Starting your DEI journey?

Starting your DEI journey? Here are 5 Steps

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but it is a lot more than the sum of these terms. DEI refers to the field that focuses on creating and sustaining a diverse workforce, an inclusive environment, practice, and policies as well as making sure everyone is treated equally and according to the systemic barriers they face. In an organisational context, DEI is an encompassing practice and lifestyle: it is embedded in everything the organisation does, from recruitment to policies to the inclusive leadership and having inclusive teams. It is about making a change and sustaining that change in a constantly developing organisational and social landscape.

Many of us want to do better but have no idea where to start from. Looking at the scale of organisational changes that DEI is capable of achieving, they can look grand and overwhelming. The aim is that with processes that, when successful, are embedded into the entirety of the organisational structure, we might not know where to start – or where to even start looking. This blog post will give you a framework that you can use when starting your DEI journey: consider this an overview of the most important steps when starting with or wanting to start your journey with DEI.

Step 1: Find your why

Since you are reading a DEI blog, you are probably already aware of your why, but it is important to elaborate this for future purposes. Everything you do from this moment onwards is rooted in the “why”, so try to expand and hone your reasoning behind the initiative. There might be multiple or intersecting cases, such as a legal requirement and concerns about inclusion, cases of harassment, racism or sexism, a will to increase your brand value, a need to build your diversity to reflect the customers you serve and so on. When you are sure why you are doing this, you will have an easier time explaining and motivating your initiatives and opinions to other stakeholders.

Step 2: Map it out

I see people ignore and dismiss this step way too often, but simply, you need to know where you are to know where you are going. It is great that you are willing to commit to DEI in your organisation, but just blindly starting any kind of process will end in failure. It is not enough to start recruiting for diversity in general, you need to know what your organisation looks like now: who works for you and what kind of representation do you need or want to increase.=

Start with mapping out your current situation. Depending on your organisation and its current state and situation, you will need as much data as possible from your current situation. Often you can start with the data you already have, such as recruitment statistics, employee demographic data and logs of promotions. If you don’t have this basic data yet, start with it. This kind of statistical data will tell you how diverse your company is: who is represented and who is not. It will also help you define how equity looks like in your organisation: where do you have discrepancies with factors such as equal pay or chances for promotions.

When you have your diversity and equity mapped out, you can move on to inclusion. Measuring inclusion is a more challenging task: you will need to do opinion surveys and interviews or other forms of feedback to find out how your employees feel like working for you.

When you have figured out your current situation, you can see where change needs to take place.

Step 3: Write down your goals & create a case

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives will not create change overnight nor are they one-off projects. They require a long-term, organisation-wide commitment, and thereby also long-term goals and commitment to these goals. The goals need to have clear intervals (such as 1, 3 and 5 year goals) and most importantly you need to be able to measure them somehow. Goals that are not measurable, such as “become a healthy working place for diverse people” are also needed, but are hard to implement to other organisational processes, or to keep track of.

When you have got your goal figured out, you can start to create a case for the initiative. Before you communicate a DEI initiative or idea to your stakeholders, you need to have a “why are we doing this and why now” as this is crucial for stakeholder commitment, especially for leadership. Not only is it important to communicate why you are doing it, but what will happen if these changes don’t take place immediately. Besides this, remember to include a “what’s in it for me” factor: the stakeholders need to know what they gain from it, rather than focusing on what will change and what others will gain.

Step 4: Build a strategic plan

Before you write out a delivery plan, consider: what are the key themes in our data, but also in our vision for the goals? While there might be multiple themes, not all of them need to be included in your initial plan: focus on creating overarching structures that support each other. That way it is easier to take action when the time comes: a scattered plan will be harder to follow through. Consider carefully which areas of the organisational processes need to be included, as well as whether you want your clients or suppliers to be included in your DEI efforts as well.

What kind of timescale is appropriate for the plan? Who will be in charge? Line out the details, and make sure to include the entirety of the workforce and leadership to the plan on some level.

While we encourage making long-term plans and commitments, make sure to line out some short-term wins: seeing progress is the best motivator.

Step 5: Work with external providers

You are not alone with the massive change that is about to take place. Whether it is with analysing data, conducting surveys, revising policies or designing plans and training, there are external providers who can support and complement your competencies during your journey. Not only do they offer another perspective to the change about to take place, they are experts in dealing with diverse people, cultures and challenges. External providers might be in a better position to challenge the company culture and call out mistakes, misconducts and biased structured and behaviour than what someone inside the organisation is.

