In episode 34 of ESG (Even Samen Gevat), Marloes and Aldert talk to Marcia Goddard, neuroscientist and expert in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion. Marcia explains what these three concepts mean and how important they are in daily practice in the workplace.
Marcia Goddard started her career as a researcher, but soon she felt that she did not fit into academia (“a very conservative, old system”). She shifted to business to make a real impact. She worked as an expert in the HR department of employment agency Young Capital and was head of people & culture at Tony’s Chocolonely. Marcia is currently self-employed and advises companies on the social side of ESG on diversity, equity and inclusion. What do these terms mean? Here is Marcia’s perspective:
For Marcia, diversity goes beyond in gender, ethnicity or cultural background. For her, it’s about neurodiversity: “I’m valuable because my brain works in a different way than men’s brains, because I have different experiences. So as far as I’m concerned, diversity is diversity in thought, diversity in perspectives, diversity in the way you look at the world and therefore the decisions you make.” Of course, this is not just about differences between men and women. There is also intersectionality: “You can be a woman and have a different cultural background or a different sexual orientation. There are several characteristics that together lead to being treated differently. So just looking at male/female is not enough.”
Equity stands for equality and equal opportunities: “Equity is very much about how you ensure that everyone has equal chances of success within an organization. So not equal opportunities for access, but equal chances of success.” Marcia cites the example of paid internships. If you offer unpaid internships, you exclude certain people: people who cannot afford to do an unpaid internship. This means that with equity you should not assume that everyone is equal, but that everyone gets the same opportunities. “It’s about making a distinction, not saying ‘Everyone is equal’, but making sure everyone can come out on the same level.”
“Inclusion is creating an environment in which the diversity you bring to your organization actually has a place.” According to Marcia, this is not necessarily about quotas, but about the way in which companies deal with inclusion in practice. “Inclusion is behavior,” she says. It is crucial that everyone is really listened to, “that you listen to that different perspective, that you take that into account in your decision making and that you take the ideas and the creative solutions that someone else proposes seriously so that they also feel: I am seen, I am heard and I am respected.”
But there is another consideration why we should put prejudice aside. “Change is the only constant when you look at the world of work,” says Marcia. “From a brain perspective, that leads to a lot of unpredictability and that leads to stress.” This immediately gives you the business case for diversity: if an organization wants to be able to deal with change well, “it is important that different perspectives are represented in a team.” Diversity as a guarantee of creativity, flexibility and resilience.
Masculine and feminine
The conversation touches several times on the distinction between men and women and about masculine and feminine, but according to Marcia those terms don’t feel right “because we are perpetuating the gender bias.” For companies, it should not be about finding masculine women or feminine men, for example, but about the right brain, about “qualities, skills, personalities without us attaching gender labels to them”. A man does not have to say that he is feminine or has feminine characteristics, but, for example, that he can listen well and is very sociable. According to Marcia, the use of concepts such as masculine and feminine encourages gender bias “and that is not what we want.”
A good conversation
Marcia advocates for good conversations about diversity, equality and inclusion. For example, she recently talked to someone at an amusement park who initially wanted to paint Marcia’s 4-year-old son not pink but blue, while he himself really wanted to be pink. “That kind of stereotyping has been learned,” Marcia says. And that is precisely what we need to have open conversations and ask questions about. This also applies, for example, to the position of women. That doesn’t mean that men tell women how to be more assertive, for example, but that you “engage with each other out of understanding and empathy and then out of curiosity.”
But a friendly, empathetic conversation doesn’t always work. “When it comes to social issues, sometimes we need to make some serious noise.” Marcia is referring to movements like Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and Kick Out Zwarte Piet (in the Nettherlands), among others. With this kind of activism, you can put a topic on the agenda. “Sometimes you have to shout really loudly, because otherwise you won’t be heard,” although Marcia remains a big proponent of nuance.
Change is possible
“The brain is neuroplastic and can, in fact, adapt,” says Marcia. If you are intrinsically motivated to change, you can actually change. “If you have a leadership role in an organization and you only promote diversity because you think you have to, because society demands it, then the chance of success is lower than if you think: I want this, because I think this is better for my company.” Diversity, equity and inclusion are always possible, if you really want them. And if you free up budgets for them. According to Marcia, that last point in particular should receive a little more attention in the Netherlands: “In other countries, budgets for diversity are considerably higher.”
The good news is that we are moving in the right direction, but Marcia’s work is far from over: “I think diversity is ‘ready’ when it is no longer a topic.” As long as there are systemic biases in society, which are only reinforced by current technological developments, they will persist in organizations. “When that’s all gone, then we’ll have arrived. But with everything I’m saying now, I think you understand that’s going to take a while.”
ESG Even Samen Gevat is een podcast reeks waarin Aldert Veldhuisen en Marloes Bergevoet in gesprek gaan met versnellers van de duurzame transitie. Ze duiken onder andere in de “E” van groene energie, CO2 uitstoot, grondstoffen, biodiversiteit, de “S” van gezondheid, diversiteit en inclusiviteit en de “G” van wet- en regelgeving en internationale samenwerking.
In deze reeks zijn onder andere ook verschenen:
- Betekenisvolle, duurzame en menswaardige marketing – met Tijs Timmerman
- Voorvechter van duurzaamheid in de zorg – met Wouter Hehenkamp
- Op weg naar een impacteconomie – met Werner Schouten
Volg Even Samen Gevat hier zodat je geen aflevering