Should diversity be a tick-box exercise?

Gem in wheelchair in front of sign "We do it different"

Now, the title here may sound controversial but stick with me. It's a complex topic with many layers so please take this as just one layer of many!

The term "tick-box exercise" is used often (I say it a lot myself) when thinking about connecting with people, hiring people or being the face of a company. You’ll find organisations unfortunately doing something purely to tick a box. The intention may not be genuine but simply to say this action has been complete. Maybe people want a round of applause, to be seen to be “making moves”, and hey maybe even winning that award they’ve been eyeing up! However, If this is never going to be repeated, is it really inclusive?

We’ve seen the topic of diversity or the lack of on our screens more frequently in the last decade. Most recently the company PinkHoney, a UK beauty company has been under scrutiny for inviting all white, similar-looking, (visibly) non-disabled women to a trip. After huge backlash from many people and influencers online - the owner later announced a statement. They explained the reasoning behind this decision was that these influencers were the company’s most “loyal customers” - we could do a whole new blog just about that one statement but I’ll leave that for another day. She reassured viewers that the brand is for “everyone”.

It’s frustrating for me as someone who is part of a marginalised community (albeit still with privilege) to see this kind of action take place. Knowing that you’re not truly thought about by default and have to tell people of your existence.

With this in mind - I’ve recently been thinking about the phrase “tick box exercise” and shifting my mindset to other thoughts. In my work, I talk to companies about being inclusive. We deep dive into what their actions are (if any) so far and what they’d like things to look like in the future. I generally find that people WANT to do the right thing - they just may not know where to start or how to do this authentically. They want guidance, answers and sometimes, a step-by-step guide…

So here comes my point, is the goal of diversity being a tick-box exercise actually a good thing? Do we need that initial push to start a conversation or get the cogs moving? Are we expecting people to just know what to do and who to talk to?

Sadly what I’ve noticed is people have to see results to know something is worthwhile. Representation leads to more sales, inclusive processes lead to better satisfaction etc etc. I think in the advocacy space we expect people to just “do the right thing” but I’ve noticed seeing results does help people be steered in the right direction.

So, to round off my very loose thoughts of the moment - maybe a tick-box checklist is a start when it comes to progressing with inclusion? I guess for me it’s about starting somewhere and embedding this into your regular processes and systems. Ideally, for me, it would be great to get to the point where these topics and areas such as diversity and accessibility become a default step, taken seriously and championed authentically.

So, shall we get some boxes ticked? Let me know your thoughts on socials!