PhoenixRize has experienced it all: we have helped small organisations to get started and established ones to take their DEI to the next level. We have competencies in consulting all areas of DEI, no matter what you need support with. To get more guidance on starting your DEI journey, or troubleshoot a current one, get in touch (insert email address)

Now we have covered the theory as to why and how you focus and implement your DEI work, it is over to you. We round off this blog with a call to action for you and your organisation to ensure you get off to the right start for all things DEI.

  1. Find your why – speak to your organisation, look at your data, discover why you want and need to focus on DEI specifically related to your organisation.
  2. Establish where you are at – Be candid in deciding where your organisation is currently at. For our member, check out the Meyer Spectrum Tool or the Deloitte Matrix in our members area to guide you in this step.
  3. Start to build your plan – start small and build upon your foundation. What are the keys areas you must focus on initially and then think longer term? If you’re looking to build out a DEI strategy and you’re a member on our website, check out our Step-by-Step guide to creating a DEI Strategy that works!
  4. Be Transparent – this may be the 4th action step, but it is arguably the most important. DEI is built upon trust, so ensuring your are transparent in the good and bad is key to driving a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.


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Colonialism, Xenophobia and Omicron

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Yet again we see the disposability and exposability of Africa for the global north. Yet again we see that colonialism isn’t a past phenomenon, but a lived reality and experience for so many. Whether or not the Omicron variant is more dangerous than its predecessors is irrelevant to this conversation. Rather, I want to focus on the way the variant and its discovery were portrayed in the western mainstream media, and how it created a colonialist, racism phenomenon out of it.

The talk of the vaccine inequality seems to be portrayed as an objective phenomenon with no one responsible for it, as if inequality or inequity is something that “just happens”. On the contrary, vaccine inequity, or vaccine nationalism, is a manufactured phenomenon. High income countries have required and gotten primary access to vaccines while further restricting import to low-income countries. High income countries seem to be punishing Africa for the mistakes they made: the monopolization of vaccines created the conditions for a new variant to spread, yet rather than learning from this, multiple African countries are being added on travel ban lists, and on very short notice. With the new variant spreading from and around the western world, the travel restrictions are only hurting Africa, rather than helping the rest of the world. While travelling seems to be a widely accepted and encouraged phenomenon inside Europe (and outside Europe in the case of holidays) and hasn’t been restricted even to the most infected areas, there was no hesitation in closing borders with African countries.

The case of Omicron is another vivid example of how the western world sees Africa: as a single clumped category. When the South African laboratories released their information on Omicron, countries such as the UK jumped on the ban hammer, implementing travel restrictions on multiple African countries — and only African countries. The plethora of Asian and European countries infested with the Omicron are still open for travel, while African countries with no reported Omicron cases are under a ban.

The sensationalist media jumped at the opportunity of portraying an African country in a bad light without a second thought of getting the facts straight. The Omicron variant did not come from South Africa, nor is it the “South African variant”, but it didn’t hinder the media from creating it as such. In fact, the Dutch government officials have stated that the first cases of Omicron in the Netherlands are dated before the first found case in South Africa on the 24th of November. Yet after this news, there has been no immediate reaction, no travel restrictions, no naming of the Omicron as “The Dutch Variant”. The variant had been identified in Botswana already in October. Yet, all of this is irrelevant to the conversation because we all already know: the colonialists will never look at this evidence and apologize for the damage they have done, for they have never done it in the past either.

It shows the depth of the colonialist thought still present in the global north. Africa is painted as wild and dangerous, an attacker or a villain, while the European countries with the same virus variant are victims, rather than villains.  Rather than praising the advanced level of the scientists who identified the variant or seeing it as a “breakthrough” regarding covid19, it is seen as a hazard and a danger. Rather than being based on science, controlled results or deeper research, the portrayal of and the actions against the Omicron variant are discriminatory, colonialist and xenophobic. Rather than being included in “the fight” against covid19, African countries fast become isolated, seen as the villains. As Dr. Ayoade Alakija so painstakingly correctly stated “had the first SARS-CoV- virus, the one that was first identified in China last year, originated in Africa, it is now clear that the world would have locked us away and thrown away the key”.

