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Asia Council for Gender Equity Meeting Insights

Building and Measuring Inclusion


“Inclusion is a skill that needs to be built.”

“Inclusion means thinking about one’s whole self and not leaving this at the door.”

“Businesses use Return on Investment as a key measure; they should also use Return on Inclusion.”

Key Takeaway Lessons

  • Inclusion is not a subsidiary component of diversity and equality of opportunity. It is a key enabler of the company’s performance, preparedness, and purpose and the company’s ability to create opportunity, connection, and common cause.
  • As such, it needs to be resourced to the same extent as other business priorities rather than frittered away through peace-meal and isolated initiatives disconnected from mainstream business objectives.
  • An individual’s “whole self” is a superpower to be shared with and to benefit the company. This can be achieved by creating an environment where everyone can succeed and promoting the idea that the value of each person is wrapped up in the success of the organisation. 

Insights Summary

These are just a few of the reflections and insights that were shared at the virtual meeting of the Asia Council for Gender Equality, organised by The Conference Board on 3rd March 2021 and attended by representatives from Asia-based firms.

Members were addressed by business author, academic and commentator Alison Maitland on how inclusion forms an integral part of not just gender equality and diversity policies but of business strategy as a whole. In the discussions that both preceded and followed her presentation, several important themes emerged.

The importance of bringing one’s ‘whole self’ to work. Drawing on climate activist Greta Thurnberg’s positive description of her autism, members discussed the idea that each individual’s “whole self” is a “superpower” to be shared with and to benefit the organisation. This entails “creating an environment where everyone can succeed” and promoting the idea that “the value of each person is wrapped up in the success of the organisation”.  This was endorsed heartily by attending members. One responded that harnessing the person’s whole self was “a skill that could be harnessed over time. It works”.

The importance of supporting the right intent with the right resources. In answer to a question posed by Alison, only half of the attending members stated that inclusion received the same resources as other business priorities. She suggested that this omission in many organisations undermined the efficacy of inclusion as a potential company asset, as did “piecemeal and isolated initiatives” that are often “disconnected from business priorities”.  Rather than inclusion proving a “blind alley” or a “one-way street”, she argued that it should form the basis for an “integrated traffic system” where what happens with inclusion “instantly impacts on the organisation”.

The importance of “whole systems thinking”Most members present at the meeting were proud to showcase their company’s Inclusion Indices, and the extent to which the index can be used as a ‘dashboard’ for business leader to illustrate progress towards genuine inclusion. Examples of the questions used included “Do I feel I bring my whole self to work” and “Does my manager show consideration to me as a person, not just an employee”. But Alison stressed that this takes too narrow a perspective of inclusion. What is needed, she argues, is inclusion defined by “whole systems thinking”, linking inclusion to the company’s “performance”, “preparedness” and “purpose” and to the company’s ability to create “opportunity”, “connection” and “common cause”.

The importance of listening. In the Q&A session that followed Alison’s presentation, one attending member stressed the importance of listening as a key skill connected with inclusion. The idea that one person in any meeting should be tasked with being a “dedicated listener” and that this task could be rotated between members of the team, was actively discussed. The same member shared that his use of mentoring in the company was also linked to inclusion, by exposing him to different perspectives and opinions he would not normally encounter. Other proposals by members included establishing a “speak up culture to avoid groupthink” and a “No Taboo” session at the end of each meeting.

The meeting concluded by looking at what members could do next to establish a culture of inclusion in their organisations. The idea that members could issue a “rallying cry” for inclusion, both inside and outside their organisations, that championing inclusion could be linked to external campaigns like National Women’s Day and that members could “nudge each other” on a regular basis were all prosed and discussed.

As one member concluded: “We should all take an inventory of what we are doing, individually and collectively, working together on the same path and asking ourselves ‘who’s doing right?’ and validating each other’s good practice. We are often doing more things than we give ourselves credit for.”

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