• Mark Palmer

The Chocolate and Cake Diet

Some years ago, the boss of a large chain of jewellery shops in the UK remarked that his stores sold diamond earrings that were the same price as a prawn sandwich but probably did not last as long. It was a throwaway remark designed, I think, to show that his business met the needs of those on a tight budget. But it did not go down well with his customers, and the business never recovered. Of course, we all know deep down that you get what you pay for, and I suspect that the vast majority of people who bought those earrings knew what they were getting. However, nobody likes to be mocked. Words can be so powerful and, as this example shows, can make huge changes in an instant.

But when it comes to diversity and inclusion, I find that words are the easy bit and seldom enough on their own. After all, we can all say we are committed to anything and everything, especially if we know that it is what is expected of us. I can say that I am committed to losing weight – I do, in fact, say that to myself several times a day – but offer me chocolate or cake, and my actions will quickly say something very different!

So while commitments to inclusion and diversity from organisations are great, and strategies and awareness-raising look wonderful and have a role to play, the key question is what is being done. Improving diversity and inclusion does indeed require a change in mindset, but that in itself achieves very little. Until diversity and inclusion are put at the heart of everything rather than as a bolt-on later, possibly for appearance’s sake, then all those pretty words mean nothing. In fact, in my experience, it can hurt even more when you are excluded while being told how inclusive the action is.

Part of the problem may be that many people still do not appreciate the depth of the problems and how very far this is to go. Yes, great progress has been made in some areas, but the playing field is still far from level overall.

We all have a part to play, in learning more about the barriers faced by others, in educating about the impact of decisions on people, and on changing our behaviour. I believe that a lot of the time diversity and inclusion issues arise not through malice but through ignorance, which at least feels easier to tackle. None of us are perfect, and we all have to start with doing better ourselves. But most of all, words are not enough. What are we doing to put our words into practice, and to challenge leaders who talk a good game while saying something very different with their actions?