Through releasing patents and the vaccine IP the western world is forced to share its power with the countries and people it tries to control, making it obvious why it rather creates programs such as the COVAX. I call for a release of the vaccine IP and patents and a global responsibility over the pandemic – even when low-income countries are concerned. I call for a dismantling of colonialist thought and journalism that searches for sensation in the cost of African freedom. I call for a dismantling of colonialist relations of “aid”, of white saviourism when it is the same institution that has created the conditions for a crisis to exist in the first place.

5 Strategies for a Healthy Human and Inclusive System in the Workplace

5 Strategies for a Healthy Human and Inclusive System in the Workplace

When the practice of diversity and inclusion becomes a mere show or a theatrical play in the workplace rather than tangible actions, it creates an environment of disillusioned and devalued employees.

This is the meaning of ‘Diversity Theater’ – The practice of organizations pledging loyal support to diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) initiatives – But ultimately, there are no corresponding numbers, data or experiences to indicate results. This seems to be because of a battle between:

  • Company culture – the need to maintain a comfortable status quo that is not ruffled by new controversial positions or drastic changes; and
  • The need of the employees in a rapidly evolving external climate.  

The conundrum of placing the chicken before the egg rises to the surface in the matter of the relationship between company culture and the interests of marginalized employees. Do the employees’ interests come first, or should the company culture override it? Should a company ‘play’ to the tune of engaging in DEI practices as a way to appear mainstream, while its internal environment has experienced little to no change?

This question is relevant in today’s corporate marketplace, due to the reproofs that have been unfolding against companies, particularly in the technology industry, with regards to the organizations’ internal DEI practices. One of the companies that has received backlash for its avid diversity and inclusion support which does not match the company’s hiring practices, is Facebook. 

Facebook recognized this deficiency, based on feedback from its Global Chief Diversity Officer, Maxine Williams, “I know that progress doesn’t always meet the expectations of what people in the world expect we should be able to do if we care, and so I do think that there is a gap there. I like that people have high expectations of us. I have high expectations of us.”

In the meantime, as organizations work towards reconciling their internal policies with the new external realities of diversity and inclusion awareness, a generation of excluded employees continue to walk the hallways of many companies in an ethos that is seemingly playing at diversity and inclusiveness. It has become a situation of difficulty in transitioning into a new organizational mindset which embraces valuing employees and boosting morale with respect to inclusive behavior for a diverse workforce.

What is a ‘Valuable Employee’?

‘Valuable’ or ‘value’ has been ascribed various meanings. It could represent usefulness, worth, merit, deserving of a certain regard, or to be held in esteem.

In the context of diversity, equity and inclusion, there is one word that represents value: Equity. The fair treatment of marginalized groups, in comparison to other groups, is evidence that such an underrepresented group is valued in the workplace.

Equity is often overlooked in the environment of an inclusive workplace that engages a diverse workforce. It is the challenge that rears up in discussions about pay rates, promotions and employment policies.

Equity asks the question: Is the marginalized group experiencing fair treatment? 

Fairness Precedes Sameness – Equity Comes Before Equality

If employees are treated fairly, the incidental result that follows is that they will be treated equally.

Therefore, to answer one of the penultimate questions of the day: What is a ‘valuable employee’ in the framework of DEI? They are the people, marginalized or underrepresented, who are now able to enjoy pay raises in comparison to their counterparts because it is only fair to treat them as equally as their colleagues who historically earned higher for the same jobs or roles.

They are the individuals who start to experience promotions because they have equal merits with those of other racial groups, and fairness (the treatment that is impartial and just, and which has to exist before sameness), dictates that they should be treated the same.

They are the employees who have had to put their lives on hold because employment policies do not favor their career progress or development, in comparison to their counterparts who may not be obstructed by such policies. As an example, policies that impact the progress of careers due to maternity leave, effectively stalling the professions of pregnant mothers, has led to unfair effects for the affected group, when compared to their counterparts who do not become impacted by the same policies.

Equity cannot operate without equality. Yet, equity must precede equality. Equity is the impartial judge that will decide that a black woman, a member of a marginalized group, should be considered for the same position as a white man; because she should have a fair opportunity (equity) for a role in which she has the same qualifications (equality) as others.

