The Diversity Professional's Beautiful Struggle

-Idris Mootee

-Idris Mootee

It's on us. RIght now we are witnessing managers, leaders, students and the public at large screaming like cats about a topic we grapple with daily. It's our life, it's our career. We work in schools and organizations at various levels answering the question of how to create more inclusion. What does design thinking have to do with the background, the work and the methods of today's diversity professionals?

Our Background: When I go to national conferences, I love to inquire about what people studied and how they came into their roles. It usually runs the gamut from English majors to Sociology and some economic sprinkled in. Many have bleeding hearts and because no one else saw the gap of inclusion, they stepped into a role or had the work tacked onto their role.  Content knowledge of diversity is essential, but context is key.

Regardless of background or experience- a design and innovation mindset is essential. Also, knowledge of product development and management is . This gets tricky because people are not products- however the thinking required is the same.

Our Work: Often times, we don't have a team or solid mission outlined and connected to the organization at large. Because of the ambiguity of the work, we are often fighting to even define our work and our role. This chaos and open nature of our work often leaves the door open for a lack of professional growth. Our performance is often unrecognized or improperly assessed. We face doubters and voices questioning our purpose and results. 

Design thinking reframes our work and helps us ask different questions. Instead of operating on the assumptions of how to make people feel inclusive, designing an experience for everyone to "use" shifts the focus to different factors that are traditionally outside of the diversity equation.

Our Methods: Food, Festivals and Fun! We joke about how these are necessary but the bane of our existence in today's world where our campuses and organizations in most cases are seeking more but offering no answers. How do we preserve the necessary tension of acknowledging the reality of exclusion and the lived experiences of those we serve while engaging everyone in a productive and positive conversation towards inclusion? 

Design thinking blows the top off of traditional climate surveys and focus groups. Relying more on insights and shaping user personas to drive ideas for processes, programs and procedures paints a different picture for inclusion that allows for  a deeper dive into diversity.