Standing Together - Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
How do we expand professional accredited coaching so it includes everyone?
The potential exists for the coaching profession to expand and become a platform that amplifies and empowers individuals from all walks of life. Honestly, up to this point, the accredited executive coaching sphere has been a space for privileged individuals supporting other privileged individuals. So the question remains, how do we expand the benefits of coaching to include all? This is both the challenge and opportunity we face as a profession.
Visibility for non-mainstream identities has meant broader global awareness, but not yet broader global justice. Isn’t it time to include the voices of all? I write this in the hope that workplaces will change, in the hope that professional coaches can make this happen.
Let’s start with implicit bias, which is a chronic issue that affects entire organisations, industries, and even societies. Individuals have racist, sexist, and homophobic biases because our families, schools, workplaces, and popular culture are racist, sexist, and homophobic. Overcoming this requires an individual commitment to become bias aware. This requires deeper introspection and understanding of our own experiences in society. With this self-knowledge about our biases, we can course-correct our actions and decisions. As coaches we want our clients to be accountable and intentional to overcome their challenges and thrive with opportunities. So let us set the gold standard as coaching professionals to be both intentional and accountable when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
Creating inclusive workplaces and environments is hard work. If we want the same for our profession, it will take all of us to come together collaboratively and with empathy, compassion and drive. A professional body built by people working together to be self-aware, our lived experiences contributing to who we are today, and our intentional actions making us become better tomorrow.
How will we expand coaching so it includes everyone?
It is imperative to withhold judgement whilst holding steadfast to accountability. The negative impact of being stereotyped, insulted, or excluded due to bias cannot be overlooked in a bias-aware community. We need to create both reliable and trusted systems to address conflict as well as a culture that is psychologically safe and allows for vulnerability. Bringing bias out into the open is hard when nobody has the time. Let’s make time by having conversations in safe spaces. By recognising the biases within ourselves, bringing them out into the open and having genuine, uncomfortable, and powerful conversations about them so we can use our biases for good.
Obtaining any lasting benefit from diversity requires not just the presence of a diverse coaching workforce but also effective leadership that can manage conflict, create cultures of inclusiveness characterised by psychological safety and growth mindsets. There needs to be organisational change in the accredited coaching bodies and organisations to support this new diverse workforce. This is not about good optics, this is to make sure we are not short-sighted. How does our leadership look, is it overwhelming white, cisgender, heterosexual, male? In these sorts of environments, who ends up truly thriving? I think it is important to use our working group to centre outcomes that are relevant to all, including marginalised communities, such as access to opportunities, wealth and education, rather than outcomes relevant only to corporations.
Actions to expand coaching so it includes everyone
1. Include members with diverse backgrounds in spaces where success is defined, such as in the EMCC DEIB working group, or further still governance bodies. Let the EMCC obtain regular open and honest feedback and use that to understand if our commitments to DEIB are working, rather than only refer to our intentions. Let us make a coaching culture based on shared empathy and actions to be better together. The days where cosmetic changes to “business as usual” pass as acceptable DEIB work are ending. It’s time we start looking at solutions beyond the business case.
2. Feedback policy. Even if it’s clear that discrimination is occurring, it’s rarely in the individuals benefit to report it. By reporting discrimination, you can risk your chance at promotion, rapport with peers, professional connections, your job etc. Sure, retaliation is illegal – but so is discrimination. An added side effect of this is that the employees at the highest risk of discrimination – under-represented minorities lacking support networks, an elite education, or internal allies – are in the most disadvantageous positions to report it. So we aim to create systems where feedback is welcomed and does not put the person offering it in jeopardy.
3. Evaluation. Let our work not be performative DEIB. When we look at corporations in the current paradigm, is more money invested in internal diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and culture-building, or in external programming and communications to give off an impression of an inclusive company?
4. Mentorship programmes. Historically under-represented individuals have no access to mentorship programmes and/or resources, and have little or no representation in leadership. What can be done differently? Reverse mentoring and a change in governance. Look at the organisations you are part of, how are they fairing, and what can be done to make them more inclusive? What would you like support in order to become comfortable in inviting people in?
I would suggest formal community-building initiatives to prevent individuals’ feeling isolated. I am not sure delegating D&I work to under-represented individuals, who are then unpaid for their labour is the correct solution especially if outside hires are paid. It is taking advantage of the trust and passion from under-represented individuals as free labour to fix the very problems they are being pushed out by.
Standing together - Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
Everyone has a place in a DEIB movement. This is something to be done together. No matter where you feel you currently are – your voice is needed. It can be understandable to have fears and anxieties that stop you taking part in conversations; however the purpose of the working group is to create conversations in psychologically safe spaces, and yes there is such a thing as positive conflict.
This is about up-skilling our behaviours. Rather than assuming we know how you feel, offer us feedback. Would you like workshops on how to become DEIB champions? Would you like safe spaces to have conversations where you ask questions on DEIB as this territory is new to you?
Everyone is different, and on a different learning tangent. For me, the question still lies on “how can we build empathy and understanding among majority groups without burning out under-represented minorities?”
By being part of the EMCC D&I working group, I hope to create environments that respect and welcome diversity of thought, experience, and background. As well as creating a culture that promotes psychological safety for all members. Inclusion – at least a baseline level of it – needs to come first.