These governing principles of fairness before sameness, equity before equality, provide the relevant backdrop from which an inclusive environment which engages a diverse workforce can be expected to thrive and excel.

Organizations today can achieve a more seamless transition out of a status quo mindset that pre-dates tolerance for all differences, into a mainstream DEI mentality by:

  • engaging the strategies of the healthiest human system; and
  • adopting an authentic HR model. 

This two-part idea translates into five inclusion strategies.

Strategies 1 to 4: What is the ‘Healthiest Human System’?

The term “Healthiest Human System’ was purportedly coined by former CEO of the global banking giant, HSBC Bank, John Flint. Mr. Flint defined this term as an incorporation of four personal, strategic principles into corporate practices to boost the workplace experience and enable a happier, effective and more productive workforce. The focus of these four concepts is upon the employee, the ‘human system’ that operates any organization, and the building and sustaining of this human system’s health in order to ensure the workplace stays relevant and viable.  

Strategy 5: What is an authentic HR model’?

The fifth strategy in the equation towards assimilating into an evolved and improving DEI practice in an organization can be found in the human resources approach to authenticity. 

Bringing Together the Two-Part Idea of Inclusion

The combination of these 2-part idea results in the archetypical employee network which has the mental capacity to embrace change with little to no friction. The ultimate outcome is an organization of workers with optimal wellbeing who are able to thrive in an environment which is actively inclusive due to its authentic HR model. A healthily inclusive workplace environment is the only ideal environment that can grow outwardly into a diversity magnet for attracting a diverse workforce; and subsequently, treating them fairly.

Irish businessman, Alan Joyce, lauded the magnetic, inclusive environment, “We have a very diverse environment and a very inclusive culture and those characteristics got us through the tough times. Diversity generated a better strategy, better risk management, better debates, and better outcomes.”

With respect to developing authenticity in HR models, Inga Beale, first female CEO of Lloyds, provided a thought that inspired corporate culture to take forays into the unfamiliar. Beale said: “Many conversations about diversity and inclusion do not happen in the boardroom because people are embarrassed at using unfamiliar words or afraid of saying the wrong thing — yet this is the very place we need to be talking about it. The business case speaks for itself — diverse teams are more innovative and successful in going after new markets.” 

Building Inclusiveness and Attracting Diversity

In combining the ideas of the healthy human and authentic HR modeling, the 5 strategies that build and sustain an innovative, inclusive workplace that becomes a diversity magnet which practices equity are:

  • Vulnerable leadership: The concept of a leadership team that is susceptible to feedback, reverse mentoring and openness to being viewed at its weakest has not been very popular. There is a belief that it recommends incompetency. On the other hand, a leadership that is vulnerable stands the advantage of being easily forgiven for its mistakes, and gaining the opportunity to advance faster.
  • A greater purpose for service: A reason to serve beyond having a career or the economic benefits of a job provides a vigorous drive that maintains employee morale and loyalty. 
  • Mindfulness for achieving empathy among colleagues: Organizations should make awareness about responsiveness to each human plight as a part of the company culture through training programs. 
  • Deeper connections through inter-learning and reverse mentoring: Inter-learning and reverse mentoring should not halt at the executive level. Organization-wide practice represents a uniform distribution of vulnerable human connections among employees.
  • Development of an authentic HR model: Originality seems lost in HR modeling, particularly in the DEI space. Apart from an HR approach that employs strategies such as HR panels for candidate selection, ideas around practices like role naming should embrace more warmth or trustworthiness. For instance, instead of Equality Manager, a role can have a non-lackluster title such as Equality Champion.

The overall message across organizations is that diversity cannot be achieved without first conquering non-inclusiveness; and non-inclusiveness cannot be conquered without first developing a healthy human system in the workplace; and finally, a healthy human system can exist when people are treated with equity. 



Celebrate Authentically

Celebrate Authentically 

Black History Month, stretching across October, is in full force. If you are reading this article because as an organisation, or a representative of an organisation, you missed Black History Month completely, and now you are panicking on what to do or who to book for a last-minute event, I have got bad news. Trying to make a last-minute symbolic gesture to show that you remembered it, is rooted in tokenism. The very concept we want DEI to get away from. 

Simply put, tokenism is doing something for the sake of doing it, or more accurately, for the sake of looking like you are doing something. It is realising that Black History Month is now, and that you need to participate to fill a specific quota, to show that hey, we are inclusive and diverse and fight for equity. 

