Nudging Toward Inclusion

May 9, 2019, 7:16 PM UTC

What if we’re going about this inclusion thing all wrong?

This is the gently persuasive idea behind Inclusion Nudges, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 to research, collect, and share the best behavioral insights to help hapless humans become better at navigating our inevitable blind spots.

It was co-founded by Lisa Kepinski and Tinna Nielsen, two experts who were looking for a better way. “As former internal leaders of D&I in corporations, we now conduct research from a practical application, D&I practitioner perspective…what we wished we had available when we were internals,” Kepinski tells me via LinkedIn. They share what they learn freely and invite others to do the same via their open-source platform.

Nielsen, who is an anthropologist, outlined their philosophy in an insightful TEDx talk that begins with one of the most charming gotcha-moments in D&I lore. (The audience is primarily European, so American viewers will likely guess where she’s going right away. But still, she nails it.)

Then, she describes the crux of the problem: Most people understand that inclusion is a noble virtue and want to do the right thing. We even think of ourselves as open-minded. But our brains are beset with powerful programming that leads us astray, a form of cultural malware that compels us to quickly assess some people as competent, empathetic, and all the good leadership things, and others as not measuring up.

By way of example, she cites research showing that the ideal of “corporate masculinity” is widely accepted in Asia, Europe, and North America, a norm that benefits only a few of us. “It affects who we hire, promote… and how we buy into their ideas,” she says. The problem that inclusion needs to crack is one of awareness. “What and who are we blindly seduced by?”

But rather than tackling the grand moral issues associated with bias, Kepinski and Nielsen suggest that behavioral and system changes, consistently applied, can begin to help the individual brain form new patterns and companies to make progress.

Some nudges are now familiar, like blind auditions for classical musicians, or scrubbing gender and race identifiers from resumes during hiring.

Others are subtle “aha moments,” like reframing work arrangement schemes so that any person in any role may opt-in to a flexible schedule, not just working mothers who may be (correctly) worried about being perceived as not pulling their weight. “It addresses the bias that flex work is ‘for less committed employees’ or only women by making it for all,” they say.

To contribute to their research, here’s a short survey they’re currently running that explores how included virtual workers are or aren’t feeling. (Note: Because this is a global survey, it doesn’t ask people to identify by race due to country-by-country challenges with different concepts, terminology, legal issues, etc. Certain regional surveys do ask about race.)

Still, it promises to be illuminating. “Our driver with this current research was that we’ve seen a lot of work on inclusion in the physical workplace but less so in the virtual workplace,” says Kepinski. “While many of the recommendations that I’ll write up in the findings report will be based on behavioral insights, not all will be nudges – some may be policy recommendations.”

Either way, I plan to nudge my way to a more open mind. We all should. “To get the needed changes at the pace we need today,” says Nielsen, we’re going to need “a global movement to set out to make inclusiveness spread faster and make it stick.”

On Point

A new study suggests Americans like the idea of know, on paperWhile three-quarters of Americans surveyed say it’s important for to support racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace, only a quarter of them actually want employers to consider race in hiring decisions. This new study from the Pew Research Center finds a majority (74 percent) says employers should only take a person’s qualifications into account when making these decisions, even if it results in less diversity in the workplace. That view is held primarily by non-Hispanic white people (78 percent), then Hispanics (69 percent), and just over half of black respondents (54 percent). There are other important questions about how Americans feel about the diversity of their communities, schools, and the culture at large, all of which follow similar patterns and show stark divides along racial and party lines.Pew Research

Airbnb has a new global head of diversity and belonging
Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt sounds like a catch. She is coming from Vanderbilt University where she was the Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence; before that, she served as Global Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She also two advanced degrees from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a chemical engineering degree from Princeton. “My role at Airbnb is to equip [leaders] with the skills to connect with individuals across backgrounds, embed conversations about diversity, inclusion and belonging throughout all of our businesses, and to help weave an organizational fabric that enables every member of our global team to feel like they belong,” she said in a statement. She will report to Beth Axelrod, Vice President of Global Employee Experience.

