It’s time to raise the bar for diversity & inclusion - and Aubrey Blanche has the playbook that can help startups couple caring deeply with acting quickly. Here, she shares eight strategies that have made a difference at Atlassian.
According to Blanche, there are a few reasons behind the strange combination of the uptick in awareness around D&I and the stagnation when it comes to taking action:
Tired out. “Diversity fatigue is real,” says Blanche. “The topic is everywhere and people are tired of talking about it. And much like compassion fatigue, caring hurts. You get frustrated by all this discussion not turning into meaningful action. It’s a fight that takes resources and energy, and it’s hard to stay committed when you’re barely seeing results. That’s when you see interest and passionate advocacy getting slowly transformed into passivity and tuning out.”
Overwhelmed by complexity. The sheer number of issues that need to be addressed is daunting. From sexism and racism to ableism and ageism, the fight for D&I is a battle on many fronts. Matters can be complicated further by internal disagreements over what to focus on. “Trying to address them all at once is obviously not a recipe for success, but people don’t know where to start. And the feeling that you can’t make an impact as just one person or one company can lead you to stop taking action altogether,” she says.
Engaged in the wrong conversations. According to Blanche, when it comes to discussing D&I, we’re setting ourselves up to be disappointed. “We’re worried about representation and neglecting distribution. We’re over-indexing on getting underrepresented individuals in the door and under-indexing on including them once they’re here. But most of all, we don’t really have a shared understanding of what D&I even means,” she says. “People have really strong, often negative reactions to these words. We recently did an anonymous survey, and one of our employees said: ‘I’m a white man, and I always feel like I’m on the wrong side of diversity.’ But there’s no right or wrong side. I read that comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of where we’re going and the definitions that we’re using. If we didn’t have any white men at Atlassian, we’d have the same problem in reverse. They need to stay here, I just want to bring more people on board.”