Looking for solid growth? Choose Inclusion.

Why do men (still) earn more than women? Why does Eveline find a job more quickly than Fatima? Why does Gerrit (61) always lose out to Thomas or Sanne (32). Or is Mădălina not offered her assessment in her native language? As DE&I policies gain traction, these practices still hurt your eyes.

“Inclusion creates a welcoming community where differences are not approached defensively but respectfully, opportunity-wise, and learning-wise.”

Diversity, where does it stand?

In 2018, McKinsey published a global study on diversity in “the pipeline.” In the illustration, you can see how diversity is distributed among the different layers of the surveyed organizations (listed organizations in G20). And what we already know, we see here, expressed in numbers: the higher the level of the organizational structure, the less diverse it becomes. And yes, according to this study, this also applies to Europe.

Diversity research 201 - 2018
Source: McKinsey | 03-2018 Still looking for room at the top

“D, E, and I represent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. These concepts are stackable. D&E are the foundations of Inclusion.”

What means Diversity?

DE&I represents Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They are three different terms that cannot be used arbitrarily interchangeably:


deals with all conceivable ways in which (groups of) people differ. For example, racial, ethnic, disability, gender, religion, knowledge, and cognitive diversity and combinations in between. And not only from observable differences but especially from perceived differences.


has to do with progress, future prospects, opportunities, access to networks, and information for everyone. Within organizations, rules, systems, and processes must be just and fair, and leaders must be permanently alert to equality for all.


provides a welcoming community where everyone feels welcome and where differences are approached not defensively but respectfully, opportunity-wise and learning-wise.
Verband DEI Sonya Barlow - Starcheck 2021 11 25

Source: Sonya Barlow

Concept  Vernã Myers

“DE&I leads to cultural change. So why bother?”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion reinforce each other.

So diversity, equity, and inclusion are not the same thing; they reinforce each other. Diversity does not mean everyone feels at home and gets equal opportunities to develop in your organization. A diverse organization is not necessarily inclusive, while in an inclusive organization, diversity is usually acceptable.

Diversity is generally found easier to begin with, though. Just by (visually) scanning an organization, you can identify and monitor ethnic, racial, and/or gender diversity. In fact, diversity is step 1, and equity is step 2 to achieve an inclusive organization.

In an inclusive organization, where everyone feels happy, rules, systems, and processes are reviewed for fairness and equality. Such a review is very confrontational. You can be assured that current systems and processes are not equitable.

Reviewing for equity requires leadership and a willingness to change. If you want your organization to grow into an inclusive organization, accept cultural change.

“Organizations with a wide diversity of people need to build a collective memory.”

Diversity and Inclusion, why bother?

Culture change: brrrrr. So why pursue an inclusive organization anyway? There are two reasons for that: one good reason and one excellent reason:

Reason 1: diversity is socially desirable.

Let me start with the good reason. This reason is extrinsically driven, though, and therefore, for an organization, not as strong as reason 2. As society increasingly embraces DE&I as the “norm,” you don’t want to be laggards. Sure, the fewer people excluded, the more people get future prospects; that’s nice. That’s a no-brainer on macro and meso level. But for the hiring manager who has to choose between Gerrit or Sanne, it is not a deal done. The closer it gets to us, the bolder we have to be, and the more we have to unlearn old habits. Or the other way around: behavioral change becomes more accessible if it is in our own best interest. And that makes implementing DE&I from a socially desirable standpoint alone a very tough mission.

Reason 2: it’s good for the business.

An excellent reason is that it ensures support and anchoring and is intrinsically driven. DE&I is demonstrably good for the performance of your organization. Search for business case inclusion, and many articles will appear on your screen, including precise analyses and positive links between diversity and business performance. Many positively mentioned effects of inclusion are:
  1. drives innovation, the key to competitiveness;
  2. improves empathy with customers and the labor market;
  3. enlarges the pool to recruit talent;
  4. matures the organizational culture in terms of dynamism and sharpness;
  5. makes employees feel good.

“Storytelling, one of the most universal human experiences, gives us a rare chance to look through new lenses.” – uit Havard Business Review

DE&I requires patience and persistence

An inclusive organization must evolve. I am referring mainly to “growing toward each other.” An organization with a wide diversity of people needs to build a collective memory. That means understanding each other, listening to each other’s stories, creating awareness, naming obstacles, and getting in tune with each other. To build a collective memory, you need time and respect. In addition, leaders must have already begun dismantling systems of discrimination and subordination.

Leaders must persevere in this process. But then you build an organization that is sustainably connected to society, stimulates innovation from every conceivable angle, moves faster than its competitors, can surprise customers repeatedly, and generates better profits than before.

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