“We’re fundamentally at this precipice where if we don’t prioritise inclusion, we’re all going to lose out.”
Named to a list of Most Influential D&I leaders in 2019 and 2020 and described by the Financial Times as “the Oscars of management thinking”, inclusion strategist Ruchika Tulshyan is highly-esteemed for her intersectional and data-driven approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. She’s addressed audiences ranging from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the U.S. Congress, as well as writing regularly for the New York Times and Harvard Business Review. Her latest book, ‘Inclusion on Purpose’ presents a roadmap for leaders to meaningfully promote inclusion, spanning topics from structural bias to psychological safety.
We asked Ruchika what one word she thought was key to a kinder, more equitable, and greener world.
Read the full interview here:
I had an epiphany moment about a decade ago. I was working at an organisation and I wasn’t feeling welcome. I wasn’t being included. My voice wasn’t being heard.
A lot of what I heard at that time was: “It’s just you. You need to try harder. You need to negotiate more. You need to lean in more.” But I felt the more I did that, the less I was heard.
One of the reasons why I think people struggle with the concept of inclusion is because from a very young age we’ve been conditioned to reject difference.
I grew up in a very multicultural country, in Singapore, and I had friends from all over the world. I just assumed that’s what the world is like.
What was hard was when I went out into the world, especially to the United States and the United Kingdom, I found that people lived very homogenous lives, and weren’t connecting with people who were different. There’s research here in the United States that finds three-quarters of white people don’t have a single friend of color.
I’d grown up thinking that the power of diversity is something to be celebrated. But what I found in the corporate workplace, was actually the more similar you are, the more you were rewarded. It’s a shame because the data is clear: harnessing the power of diversity is good business, rather than just the right thing to do. That made me realise that I needed to speak up.
There’s a huge amount of opportunity right now to adopt a growth mindset towards inclusion. We can learn and grow to become more inclusive, to become more anti-racist. You may have been brought up to think people who are different from you were bad; we all consume media which unfortunately has bias and discrimination built into it. But that’s not something we need to carry forward.
Inclusion and innovation are deeply linked. If you want to surface new ideas, to bring a growth strategy that hasn’t been thought about before, you cannot do so without new voices, and new perspectives.
At its core, every pressing issue we face today relates to inclusion. If we do not question the historical barriers that have left people excluded, we aren’t going to solve the world’s largest problems – whether it’s poverty, or climate change. I think we’re fundamentally at this precipice in time where if we don’t prioritise inclusion we’re all going to lose out.
“Until you can ensure that everyone has a voice, particularly people’s voices that have historically been overlooked and unrepresented, then you’re not really doing your job as a leader.”