The “business case” for inclusion is bankrupt. Let’s disinvest.

Many people eager to make their workplaces more ‘diverse’ have felt the allure of using the business case when pushing for change. The diversity that delivers value to a business is broadly defined, according to McKinsey, who have been leading the charge on this for over a decade, as “a greater proportion of women and a more mixed ethnic and cultural composition in the leadership of large companies”. I can confirm that not only doesn’t the business case work in driving change, but it is a narrative that is bankrupt if we want to design an inclusive future with any integrity at all. Here is why.

What about white people?

If it’s so important for there to be a business case for groups of people before they can be deemed worthy of being hired and promoted in our companies, why are there no reports and research about the business case for white people? Or men? If we were really being rigorous about who we should and shouldn’t have in our businesses wouldn’t we want to ensure that we have solid grounds to hire white people and men too? After all, doing good business means rationally scrutinising the facts of the matter such that if there is an opportunity to get rid of dead wood, we should. Maybe the research would tell us that we shouldn’t hire white people. Maybe the research would tell us that we could make more money if white people weren’t in our workplaces. Why aren’t companies investing time and resources commissioning this research?! This could be the next best thing for their bottom line!

You might be reading this and be feeling agitated because “this isn’t what we meant by establishing a business case”. Perhaps you’re yelling “our business case was framed in the positive”, in a way that’s like “people of colour and white women are GOOD for business and we are showing that they are”.

That may be how you feel, but it’s not quite so when we dig deeper. By conducting research to prove that minoritised groups should be hired into leadership roles – we are accepting the grounds that perhaps they shouldn’t. The only reason you need to prove something is if there is a feeling it could go the other way.

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