The problem is that tokenism is really easy to spot, especially by underrepresented groups. Tokenistic practices, such as booking a Black person to speak at an event, including a Black author on your reading list or featuring culturally specific foods or other cultural elements once or twice make no real change. It is just glossing over real systemic and structural problems that have real impact on the lives of Black people every day.

If you want to take your tokenistic BHM practice to a different level or want to avoid falling into the trap in the future, we have listed 5 ways in which you can integrate and advance your diversity, equity and inclusion this October.

1. From 31 to 365: integration

Black History Month is a great time to learn how to do better, and be better, 365 days in a year, rather than for only one month. This includes looking at your curriculum, your roster of actors, your stock photos and your employee lifecycles; and seeing where you lack in inclusion. Use this time to draft and craft practices that will support Black people throughout the year and will promote equity, rather than stay as an initiative that is “done” for another year. A great way to move from initiatives to integration is to take a holistic look at the organisation – make diversity, equity and inclusion a part of everything, rather than separate projects. Review your policies, make plans for the future. Commit to championing the cause of equity for the upcoming 12 months, rather than just for a few weeks. 

2. Learn and teach, raise awareness.

There is a lot of information out there about Black history, and about the role of the coloniser in that history. Learn about the part your ancestors played, but don’t forget to learn about Black joy and culture, because our history is more than just tragedy. We are never done learning, and if you do one this Black History Month, please make it this – and make it stick. There is nothing wrong with unlearning something you may have thought is right and re-learning the correct facts. Be transparent in your own level of understanding and challenge yourself to grow more this month (and beyond!).

3. Change your environment

One of the most successful ways of getting rid of prejudice and implicit biases in your own life is to modify your environment to be more diverse, and less stereotyped. It is mostly an individual practice that can consist of being more predisposed to people who are not like you: follow more Black influencers, authors and public figures on social media, read books and stories written by Black people, listen to podcasts created by Black people, and attend events that are hosted by Black people. The key is to reduce your stereotypes (yes, we all have them!), and to replace them with a deeper knowledge of individuals, their uniqueness and variety. 

On an organisational level this might be about going through the images that are featured on the website, on social media or your product advertisements. Can you see stereotypes represented? How could they be avoided? Ask yourself these 4 questions: who is represented here? Are they represented in the right way? Who is missing? Why are they missing?

4. Pay the Black people who work for the month

This might be obvious to some, and shocking for others, but your Black employees are not in charge of making Black History Month happen at your organisation – especially for free. If you have a committee running, or are arranging events, make sure that the Black employees working for it get properly compensated. It is not our job to make ourselves represented and celebrated during this month – it is your job. If you are asking for consultancy about Black History Month or anything related to it, make sure their time is rewarded. To ask for free labour in these awareness occasions goes against what we are trying to fight for. 

5. Celebrate

As said earlier, Black history is so much more than just struggle, and Black history is worth celebrating. So, celebrate our achievements, our cultures and the incredible Black people who keep on changing society. Recognise and celebrate the contributions of Black people in your organisation or community. But also celebrate the unique cultures and histories of the people (or employees) around you, allowing them to share stories and elements that make them proud of their culture. 

Proud To Be 

At PhoenixRize, we fully support Ireland and UK’s Black History Month celebrations of the theme Proud To Be- to celebrate diversity without the restrictions or a need to fit in. This means that we want to emphasise that Black History Month should allow everyone to be their full selves, without being held to white, westernised standards of professionality, behaviour or womanhood. You can participate through the #ProudToBe hashtag and encourage your community or employees to share what they are Proud To Be. For more information, see here

At PhoenixRize, we are consistently promoting the ability for all to be exactly who they are. We are here to support your journey of diversity, equity and inclusion, and if you want to make sure this Black History Month is one that will make a change, let us know. Through working together, we can create a plan towards a non-tokenistic equity practice and policy, and one filled with systemic change. Visit our website to see what we have been up to recently, reach out if you’d like to have a conversation on how we can make an impactful change together. 

