A new model of inclusion
Many decades after the formal inclusion of women and minorities in the workplace, second-generation barriers to full inclusion endure. NYU School of Law Professor Kenji Yoshino and Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion Managing Principal Christie Smith, Deloitte LLP, have co-authored a white paper, “Uncovering Talent,” that offers a new approach to achieving inclusion. They suggest that current inclusion initiatives often implement formal inclusion without examining how that inclusion is conditioned on burdensome assimilation. To address those conditions, the authors focus on the issue of “covering” – the process through which individuals downplay their differences, often at great cost to their sense of self1 to be included the workplace. Expanding on Yoshino’s groundbreaking work in his book Covering, the white paper examines how individuals cover along four dimensions:
- Appearance: Individuals may blend into the mainstream through their self-presentation, including grooming, attire and mannerisms.
- Affiliation: Individuals may avoid behaviors widely associated with their identity, culture, or group.
- Advocacy: Individuals may avoid engaging in advocacy on behalf of their group.
- Association: Individuals may avoid associating with individuals in their own group.
Results and recommendations
In analyzing the results of a survey distributed to organizations across seven industries, Yoshino and Smith discovered that covering behaviors were widespread, reported to be costly to individuals and their organizations and often misaligned with values of inclusion. The paper outlines concrete solutions founded in leadership, culture and values that would allow organizations to identify and retire the pressures to cover that are inconsistent with their vision of inclusion. Through the concept of covering, Yoshino and Smith introduce a disruptive way to speak about inclusion – one which moves beyond silos, programs and initiatives to help employees find common ground with one another. By acknowledging the interconnected nature of “inclusion” and “talent,” the paper presents a model of inclusion in which historically underrepresented groups can finally address the enduring challenges they face and in which all individuals – including straight white men – can finally see themselves.
1Yoshino, Kenji. Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. New York: Random House, 2006.
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