Asking the right questions points you to a true place where you need to point your Diversity and Inclusion efforts, regardless of the approach you take to your programming.
Notasking the right questions leaves you open to asking the wrong questions—the ones that instead of taking you to the root of why you are seeing the same recurring diversity-related problems, they take you on a perpetual loop that guarantees cynicism, lost opportunity and a lack of lasting solutions.
It’s important too to differentiate between Good questions…and GRID questions that force us to get real on inclusion and diversity. A Good question for example might be: “What do we need to do to become more diverse and inclusive?” It’s a good question. We know the importance of resolve and action to become more diverse and inclusive.
A GRID question on the other hand is a more uncomfortable question, because we may or may not be prepared to live with the answers. A GRID question starts with the Good question. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues. “By the way, do we really want to be more diverse and inclusive?”
Stomach for the Battle
In his book American Fascists, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges recounts why institutions like media and academia in Nazi Germany were “unwilling to deal with the…inequities of the age.” Citing one of his Harvard professors who the Nazis dismissed from his post at the university where he was teaching, Hedges gives the following explanation: “They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their prestige and comfort.”
The self-evident answer to the Good question of whether we want diversity is, “Of course we want to be more diverse and inclusive. Why else would we undertake this EDI program/community outreach /Commitment Statement/ demographic survey of our organization?”
But the answer to the GRID question of whether we really want diversity? Not so self-evident. That’s because getting real will cost us more than the dollars it takes to run the program. Does your organization have the stomach for the seismic shift true inclusiveness demands?
Off the Beaten Track
GRID questions force us to face uncomfortable truths, truths like the price we are prepared to pay for real inclusion. Are we prepared to abandon our practice of filling top spots from our network of acquaintances, rather than from the charade we call interviewing? What will we do when, upon checking downstream for what is preventing diversity at the table, we find out that only those who like ourselves ‘fit the profile’ are being consciously or unconsciously groomed for top spots?
Are we prepared to groom women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) with equal assiduousness?
As for those at the table who got there precisely because of privileged practices, are they prepared to move over? And even if we widen access, are we prepared to abandon deeply held stereotypes about the newcomers’ ability to handle the roles that matter, or will they be stuck in essentially supporting roles?
Let’s face it: if D&I initiatives alone were all that’s needed to change the face of our organizations, we would not be still in the same diversity battles we fought a decade ago, or two decades ago, or six decades ago.
GRID questions take us off the beaten path, forcing us to ask questions whose answers we would rather not face, but which we have no choice but face if we are going to effect true change.