There are people you meet by involving yourself in D&I whom you wouldn’t necessarily meet otherwise. Interesting people (almost without exception): passionate, thoughtful. Often kind and generous with their input, advice and time. People who are determined and resourceful, strong and inspiring.
Most of them do it in their spare time. I say “spare”. They do it in their own time. On top of the day job.
But when I’ve spoken to some of those same people recently, I’ve noticed that there are other adjectives that I could use which I hadn’t seen before.
“It feels like I’m getting nowhere”
“I’m just so tired of having the same conversation over and over”
“I can’t do this on my own”
“I’m not sure any of this is making any difference”
I know how they feel. Because I’ve felt the same recently as well. Too many to-do-lists where the urgent pushes the important to the bottom. Too many Too many conversations where people are agreeing because they feel they have to, not because they actually, truly believe what I’m saying. Too little actually changing.
In a twisted way I think it might have been easier before #MeToo, when lazy sexism (or any -ism you care to mention) just got blurted out by thoughtless idiots and was there, right in the open, to be challenged and argued. But only the most aggressive provocateur or mindless bigot (or arrogant, power-crazed sociopath like you-know-who) would blurt it out now. And as a life rule I try to make a point of avoiding people like that.
And now I’m constantly wondering if I’m having a conversation with someone who gets where I’m coming from, or someone who knows they have to pretend to.
There are tell-tale signs of course. Any mention that their organisation is fulfilling all legal requirements, or that they’re “looking into D&I really carefully”. Anyone who talks about the ‘unconscious bias training’ that everyone had to do… as though understanding bias actually changes anything…
If you haven’t seen the amazing “Diverseish” work done by some of my colleagues at AMVBBDO for #Valuable500 then check it out below – it’s a demonstration of the conversations across D&I that we’re having all the time…
And we’re all impatient. For others to see the world the way we see the world. When you have conviction in what you’re doing it’s incredibly difficult to see the other person’s world – it’s like having to explain to someone why you believe the grass is green or the sky is blue. You run out of words. Out of energy.
So what words do I have for those people who feel like they’re fighting a losing battle. Good people feeling isolated and small, confidence rocked, idealism shot to shit?
I say this…
Hold the line.
Hold the line and don’t take a single step back. And know that I am here, alongside you. Arms locked, standing strong. We are all locked together, across geographies and oceans, and our strength comes from one another because in spirit we are as one.
Don’t doubt for a single second that you are making a difference, and even if you have to change the world one person at a time then every single second to that end will be a second well spent.
Listen, I know nothing will change overnight, but believe me, it’s changing. And we’re on the right side of that change, right now.