Home Concepts Ethics DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 3.0


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Promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) is increasingly perceived as a societal imperative and many organisations are putting in place D&I policies and practices.

However, an important difficulty with the concept of diversity is that various things exist under this headline (Harrison & Klein, 2007; Meyer, 2017). Likewise, D&I can be understood at different levels.

When most organisations talk about D&I, they are really referring to what I would label D&I 1.0. As necessary as these efforts are, a lot more could be achieved through diversity and inclusion programmes. Augmenting D&I 1.0 with D&I 2.0 and then D&I 3.0 represents a formidable yet still underused opportunity to boost creativity, flourishing and unity, for greater impact.

D&I 1.0: External (or visible) diversity

Combatting prejudice and discrimination against certain groups of people, and promoting equal opportunity constitutes the primary goal of D&I 1.0.

Social psychology is particularly helpful to understand how the social context shapes individual attitudes and behaviours, and can give rise to phenomena such as polarisation, exclusion, and racism.

Social categories turn out to be much blurrier than we think (Herbes-Sommers et al., 2003; Thomas, 2005; Plous, 2020). Who is a Black person? Someone with 1/8th Black ancestry? 1/16th? Any Black ancestry? All-Black ancestry? There is not a unique answer. Still, the ambiguity does not prevent people from thinking in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them’.

Henri Tajfel showed that it is easy to trigger ‘ingroup bias’ (or ‘ingroup favouritism’) even when the groups are constituted randomly: those in our group constitute the ‘ingroup’ and those outside are the ‘outgroup’ (Tajfel, 1970).

Stereotyping is a common tendency, which is about minimising differences in the outgroup (i.e., ‘outgroup homogeneity bias’) and exaggerating differences between the outgroup and our ingroup (Wilder, 1986).

As Gordon Allport argued (1954), there is a slippery slope: this categorical thinking gives rise to prejudice, which is a ‘preconceived negative judgment of a group and its individual members’. While prejudice is a negative attitude, it often leads to discrimination, which is an ‘unjustified negative behaviour toward a group of people’ (Myers & Twenge, 2019).

Racism typically involves prejudice and discrimination vis-à-vis certain people, viewed as belonging to a different ‘race’. Racist acts can be characterised not only by their severity but also by the authors’ drives: rage and hatred, blind obedience (i.e., following orders), bystander effect/diffusion of responsibility (i.e., not intervening). Social psychology research (e.g., Milgram, 1974; Latané and Darley, 1970) has revealed that we are more prone to blind obedience and diffusion of responsibility than we think.

Once we become aware of these dynamics, we don’t need to fall prey to the detrimental phenomena and can learn instead to act responsibly and humanely. We can promote inclusion, which amounts to making our ingroup larger – possibly to embrace all humanity.

What is more, Mahzarin Banaji has shown with her Implicit Association Test (Banaji & Greenwald, 2013) that our biases may be unconscious, operating like ‘blindspots in our minds’. We may be unconsciously prejudiced against certain people without being consciously aware of it. Raising awareness is key again and it is also a matter of ‘feeding our brain the right stuff’: information and images of what reality is like in all its nuances, beyond limiting stereotypes (Plous, 2020).

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