“Diversity Makes Inclusion Harder” – Say What?

In recent years, I’ve seen increased attention to diversity and inclusion—not only in social circles, but also in mainstream media.  Fortunately, many articles go beyond lamenting the problems and focus on practical strategies for improvement.  However, what happens when the efforts make the situation worse?  FastCompany recently published an article on Workplace Evolution that was authored by NeuroLeadership Institute’s head of diversity and inclusion (Khalil Smith) and director (David Rock).  In the article, Smith and Rock highlight research that reveals diversity efforts can make non-dominant members uncomfortably aware of their group identities.  The authors go on to distinguish between organizations based on their maturity with diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, noting that “difference-forced initiatives are more necessary in less mature cultures—the ones featuring large disparities between those in dominant and non-dominant groups.” 

Looking more specifically at geosciences, how do we assess the maturity level with D&I, and what are the implications for a successful strategy?  Research from the National Science Foundation reveals the geosciences is the least diverse discipline within science and engineering.  Perhaps we are at a stage where uncomfortable awareness is necessary to create the needed change.  My hope is that we can quickly move to a stage where we appreciate diversity, in spite of the discomfort.  As Psychologist Adam Grant reports in his WorkLife podcast, diverse groups are more productive, precisely because “they feel more uncomfortable, and that discomfort motivates them to do extra preparation and share new information.”  We need to do a better job preparing people for new D&I efforts, acknowledging their experience will be filtered through a complex interplay of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.  In the end, I echo the wisdom of Bernard and Cooperdock in their recent article in Nature Geoscience: “We will limit the science we do if we do not become more inclusive. We need to do better.”

This page last updated 16 May 2018 - 2:23pm