active allies for change’ from that side. To emphasise the wider agenda and benefits, Wilson speaks about ‘equity for all’. However, most authors agree or point out that many of the D&I goals from the past have not been met in the way it was hoped.

Deficits and challenges

Judith Katz flags out (blatant) discrimination and exclusion that still exist and also Mary Francis Winters writes how challenges and opposition were underestimated. Several experts say that more efforts (and resources) are required to address prevailing issues in an effective way. Stuber repeats his pledge that D&I practitioners need to be role models for the cases and standards they set and O’Mara even observes that many in the D&I field ‘do not have the competencies required to be effective’.

More process less interventions

Another thread that appears in several articles is the need to facilitate more holistic development journeys rather than focused interventions. Several experts, including Winters, Stuber and Young, criticise the wide-spread unconscious bias training which often does not provide enough action-oriented impetus beyond intriguing insights. O’Mara and Stuber show how D&I change processes can have universal elements while both insist on the need for careful (regional or industry) tailoring.

Strong Messages – New Paradigms

As expected from seasoned D&I pioneers, they presented pointed observations about some of the hot topics or introduced new perspectives to be considered.

  • Frederick Miller analyses the digital challenges related to D&I and asks how machines can be made free of bias we cannot free ourselves from.
  • His colleague, Judith Katz, requests to ‘stop judging’ as well as to stop dividing people in groups.
  • In this regard, Stuber and Wilson introduce individuality as a new paradigm for D&I.
  • Winters and Young demand strong statements and new approaches in D&I – instead of ‘bubbles’ or continued ‘circling’.
  • Simons even asks if D&I can effectively challenge a system when existing basic unfair (economic) conditions are implicitly accepted.

The Power of Personal Statements

Each of the ten pioneers has found their way to provide a specific perspective on the longer-term development of D&I. All of them apply their experience of 20+ years to outline key themes for the future.

To read the analysis, visit Profiles in Diversity Journal online or order your copy of the Fall 2017 Edition.

The special feature ‘What have we learned?’ is found on pages 52 – 64 and includes articles from (in alphabetic order)

Edward Hubbarb (California-based, started Diversity work in 1985, page 55), Judith Katz (first book in 1978, page 58), Frederick Miller (New York state, page 60), Julie O’Mara (New York, started her work in 1991, page 54), George Simons (USA and France, page 59), Jude Smith Rachele (USA and London, page 61), Michael Stuber (Cologne, Europe, started in 1996, pages 62-63), Mary Francis Winters (since 1984, page 53), Trevor Wilson (Toronto, Canada, page 64) and Stephen Young (New Jersey, pages 56-57)