This blog is more than just words to us, it’s our call to action. We call for you to: 

  • Get involved in the #ProudToBe campaign and tag us in your social posts so we can share in our joy
  • Be transparent in what you’re doing – hold your hands up if you’ve left it a little late this year to do something meaningful for BHM, and put a pin in this to ensure you do not do the same next year
  • Celebrate in the joy of Black History through the ideas listed above, let us know what you’ve done, as we’d love to share in the learning too! 
  • Challenge someone else to learn more, do more, and be more as we strive to create a society that values Black history every day of the year. 



Choosing to Challenge – Women and Advocacy in 2021

Choosing to Challenge – Women and Advocacy in 2021

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’. When we choose something, we opt in favour of one option and against another. The freedom to choose our path in life is fundamental in the overall pursuit of the women’s movement since its inception. That we now have the privilege to decide whether we will choose to challenge gender inequality wherever we see it is a truly wonderful sign of forward progress. But with all privilege comes responsibility, a responsibility about how we use it, what we ‘choose’ to do with it.

How it started

If we think back to the origins of International Women’s Day, which arose from female factory workers in New York marching for better pay and working conditions in the early twentieth century, one could say that they chose to make a stand. But it could also be argued that they didn’t have a choice, that the alternative was so dismal that it didn’t constitute a real option.

How it’s going…

In 2021, there is much to be celebrated on International Women’s Day. Women of all different nationalities, races, ages, religions, abilities and professions have already taken up the invitation to choose to challenge.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed, or small and insignificant, when we talk about working towards gender equality. But every one of us can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how small your action may feel to you right now, it is an important step in the right direction. No one got to do great things overnight. Every massive achievement began with small steps.

But, Inequities Persist

Despite all the great work that is being done in the pursuit of gender equality, inequities still persist. While equity is about fairness, equality is about sameness. So, when we speak of equality and equity, we must realise that before we can enjoy equality, equity must be achieved first. In my work, I’m a specialist in the area of intersectionality. This is a term that most people are not familiar with. The term is actually a legal one and was coined by an American civil rights lawyer, Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Essentially, Crenshaw’s term puts a framework around the way that gender, race, and class all intersect and play off each other. In her own words, the term captures “how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life”1. From an intersectionality point of view, gender equality is no good if it doesn’t take into account the other factors including race that work alongside it.

In Ireland a notable example of gender inequality is the difference between male and female self-employment. We know that SMEs are hugely significant to the Irish economy, employing 1.06 million people2. But in Ireland, we have the highest gender gap in self-employment in the E.U.

When it comes to venture capital funding, less than 10% goes to companies with female founders and when we drill down even further to the women who could potentially help lift those female owned businesses, only 3% of angel investors in Ireland are women3. These are areas that need to be addressed by men and women alike.

The above figures represent gender inequalities that run through the whole of Irish society. However, when we consider gender inequality in terms of under-represented voices, the numbers change – and not for the better. Women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, women with disabilities and other marginalised groups face greater inequality than their white, able-bodied Irish counterparts. For example, as it stands there is only one full-time black professor employed in Irish academia. Recently, a woman who qualifies for a disability allowance was informed that because she was awarded an educational bursary, she would no longer qualify for the supports she needs to allow her to navigate daily life, given her disability4. These are just two examples of how women from marginalised backgrounds within Ireland must deal with inequality on a daily basis.

Are we there yet?

Unfortunately not. Yes, good progress is being made, but that’s when we look at the micro picture, perhaps our own immediate circle. On a global scale, things are different. The Global Gender Gap Report of 2020 published by the World Economic Forum predicts that gender parity will not be attained in our lifetime or that of our children. In fact, they estimate that it will take 99 and a half years to achieve gender parity5. That is a sobering thought.

Earlier this year, Kamala Harris, the first female Vice President of the United States was sworn in and closer to home, also this year, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, is due to become the first sitting Irish minister to take maternity leave. But, unfortunately for every good news story there are still plenty of other negative ones that stack up against women, particularly women with intersecting identities and from marginalised communities. Not just in Ireland, but around the world.

Who are we?

The question comes down to this one, who are we? When we mark International Women’s Day what does that mean? It asks something of us – to become advocates, allies, sponsors, upstanders or amplifiers. Those of us who are privileged enough to be able to believe, if only temporarily, that gender equality has been achieved are enjoying the fruits of other women’s labour, they worked extremely hard to give us the privilege.  Will we just take it? Or will we say thank you by giving something back?