The royal baby is three days old, already the subject of racist jokes
A BBC radio host named Danny Baker was fired after he posted a tweet of an image showing a man and woman holding hands with a chimpanzee is a suit and bowler hat. His caption: “Royal Baby leaves hospital.” Though he deleted the tweet, it was too late to stem the outrage. Saying that the tweet “goes against the values we as a station aim to embody,” Radio 5 Live announced Baker’s firing. “Danny’s a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us,” the statement read.
New York Times

Is it time for Venture 2.0?
Yes, say Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein, two founding partners in Kapor Capital. Yesterday, they announced the results of the Kapor Capital Impact Portfolio, a six-year experiment in investing in companies who were committed to “closing gaps of access, opportunity and outcomes for low-income communities and communities of color in the US.” Their portfolio includes 102 investments made from 2011- 2017; when compared with funds of a similar size as benchmarked by Pitchbook, for example, the KCIP showed a 29.02 percent internal rate of return versus the industry average of 25.96 percent. Though the numbers are notable, click through for more details, the potential to change the industry is just as important, they say. “It’s the change that our entrepreneurs bring to the world every single day,” said Kapor Klein. “We want to inspire other VCs to think along similar lines,” says Kapor.
Kapor Capital Impact Portfolio


On Background

Tracy Morgan wants you to relax
Vinson Cunningham reminded me why he’s one of my favorite culture commentators with this in-depth profile of Tracy Morgan, who is exactly who you think he is except so much more. The settlement from his near-fatal car crash has given Morgan a nest egg so vast he doesn’t need to work. So, the work he chooses to do - his return to standup and his TBS sitcom, “The Last O.G.” – has a deeper meaning. While the portrait work is sublime, Cunningham also excels at exploring Morgan’s ascent within the broader context of black comedic talent in a predominantly white, entertainment infrastructure. Morgan exists on a bridge between Richard Pryor and Jordan Peele; he’s labored in the competing orbits of the once great Dr. Cosby and Chris Rock – and cemented his fame by performing words written by Tina Fey. It gets complicated fast.
New Yorker

Photography was used to help end slavery, here’s how
Thanks to social media, we’ve become used to photographs playing a key role in documenting and amplifying present-day protests. But the concept is not new. In the 1840s and ‘50s, abolitionist leaders began to create and share images of ordinary activists, along with enslaved people who escaped along the Underground Railroad, to inspire continued action. Formal portraits of anti-slavery figures like Frederick Douglass and John Brown were posted in abolitionist homes to instill a sense of leadership and hope. One of the most powerful images was of a protest against the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, held in upstate New York. The photo showed some 2,000 abolitionists, both black and white, and including Frederick Douglass, gathered in solidarity. “Looking back at American abolitionism reminds us of the potency of the photograph to forge political communities and spread the news that resistance is happening,” says Matthew Fox-Amado, author and history professor at the University of Idaho.
Washington Post

How to be a manager when the world has gone crazy
Consider this helpful advice from Lara Hogan, an author, consultant and former VP of engineering for Kickstarter, called Managering In Terrible Times. She outlines some small behaviors that leaders can embrace to make people from marginalized communities feel safe, even as terrifying events unfold on the news. Clarity is key, but so is respect. Give people freedom to either talk about what’s on their minds, or politely pass. “Remember: marginalized folks are repeatedly called on to explain These Terrible Times to others, and this is a way in which well-intentioned people exacerbate the burden on already-oppressed people,” she says. 
Lara Hogan Blog

Aidan Taylor assisted in the preparation of today's summaries.


Well, it’s hard, because I have to relive these experiences in my life, and they were painful experiences. But it’s all about second chances and forgiveness, and that’s needed. And the Last O.G. was Jimmy Mack [Comedian James McNair, a close friend and mentor]– he died in that auto accident with me. That’s why it’s called ‘The Last O.G.’
—Tracy Morgan.

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