Exclusive Interview: Nichole McGill-Higgins – Champion of Diversity and Inclusion
In this official Q&A, we interview Nichole McGill-Higgins, an award-winning campaigner, coach, consultant and diversity and inclusion speaker. Nichole walks us through the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the negative impacts of a lack thereof. In this earnest one-to-one, it was a pleasure to talk to such an experienced, kind voice on diversity and inclusion.
This exclusive interview was conducted by Chris Tompkins, a sales executive at Champions. Chris is our resident expert on diversity and inclusion speakers and has developed strong connections with equality advocates across the globe, such as Nichole McGill-Higgins.
Q: What do diversity and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
Chris: “Diversity looks very different in every field of life, even at different levels of an organisation, from customer service to marketing, what does it mean specifically to you…”
Nicole: “To be honest, diversity and inclusion are really broad at the moment. People have their own interpretations of what that could potentially mean… The CEO of Facebook says something quite powerful, which was: ‘diversity is what you see, and inclusion is what you feel.’
“It’s more a sense of belonging because diversity can be just ticking that token tick box – and inclusion can be quite ambiguous. An organization would really have to be explicit with ‘this is what we see as inclusion’ and then sensor check; is that how your organisation feels?
“You need all the voices in the room, especially if you’ve got senior leadership teams which are making decisions around people who are not actually in that room. When you have different varieties of voices, that’s where the magic happens!”
Q: What are the negative effects a lack of diversity can have on a corporate team?
Chris: “We know, especially at an executive level, how a lack of diversity and understanding can affect the masses – how does this affect teams?”
Nicole: “If you have just one particular group, then you’ve got your infinity biases, you’re gravitating more to people that look like you because you’re comfortable.
“It’s not to say that it’s wrong to gravitate to people that look or speak like you […] but from an organisational perspective, you must be aware of infinity bias. If you are making decisions, how do you know if you’re doing it right if everybody looks, sounds, and speaks like you?
“That’s not the way the world works, and you’re not going to have a competitive edge. Maybe not everybody wants a profit, but everybody wants a level playing field and would prefer that people have a voice. If you’re not going to listen to other people, you can then seem quite old-fashioned.
“You want to be inclusive so you have people who can correct and educate you – ensuring that [the message] is landing properly with your organization and the outside world.”
Q: What is your top tip for businesses wanting to create a more inclusive culture?
Chris: “We have found, it takes just one change to make massive strides. What is that tip for diversity?”
Nicole: “Listen to your staff! Talk and communicate – communication is key, listen to what they’re saying. It’s easy to say, ‘yes we’re doing this,’ and we want to hear your voices and then you don’t do anything with that. So, transparency, communication, and listening. Listen would be my first one.
“If you’re saying you want to be inclusive, you need to hear from people with those lived experiences who can educate you past your academics. Then make an actionable impact after listening. “
“That’s my top tip, listen and act.”
Q: What qualities constitute a good leader and why is it important to have diverse leadership?
Chris: “In previous interviews, high-performance sports stars and Olympians credited communication, is this also valuable in terms of diversity…”
Nicole: “Having those listening skills and being objective. It begins with self; if you’re in this space and you’re saying, ‘yes I want to be more inclusive,’ that starts with you.
“Sometimes [all the blame] is put onto the organisation, which is easy to hide behind. To be an inclusive leader it’s really important to know your own self: what are your boundaries, and vulnerabilities, can I push through this, do I even understand it myself? How do you lead a team if you haven’t even come to terms with what your own bias potentially could be? If you’re not sure get a coach, be coached through that and then you can lead your team.
“If you look at a job description, or you look at the website and it seems to be all white men, all middle-aged men, all women – you’re going back to your biases. You’re cutting out talent and it’s not a matter of just going for the high-end universities, it’s about going for people.
“If you’re saying we want people, then you want everybody’s voices because the world is multicultural. It’s like an amazing restaurant that has everything in it. Bring that energy back into your organization and lead with that.”
Book Nicole McGill-Higgins
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