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Have you ever thought about what you can do to make a real difference in the world? Dr Artika R. Tyner explains the importance of diversity and how we can take the initiative to do that no matter the position.

The Pursuit of Diversity and Inclusion

The pursuit of diversity and inclusion is a call to action, manifested through an exercise of leadership. Over the past decade, I have had the honour and privilege of travelling around the world on this quest of building a more just and inclusive society.

In doing so I've posed the question, “What is in your hands to make a difference in the world?” Raising this question presents both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge to roll up our sleeves to pick up the mantle of leadership to make inclusion a lived reality. And an opportunity to embrace our moral responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it.

Inclusive leaders seek to bring people together around the values of their shared humanity and shared destiny. This is a call to leadership. It is a paradigm shift that transcends the constraints of a position or title. Whether you are the CEO, the diversity and inclusion professional in your organisation, or a staff member, you can play a critical role in creating equal access to justice and eradicating inequities. This is my vision of “Leadership for Social Justice,” where leaders focus their time, talent, and resources on leading social change.

Leadership Framework for Action

When I am describing leadership, I am not referring to a position, title, or exercise of power. I am referring to a sense of agency and purpose to creating the type of workplace where everyone can not only succeed but thrive.

My Leadership Framework for Action© provides a blueprint for building the essential leadership competencies rooted in the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which manifests in healthy workplace relations, peak optimised performance, positive morale, and betterment of society.

There are four stages of learning:

  1. Intrapersonal (engaging in self-discovery),

  2. Interpersonal (building an authentic relationship with others),

  3. Organisational (establishing strategic outcomes and promoting equity), and

  4. Societal (developing sustainable, durable solutions).

The following paragraphs provide a brief overview of the organisational and societal stages along with a self-reflection tool as a guided moment to pause, reflect, and grow.

Establishing Strategic Outcomes and Promoting Equity

Inclusion is not just a slogan or something carried out to “check a box.” It is an ongoing commitment to strengthening the value-added of diverse perspectives and fostering collective engagement.

Over the past decade, research has demonstrated how diversity makes us brighter by opening our eyes to new dimensions of thinking, creating, and building together. Further, diversity positively impacts performance and drives revenue because diverse teams generate better decisions than without it. This is the value-added of diversity and inclusion.

For instance, ethnically diverse companies were 35 per cent more likely to outperform less diverse businesses. When racial gaps at work shrink, employees’ productivity, brand ambassadorship, and retention rates (i.e., intent to stay) rise. Further, a 2016 study found annual revenue was 24 per cent higher for most inclusive workplaces than their peers (which lack a diverse workplace environment).

However, the report Women in the Workplace 2018, by McKinsey & Company in partnership with, found that we have not yet fully maximised the transformative power of diversity: “around 20 per cent of employees say that their company’s commitment to gender diversity feels like lip service.”

A Pew report in the technology industry discovered that about 22 per cent of employees believe there is “too little focus” on racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace. This is evidence of a missed opportunity for leaders to tap into innovation (the business case/imperative) and build a more just and inclusive society (the moral case/imperative).


How will you demonstrate your commitment to inclusion?

List three ways you will take action. This may include inclusive hiring practices, retention strategies, community engagement efforts, and supplier diversity, to name a few.

Developing Sustainable, Durable Solutions

Inclusive leaders stand up and speak up for justice. Pioneering civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston reminded each one of us that we must be a “mouthpiece for justice and serve as a sentinel standing against what is wrong.”

A mouthpiece for justice means when we see an injustice, we must stand up and speak out.

When we think about this in the context of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, whether it be a lack of pay parity or career advancement for a particular group, inclusive leaders are the mouthpiece for justice. They ask critical questions, analyse key metrics, and develop strategies for advancing inclusivity. Their goal is to remove the roadblocks and impasses that restrict equal access to new pathways of success for everyone.

Next, Houston reminds us to be a sentinel guarding against what is wrong. What is a sentinel? One who stands guard, standing at the watchtower, who is observant and is looking at what is happening in society. This means leaders must be proactive in this struggle to make justice and equity come alive and not just state mere words. Leaders are urgently needed to address pressing social justice challenges, like ending mass incarceration, bridging the justice gap, promoting environmental justice, and addressing health care disparities.


What experiences have fueled your passion for the pursuit of justice and equity?

Identify one way you can get involved and take action to advance societal reform.


We each play a role in impacting what Dr King described as the “arc of the moral universe.” He reminded us,We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Once again, this is a call to leadership—a moral imperative to make a difference. Former President Barack Obama challenged each of us to play an active role in leading change when he stated, “[T]he arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it does not bend on its own.”

What is in your hands to make a difference in the world?

The power to bend the arc of the moral universe toward inclusion, equity, and justice for all. This is a call to inclusive leadership.

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

She serves as the founding director of the Center on Race, Leadership, and Social Justice and author of “The Inclusive Leader: Taking Intentional Action for Justice and Equity” (ABA Publishing).

*Network with people who can bring new opportunities to your business or career, with The Industry Leaders membership.

**Ever wondered what kind of leader you are? Take our free quiz to find out.

Header Image credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.


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