Which Should Come First, Diversity or Inclusion?


Creating a D&I initiative at your organization is a bit like the chicken and the egg problem: Which comes first, diversity or inclusion?

On the one hand, diversity matters because it ensures multiple viewpoints and backgrounds will be represented. But inclusion also matters because it creates a culture of acceptance and engagement, no matter someone’s background.

So where to start? NLI’s Vice President of Consulting Khalil Smith tackled this issue recently in an article for Forbes.

“I get this question all the time as I travel the world, consulting with professionals and speaking with audiences about diversity and inclusion,” Khalil writes. “I hear from employees and team leaders, Chief Diversity Officer, and CEOs. They all want to know how to take D&I priorities and turn them into actual progress in how the company looks, feels, and operates.”

In reality, Khalil says, organizations should start with neither of them. They should really start with growth mindset, because in order to “teach an old dog new tricks,” as it were, employees need to see themselves and others a capable of change.

“That belief—that I, and others, can change—is pivotal as a foundation to any subsequent work around changing behaviors,” Khalil writes. “If I don’t believe we can change and grow, then why bother? If I do believe we can change and grow, then the sky’s the limit.

Then, Khalil says, you can set your sights on D&I. And in that regard, leaders can best help their teams with a primary focus on inclusion. As Khalil notes, leaders can first create the conditions for acceptance, and then double down on embodying that acceptance in the talent represented.

In other words: Growth mindset first, then inclusion, and finally diversity.

To learn more about how to put such a D&I strategy into action, check out Khalil’s full article on Forbes

Author: Chris Weller

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