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The Ghost of Inequity

By Eve Vlemincx.


Within the walls of our offices, an invisible ghost roams: the ghost of inequity. Intangibly, it affects all our interactions. Imperceptibly, it undermines our efforts in the realm of diversity and inclusion, shaping the behavior of our team members. To create a workspace where everyone feels valued, heard, and can thrive, we must come to understand this ghost.

Exclusion versus Inclusion

If we lack an inclusive culture, we have an exclusive one. It's as simple as that. An exclusive culture excludes people. Unfortunately, we also associate the word "exclusive" with positive things (exclusive gadgets, cars, ... and secretly, we all like being part of that exclusive club). But in a business context, a culture of exclusion has significant implications.


This means that if we don't consciously develop an inclusive culture, certain people will inevitably feel left out.

On the journey towards an inclusive workspace, we must uncover the exclusive nature of a culture. The ghost resides in the shadows of our recruitment practices, promotions, and, more generally, in our interactions.

Let's zoom in on our teams:

  • What do they look like at different levels within the organization?

  • What active steps are we taking to address our biases? We all have them, so if we don't address them, they influence our decision-making process.

Having Difficult Conversations

To banish the ghost, authentic and openly curious conversations are essential. Guiding questions might include:

  • "Have you ever felt excluded in the workplace?"

  • "What aspects of our culture have contributed to this?"

  • "Do you feel heard and respected?" Encouraging employees to share their experiences without fear of judgment exposes the true impact of the ghost.

Anonymous Surveys

Conducting anonymous surveys for honest feedback is another tool.

We've all received those supposedly 'anonymous' surveys where the first question is about filling in our names. That's not how it should be. It undermines confidentiality, leading people to give socially desirable answers instead of being honest. Gathering feedback in this way is futile, even counterproductive. The greater the impact of the ghost, the less honestly people will respond to such questions. So, anonymity is essential and must be preserved.


Company culture is the invisible force that often perpetuates inequity. Unconscious biases and unspoken norms can inadvertently marginalize certain individuals.


Conclusion

Expelling the ghost of inequity requires unwavering commitment from organizations. Only by acknowledging and addressing this ghost can we create a truly inclusive and transformative workspace where every employee can thrive.

 

About the Author Eve Vlemincx is a strategic advisor with expertise in a wide array of areas including legal digital transformation, innovation and leadership. She serves as an advisory council member for Harvard Business Review and is a Course Facilitator at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eve is highly sought after as a keynote speaker and guest lecturer in various professional settings. Notably, she has been honored as a five-time recipient of the Stanford GSB LEAD Award.


Operating at the dynamic intersection of legal and business, Eve holds certifications from esteemed institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Kellogg and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, she brings substantial experience as a seasoned lawyer specializing in corporate law and restructurings.


Eve's guiding philosophy is centered on working smarter, not harder, as she helps individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of today's rapidly evolving landscape.


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