This month, as you think about the role of women around International Women’s Day, what role will you choose to play? Remember, equality starts with you. Choose to speak up! Choose to fight injustice! Choose to call out a lack of diversity when you see it! Choose to become a thoughtful ally!

The part you play in the story may be small today – but small actions and gestures can combine to great action over the course of a lifetime. You could support the women in your workplace somehow; or vote with your feet (and purse) in a small business run by women, it’s a very tough time for small businesses right now.

If you’re not sure how you can best support women in making a difference to challenge the status quo, ask. You can also challenge by  creating of an inclusive workplace culture. There are so many ways to make a difference, starting today. There’s never a better time to act than right now.

PhoenixRize specialises in helping organisations create and sustain diverse, equitable, anti-racist and inclusive workplaces. If you or your organisation are keen to address these questions in your workplace, contact us today.






Staying Relevant in a Post-COVID World – The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion in 2021 and Beyond

As we begin the countdown to the New Year, there are many who are eager to put 2020 behind us. Understandably so, the past year has been challenging for all of us in unprecedented ways. But, if you know me, you know I’m not one to dwell on the dark side of life. With every challenge comes an opportunity, to dig deep, to improve ourselves and to rise above life’s challenges.

The challenges of 2020 are no different. As this year trundles to a rickety close, let us look forward to the new year, a year in which vaccines will become available around the world and we have a chance of returning to a more normal world. In this blog post, we will cast a glance backwards over the year that was – and, more importantly, look to the future and decide who we want to be in a post-COVID world. The world has been changing around us and while we hope for a return to ‘normality’ the reality is that we and our working world can’t but be altered as a result of the events of recent months. Now, more than ever, we need to evolve in order to survive.

The past number of months has been dominated by COVID 19 and so, the biggest challenges in the coming months, will no doubt relate to emerging from this health and economic crisis. Chief among these challenges is how organisations return to ‘business as usual’.

I think it is fair to suggest that many people, employees at all levels, have taken the last number of months to re-evaluate their lives. The work-life balance has shifted in ways none of us could have thought possible in recent months. Parents have had more free time, thanks to the elimination of a daily commute, to play with and raise their children in a hands-on way. Not being free to visit family due to public health restrictions has prompted some families to move closer to their extended family. More people have decided that they want to live a life that makes sense for them instead of blindly maintaining the status quo – and so, employee’s expectations have shifted.

The need for remote working this year has exposed vast numbers of workers to an increased amount of autonomy in their work. Something that many organisations who have maintained traditional approaches to people management would never have opted for voluntarily. It is my belief that these workers will expect a higher level of respect from management going forward. They have shown their commitment to their work without high levels of supervision and they will expect to be treated accordingly. In a survey carried out by technology company Slack, only 11.6% of respondents expressed a desire to return to office-based work full-time. Any organisation who refuses to show some degree of flexibility going forward may lose staff to more competitive employers who are willing to provide better working conditions.

Rather than an all-in approach to a return to the office, it seems likely that most organisations will opt for a new hybrid working model, where employees can split their work week between working remotely and at the office.

This model will allow many workers to access the benefits of remote working while still staying engaged as part of a team. This is one of the aspects workers have missed the most, being able to feel a sense of connection with their co-workers, it is shown in the Slack study, as the only aspect of remote working to emerge with a negative number was a sense of belonging.

Any new shift to working arrangements that affects an entire organisation is bound to be accompanied with teething problems. Organisations have now seen that remote working can be successful, however, a shift to partial remote working may leave gaps into which under-represented minorities may fall.

I have spoken extensively in the past about the need to build inclusive workplaces that allow all team members to thrive. What does that look like when the workplace is partly localised and partly remote?

With the softening of the structure of the workplace, I see the potential for those who ‘don’t fit’ to get forgotten about. It may be easier to hold team events when the members of our team who require special accommodations aren’t present. I’m not suggesting that this is a part of a conscious strategy, but rather a symptom of our unconscious bias which can creep into our thinking at the blink of an eye. Therefore, if this is to emerge as a new way of working, we must be even more vigilant about keeping on top of unconscious bias.

