Dr. Helen Turnbull: Getting Past the ‘Illusion of Inclusion’
A lot of us are well-intentioned and don’t believe that we are biased toward others in any way. But it is naïve—delusional, even—to think that we don’t harbor unconscious bias. In fact, the issue of inclusion is an incredibly complex one, and until we recognize those complications and actively pursue change, the ‘illusion of inclusion’ will persist.
Dr. Helen Turbull’s interest in diversity and inclusion was ignited after her move from Scotland to the US, where issues of race are front and center. At a National Training Laboratories Conference, Dr. Turnbull was inspired by a teacher who suggested that nothing would change until the dominant culture stepped up to become true advocates. Dr. Turnbull saw this as a call-to-action, and pursued research around stereotype threat, covering and internalized oppression across cultures.
Now Dr. Turnbull is a world-recognized thought leader in global inclusion and diversity. She has more than 25 years of experience assisting businesses in enhancing organizational capabilities and creating an inclusive environment. She has worked with a number of blue chip clients around the world, including Texas Instruments, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup Europe. In May of 2013, Dr. Turnbull spoke at TEDx on ‘The Illusion of Inclusion,’ and she regularly keynotes of the topic of embedding an inclusive workplace culture in Australia, Asia, Europe, the UK, and the US.
Today, Dr. Turnbull explains the ‘illusion of inclusion,’ exploring the complexity of the issue and why organizations must embrace diversity initiatives as part of an ongoing process. She discusses the immutable forces at play, including the dynamics of the dominant culture, the impact of unconscious bias, and the degrees of differences within groups, as well as the permeable forces—affinity bias, assimilation and political correctness. Listen in to understand how Dr. Turnbull works with companies to get past the illusion of inclusion and make long-term commitments to ensure that all employees are valued and involved.
Key Interview Takeaways
Nothing will change until the dominant culture steps up to become advocates for true inclusion. Until we begin to understand the complexity of the issue and actively pursue change together, challenges around diversity will persist.
For diversity initiatives to work, organizations must be in it for the long haul. Dr. Turnbull argues that a two-hour workshop is not the solution. A company must embrace inclusion as part of an ongoing process.
Inclusion is much more complex than people realize. The dynamics of the dominant culture, unconscious bias, and the degrees of differences within groups are all at play.
Reframe political correctness as ‘polite consideration.’ Recognize your own affinity bias and consciously work to develop a curiosity about others’ stories.
Companies hire for diversity, but manage for similarity. Many organizations have a diverse workforce, yet the assimilation model entrenched in workplace culture requires employees to minimize themselves in order to fit in.
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