PREJUDICE AND COMPANY CULTURE by Jordan Connelly, Media Assistant

“So, Who here is prejudiced?”

I recently attended the Marketing Society’s first Inspiring Diversity event in Glasgow chaired by The Leith Agency’s Fiona Burton which featured excellent discussions from Alaba Okuyiga (Head of Training & Consultancy, enei) and Tanya Castell (CEO of Changing the Chemistry).

“So, Who here is prejudiced?” this was the opening question from speaker Alaba Okuyiga, the answer – everyone. We are all guilty of unconscious bias driven by our limited cognitive capacity but what does that actually mean and what does it mean for business?

We determine people by visual cues, but what we see is only the tip of the iceberg.  The remaining 90% is hidden under the surface in terms of that individual’s socio-economic background, education and expertise. This form of unconscious bias can lead to stereotyping and unfair assumptions of ability.

This in turn can exclude the best talent from our agencies and possibly the generation of our best ideas. We don’t always know where the best idea will come from but taking a step back from our biases can help us identify what blinkers we have on.

Diversity makes people feel good. It’s the law but how do we ensure that it is more than a tick box exercise? Inclusion. The quote of the day that really struck me was “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”.

Tanya Castell raised the point that the whole point of diversity is to get different perspectives, but if you are not willing to listen there is no point. Choosing who we get on better with or hiring someone because we like the look of their Facebook profile over another applicant and assuming they will fit our culture better isn’t diversity.

Organisations need to think about their culture. Is the culture inclusive? Are all voices being heard? Is there anyone that always gets interrupted in meetings? We usually pay attention to whoever speaks the loudest but everyone has ideas. Our management structures, cultures and control systems need to focus on saying; “We see you, we hear you and we want your ideas.”

We as an industry have the power to shape our future and we can do this by taking a step back from our biases and identifying what our key issues are. Diversity can make us smarter and more innovative, it can enable problem solving and inspire creativity. In other words if we get the balance right – it pays off.