Diversity & Inclusion Insights

Amrop spoke to Louis Montgomery Jr., Partner at JM Search USA.


Marek Piwnicki L21zw51kihc Unsplash REV

How would you define diversity, equity and inclusion?

Diversity means representation; said another way it’s about the composition of the work force.  Dimensions of diversity include, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status, care giver status, education, style; etc.  I think you get the picture.  We all represent some aspect of Diversity and we’re all “Diversity Candidates”, a term that I’m on a personal mission to abolish as it’s too nebulous.  Simply put it’s about the mix of our workforce in comparison to the workforce.  Some measures of diversity are hidden and other more obvious and trackable.

Equity is a newer term in this ecosystem but nevertheless very important. Equity recognizes that everyone is different and allocates the exact resources and opportunities to assure equal outcomes (or the opportunity for). This is different than Equality which gives everyone the same; despite differences in needs.

Inclusion is the final concept in this triad. Inclusion is an outcome to ensure individuals feel welcome, included and valued.  Said another way is the feeling that you matter and can be yourself and have the opportunity to contribute to your full potential.

In your opinion, where are we really in the fight for diversity and inclusion?

I think the fight for diversity and inclusion is on-going.  Reflecting over many years one can see progress and at the same time more work needs to be done.  The good news is that we’re having these conversations the bad news is that we’re having still have somewhat similar conversations as we’ve had for many years.

The concept of equal pay for equal work should also be considered, is this happening or is the industry still lagging in this department?

Equal pay or Equity is an important concept too and should remain a part of this conversation.  The long-term goal is that similarly qualified people should be paid similarly shouldn’t be a controversial topic.  However, it’s not always straightforward.  I think it’s great that reporting and analysis in the area is on-going and in some countries is becoming mandatory.

What do you think are the benefits of a diverse working environment?

An article from McKinsey and Company list the benefits of diversity:

“The business case for inclusion and diversity (I&D) is stronger than ever. For diverse companies, the likelihood of outperforming industry peers on profitability has increased over time, while the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity. Progress on representation has been slow, yet a few firms are making real strides. A close look at these diversity winners shows that a systematic, business-led approach and bold, concerted action on inclusion are needed to make progress”  – Diversity Wins Inclusion Matters – May 2020

To me the other benefit is for individuals. Working in an environment that is more reflective of society is more stimulating than working in a more homogenous environment.  If that environment is also Inclusive it provides it’s members the benefits of being their true selves.

What are the struggles with a diverse working environment?

I think the struggles are that despite our best efforts, some people don’t value the differences that other people bring.  Even today, discrimination exists and there are people inside of organizations who either actively or subtlely find ways to make their colleagues feel less valued. Different individuals may not feel as welcome or as valued as they should.  When this is the case, they may be less engaged and the organization loses the value of their discretionary effort.

Because many people don’t grow up in diverse environments, they may be uncomfortable with people who are different than they are.  They may have misconceptions about others which can lead to awkwardness and less effective interactions and relationships.

How do you approach the balance between seeking a cultural fit for your organisation as well as pursuing diversity and inclusion within your work force?

I think this is a great question and a really important area to address.  Unfortunately lack of perceived cultural fit is an easy way for individuals who are somehow different than the majority within an organization to be excluded. To me, instead of asking if this person fits in our culture, a better question is to ask is how this person can add to our culture. 

Most organizations want to grow, which frequently includes gaining access to new customers.  A big part of culture is doing these as they have always done them. Embracing people who can add to the culture can give those organizations an edge over their competitors who aren’t embracing new people/ approaches.

What do you think is needed to truly realise the transformation of the industry in term of diversity and inclusion?

This is a really big question and the holy grail of Diversity and Inclusion.  In my opinion, conversation needs to continue to shift from why this is important to how we can make it happen within our organizations.  We need both enlightened leaders who embrace the values of diversity and inclusion even if they don’t know how to achieve it within their organizations.  We need individuals at all levels within organizations to actively work to understand and support their colleagues, especially those individuals who are different than they are.  We need to continue to provide education and training to help our colleagues become more comfortable in having conversations with each other, to understand and not be limited by our biases.  We also need continued pressure from government, activists and investors to promote diversity and inclusion within our organizations.

I believe many of these items are in place and conversation has shifted from why it’s important to how we can make this a reality. 

This remains a long and important journey.

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