Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner

I’m not just inviting you to my party, I’m asking you to dance with me.

After leaving the IOD D&I event yesterday I saw a quote shared by Denise McQuaid on twitter which said ‘Diversity is receiving an invitation to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.’

Seems we’d both been at similar events on the same day.

This clearly summarised for me the key outtake for all organisations and business. To to ensure that everyone is invited to join a dance and not just a party. After all, nobody should put baby in the corner.

From the usual McKinsey reports quoted by speakers, to stats from keynote address by Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - the benefits to profitability and arguably more importantly employee experience are well documented ad oft quoted- yet not seemingly having the impact the should. Leaders in this field that had a spotlight put on their on the success included Diageo much of and of no surprise to me my own Clients KPMG. 

There were 2 key take aways for me.


All organisations, no matter what size or scale need to have a commitment and clearly communicated vision, strategy and plan towards D&I. 

This does not mean running an unconscious bias session, this means having a clear articulation and understanding of what it means for your business and what you expect the experience, shape and values of your organisation to be like. 

Tooling, skilling and clueing people up on how to be inclusive.

(If we could just wake up everybody up to the fact we are global citizens, brother and sisters on a dying planet and its time to focus on what we have in common, embrace that we can all bring something different to the party - more unites us than divides us - the benefits reach far beyond the commercial gains of the business within which we work. We need to care. Businesses need to care. YOU need to care)

This is NOT ticking a few boxes and getting a few training programmes in place (though some of those should inevitably be part of the plan). We are in a climate change emergency - we are in a D&I emergency I’d argue too.

Who is responsible for D&I was asked?

‘’Everyone’' said Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (who is so proudly Nigerian - I feel compelled to give a shout out to all Nigerians at this point for fear she will never speak to me again 👋🏾).

Yes. Everyone. The CEO and everyone in between, from the bottom right down to the top.

Irene Afful, Equality, now Diversity & Inclusion expert, joined Merseyside Police in February 1991 almost 10 years on from the Toxteth riots and after suffering racial abuse at the hands of the police. She served 25 years as an officer, rising to the rank of Detective Inspector  became the first black female inspector in the history of Merseyside Police. 

Leadership responsibility she outlined as:-

Commit & Cascade - embed a vision with real accountability

Initiative portfolio - to achieve D&I goals with targets and investments to realise the benefits

Allocation of rewards and status - assessing how leaders allocate these to eliminate bias

Selection Processes - to eliminate biases

Deliberate Role Modelling

Non-Exec Directors - to bring diverse members to the board 


Create a culture of curiosity within your organiation.

Unconscious bias sessions will shift mindsets so that individuals start inviting more people to the party. But they can only ever be one initiative within a broader strategy to draw awareness to the much nuanced, complex and rich elements of inclusive cultures.

A culture of inclusion is a place where people at the same party ask each other to dance, don’t worry about being turned down and instead are curious to understand why someone doesn’t want to dance or understand why they might not want to.

We need to enable teams to truly understand how to create diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. Teams need to develop a critical lens through which they can begin to analyze their every day decisions or contributions to D&I practices. Having an educational approach to guiding and training teams on this more complex picture will create greater impact.

Identity, Power, Discrimination, Privilege, Intersectionality - these are not simple concepts to grasp but are instrumental in helping businesses and individuals be ‘woken’ to the behavioural, structural and cognitive changes that we all need to contribute to shifting the dial on diversity and inclusion. We need to not shy away conversations, be OK with getting things wrong in an effort to try make things better.

So, if you think you have a baby in the corner that no-one is asking to dance - you are the person that should be asking her. And if you aren’t sure how to, are worried she might not want to dance, or think she won’t want to dance with you - just ask her. Failing that, ask me and I will help you with it.