A further complication of COVID-19 in the workforce is the impact that it has had on those in caring roles. A study carried out in the U.S. by McKinsey in association with Lean In revealed that, on average, women have spent an extra 20 hours a week in their caregiving roles since the start of the pandemic. While both parents may be working from home full-time, it appears from this study, the division of labour has not equalled out. The result of this is that high numbers of women are experiencing burn out and 25% of participants are considering leaving their career, reducing their working hours or have already done so, since the start of the pandemic in the spring.

There was a racial element to the study also, showing that black women, who already face increased challenges in the workplace due to their race, are struggling even more, they find they have less support and are more likely to have reduced hours or lost employment due to the pandemic.

This report is concerning for all of us who have worked so hard to increase female participation in the workforce, to help women progress into leadership positions and to support black women in the workforce.

How will the impact of these individual women’s decisions play out? It’s hard to know yet. If women continue to carry an increased caregiver burden into the future, we as diversity and inclusion specialists, leaders and organisations need to work to figure out how to tackle this changing situation so that women who want to be in the workforce and who want to progress to the top of their field are still supported and able to do so.

Although our focus so far has been on the impact of COVID on workplace concerns, political concerns have been bubbling away in the background all year. They boiled over, too, in the instance of the Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the year – it is clear that we are in the midst of a racial equality moment. Although the most heat is to be seen in the U.S., organisations around the world need to heed what is happening and act accordingly.

As mentioned earlier, employees’ expectations have shifted – that’s not only in terms of what they can get from their employer, but what their employer is contributing to the world at large. 70% of job seekers want to work for an organisation which is committed to Diversity and Inclusion. Employees now see working for a company as an endorsement of their modus operandi – and if they don’t support it, they will go elsewhere.

Are you and your organisation playing a full role in the progression of racial minority groups? It can be easy to say, ‘that’s not my fight’, but if you are a large organisation with an impact in the world, and a large number of employees and customers, then, whether you like it or not, if you want to stay relevant, you need to hold a stake in the quest for racial equality at work.

Finally, there is another political challenge coming down the tracks which will impact on business and organisations across the country – and Europe. Brexit will come into effect from the 1st of January next year, only mere weeks away. While much of the media attention has been on logistics, we are more concerned about the impact on people, employees and their daily lives. While the UK has been a member of the E.U. for decades, the ‘friendship’ of which the politicians speak is fragile. As the reality of Brexit begins to impact people’s daily lives, it will give rise to tensions – and when these enter into the workplace, they present the potential for increased bias – on both sides of the equation. Political concerns aside, as leaders, it behoves all of us to maintain good working relations with our nearest neighbours – even if we don’t always agree with what how they decide to do things. It is important to stay alert for an uptick in bias arising out of the effects of Brexit within organisations. ‘Brit bashing’ is not ok and the unfolding situation should not be used as an excuse for such behaviour in the workplace.


2020 has been such a difficult year and, unfortunately, while there is cause for optimism, realistically, it will be some months before we start to get back ‘to normal’ and even then, difficult trading conditions may remain. Yet, if we choose to engage with these challenges, see them, accept them and work to resolve them using Diversity, Equality and Inclusion techniques, our organisations will be better positioned to thrive in the long term.

Hopefully, this time next year we will look back on all that has happened with relief that the world has calmed down. The work that we do now in promoting a culture of inclusion, where everyone is counted, whether working from home or from the office, will lend a steadying effect to our ship that feels as though it’s being tossed about on a stormy sea.

Markets go up and they go down, pandemics will come and go. What is here to stay is our commitment to equality. If we work on that, it will stand to us for years to come.


To help organisations tackle these challenges and other ongoing diversity and inclusion challenges, PhoenixRize will launch our new e-learning courses in the new year. The recent months have shown how effective e-learning strategies can be so that no one needs to experience an educational hiatus as a result of the pandemic. Approximately one and a half billion people were learning online in March of this year.

Not only is e-learning highly effective, it is also a mode of learning that is ideal for diverse workforces. The material can be built and delivered in a way that caters to many different types of abilities, schedules, and as it is delivered virtually, is available to a much broader spectrum of people, many of whom may not be able to attend in person.

We’re very excited about our launch which will take place in early 2021 when we will announce the three digital leaders who are partnering with us to deliver this interactive, media rich, gamified e-learning solution. To find out more and be notified of launch details please click here.

If you have any questions about your own organisation’s situation please contact me, Adaku at PhoenixRize, to see how I can help move you from feeling stuck to seeing real progress.