Diversity & Inclusion: More Than Just a Seat at the Table

Have you ever felt looked down upon because you needed work flexibility to pick up your kids? Or voiced an idea in a room full of people, only to have it received later on coming from someone else? Or been excluded from bonding at happy hours because you don’t drink?

These are all forms of micro-inequities that, while they may seem subtle, can greatly impact engagement as your organization unknowingly creates outsiders of its employees.

Khalilah Lyons, MHRIR, PHR, HCS, SWP, has experienced all of the above. Now, as the Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Discover Financial Services, she realizes her role is one she’s been preparing for her whole life.

Check out our interview below and see how your company can begin disrupting conversations to integrate diversity and inclusion into everyday work and life.

Q: What are some misconceptions about integrating Diversity & Inclusion within organizations?

A: People underestimate the level of discomfort that comes with focusing efforts on D&I, leveraging diverse talent and creating an inclusive work space. It puts a spotlight on where there’s been privilege and where change needs to be made.

Change is almost always going to be needed–which will disrupt what has always worked–and that’s okay! Things need to be sacrificed so new things can come about. And while that requires loss, the gains are inevitable and completely outweigh the losses.

Just as D&I has been woven into my journey in my personal life, it should be at your company as well–you should be leveraging it as a competitive advantage and continually evolving it to fit your employees’ needs.

Diversity and inclusion is not a separate program. While driven by one particular function, D&I is owned by everyone.

Q: How can companies change their mindset from thinking of D&I as a separate entity to being woven into the company’s every day work?

A: Go back to your business strategy and really take a look at who you want to be, and determine who is going to help to you get there.

Look at the talent that you have and figure out what you need to start adding and tapping into as an organization (internally or externally).

This will require you to also redefine what success looks like. And require you to think about the diversity that will help the company.

There are always going to be biases naturally woven into our mindsets, so you’ll need to have a structure in place for how you’re challenging each other, thinking about success and considering intentionally if you need to change what you've always done.

Companies that aren’t getting past the status quo aren’t going to be able to keep up.

It’s not enough to recruit diversity or just have diversity at the table; all talent needs to feel like they belong so that they can thrive, be engaged, fully innovate and impact the bottom-line.

Q: What is one key takeaway you can share with other L&D leaders?

A: Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t feel like an overwhelming strategy that you now have to prioritize, along with all of your work. It should be a part of your work–it’s just a new way of thinking about it.