There are many types of differences and diversity, and not all are visible or recognised. But what can be done to build and maintain a truly inclusive and equitable board and organisation? In this podcast, Dr Sabine Dembkowski, Founder and Managing Partner of Better Boards, discusses building inclusive and equitable cultures with Dr Doyin Atewologun, Director of consulting firm Delta Alpha Psi and multi-award winner in recognition of her work on driving evidence-based inclusion in organisations. “Different differences have an impact” Doyin opens by explaining that inclusion is about the degree to which difference is recognised and valued, regardless of the type of difference. She highlights that in some geographical locations and cultures, certain differences matter more than in others, and some differences are visible and some not so visible, such as neurodiversity. She believes there is a need to think intentionally about different identity dimensions. She believes individual action is very important, and the key question that everyone in the boardroom should ask is: ‘What is your own compelling driving force for seeking equality in the business?’ “Analyse that assumption that you’re sacrificing competency for diversity” Doyin explains that, in her opinion, there are three different types of work to achieve diversity and inclusion: thinking work, talking work, and doing work. She defines thinking work as ongoing alertness to the less visible structures around us and challenging what we are used to hearing or saying. She feels we may not do enough thinking work. She gives the example of the myth that competency is compromised for diversity. Most women, people of colour and other underrepresented groups will say that their experience is the opposite – rather than lowering the bar, people who come from underrepresented groups find that they have to undergo a higher level of scrutiny. By the time underrepresented people are ‘on the radar,’ they are much more likely to be exceptional, because of the barriers they have had to navigate. “Gently, subtly, politically, but sometimes more directly influence behaviours, so that they’re much more aligned with your own values of inclusion” Doyin explains that talking work includes the idea of calling out behaviour, for example, when in a meeting if someone is interrupting or ignoring someone else’s ideas. If calling out is a little too direct, calling in is another option. Under no circumstances should anyone see something that goes against what they stand for and wait for someone else’s permission to highlight it. “The strength of a board is it comprises of different people” Doyin explains that the third type of work is doing work, which is important to consider within the boardroom itself. It is important for boards to be strong, high-functioning work groups and for board members to trust and challenge one another. The strength of a board is that it contains different people, different roles, and different perspectives. The three top takeaways from our conversation are: 1. Inclusive cultures matter not only in the organisation, but also in the boardroom. The work of diversity in boards should not be just one person’s agenda item, but everyone’s. 2. Chairs have a particular role to play, e.g., in helping support the informal induction of new members – especially those who are ‘different.’ Don’t be blind to differences. Be intentional about it. 3. When you think about diversity as work, remember there are different types of work – thinking work (thinking critically), talking work (calling things out when you see things inappropriate) and doing work.