"Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Verna Myers


The spirit of inclusion is about action. The welcome words and  the data gathering agenda are essential first steps. The expert  choreography is in the strategy you create, the roadmap you put in  place and the engagement across the whole business. This chapter  will explore the most robust inclusion and diversity initiatives based  on the latest academic research. Successful delivery of an inclusion  and diversity strategy across your whole business will yield positive  returns. It will allow you to capture the enormous business value of  untapped potential, talent, productivity and innovation internally  and the new consumers, products and markets externally. It will  also ensure that you continue to have a social licence to operate in  a fast-changing and sustainably-minded world. In this world it is  imperative for all businesses to have a purpose, as well as a profit.

Shared Purpose  

Looking at inclusion and diversity through a commercial lens is  a huge, but relatively nascent, opportunity for organisations to  differentiate their business and demonstrate their purpose. This  commercial lens is about recognising how you can reach more  talent and more customers, which in turn adds more value and  delivers better returns for your business and its community. When you conduct this exercise as a business, you are identifying and claiming the ‘missing millions’ that other companies have ignored.  Although every part of your business should be considered through  an inclusion and diversity lens, it does not necessarily mean the  areas you will prioritise will feature every aspect of your business.  

For example, after analysing your business through an inclusion  and diversity lens, you may decide the greatest impact is in the talent  you are attracting, retaining and promoting versus the customers and  clients that you work with, or the partners in your supply chain or  your service providers. However, often, you will find that business  areas link together. For example, diverse talent is often seeking  organisations that have a more representative customer and client  base. To have the greatest impact commercially and socially, it is  important to focus where you will add the most value.  

A Focused Approach 

In 2020, Diageo, the global drinks company, decided to add inclusion  and diversity as a core strategic focus of their business. Building on  the sustainability focused commitments of the previous decade in  the areas of responsible drinking and environmental impact, they  added targets for inclusion and diversity. The additional focus was  a result of applying an inclusion and diversity lens to their entire  business. This highlighted their dependence on ‘recruiting, retaining  and developing diverse talent with a range of backgrounds, skills  and capabilities’ across the 180 countries where they operate.  In addition, they recognised that ‘diversity of thought and  experience fuels growth and innovation’ and brings them ‘closer  to the consumer base’.  

The work that Diageo has completed around gender equality has  resulted in the top global ranking by diversity data company Equileap. In 2020, 39 percent of their leadership roles and 55 percent of their  board positions were held by women. Their target for 2030 is to  achieve gender balance in leadership roles and to have 45 percent  ethnically diverse leadership. 

Unconscious Bias (UB) Training 

One of the strategies that many companies have adopted to address  the problem of a lack of diversity is UB training. The time, money,  and effort put into UB training by companies globally is estimated  to be around $8bn a year.42 In 2018, Starbucks famously closed 8,000  of its stores to conduct UB training after an incident in which an  employee called the police on two potential black customers. Facebook  has demonstrated their commitment to tackling unconscious bias  over multiple years and has published their training material online.

Underlying Beliefs 

However, the issue with all the focus on UB training is that it is a  radical oversimplification of the challenge. Social psychology  recognises many types of bias including the things we would do  openly if it weren’t for the social ramifications, feelings we are aware  of but ashamed to admit, information we consciously believe due  to genuine ignorance, and beliefs we justify on cultural or other  grounds. These concepts have many names – aversive racism,  symbolic racism, even colour-blind racism.44 Sexism is similarly  complex covering a number of different concepts like hostile sexism  and benevolent sexism.45 The idea that all, or even most prejudice  today is entirely unconscious is simply not true. Unconscious bias is  an important piece of the puzzle, but it is not the only one. 

Diversity Training 

The other difficulty with an exclusive focus on UB training is that it  doesn’t lead to more diverse teams. In the US, Professors Dobbin  and Kalev (2016) researched more than 800 companies to see how  different diversity programmes affected the proportions of ethnic  minorities and women in management. Surprisingly, they found  that mandatory diversity training made these companies less  diverse, not more diverse, in their management structures. Similarly,  Bezrukova and colleagues (2016) looked at 260 studies on diversity  training, spanning the last 40 years of research on the subject. They  found ‘no compelling evidence that long-term effects of diversity  training are sustainable’. This isn’t to say that unconscious bias  training serves no purpose at all. It is useful for raising awareness of bias and for giving people the tools to start discussing bias. But the evidence is very clear; unconscious bias training, by itself,  will not make your company any more diverse or inclusive.


“Increasing engagement gives employees a stake in  the company’s purpose, promoting professional and personal  growth that reduces staff turnover. Diversity and inclusion can only be improved when a number of targeted strategies are applied together.”