Sheree Atcheson, a multi-award leader and published author, talks with Insight Magazine about the need for inclusion, education, and a willingness to listen.
Sheree Atcheson is one of our speakers for SHE Conference 2021
With a background from software engineering, she is one of the leading voices from Women Who Code, and named one of the most influential women in technology.
Today, working for Peakon and publishing a book in April with Kogan Page called Demanding More, Why Diversity and Inclusion Don’t Happen and What You Can Do About it, she addresses the need to educate people and to demand transparency in order to create change.
Less Fluff, More Data
Atcheson believes companies need to focus on demographic data alongside inclusion data—one without the other is fruitless. She emphasizes the necessity for companies to have a clear strategy for diversity, inclusion, and equality. A strategy free of so-called fluff such as audacious statements that really do not have any impact or create any change at all. It is easy to talk about change, it is more difficult do something. For example, people may say they stand with the Black community, but what does that mean; what did they do?
Inclusion is Key
It is not enough for a company to produce diversity reports, stating the current situation and the demographic data. These reports will not give any indication on whether an employee feels a sense of belonging. Atcheson says it is crucial for companies to be transparent regarding inclusion. There are several tools at hand to be used to measure the level of inclusion within a company, but there must be internal targets focused on inclusion.
The Underlying Decisions
Sheree Atcheson authored the book Demanding More, Why Diversity and Inclusion Don’t Happen and What You Can Do About It with a vision of educating people about the world we live in. The exciting inequalities did not occur by themselves. Racism, misogyny, homophobia created this unequal world, and Atcheson believes people need to be educated about the decisions that led to the current situation. Because, in on order to move forward, people must be aware of how they got there in the first place.
Women Do Not Belong to One Sphere
When speaking about gender equality, and women in particular, Atcheson emphasizes the need to be aware of the intersectionality between women. Not to see women as one group, but to see all the different nuances that exists among women. Women do not belong in one singular sphere, says Atcheson and continues: “When people talk about the suffragettes and how they worked for women’s right to vote, it is important to remember that they are talking about white women. Black women were not allowed to vote until the 1960s. This a part of the story that has been erased.”
She writes about these stories in her book, and in a recent Forbes piece titled “Women are not a monolith and we must stop treating them as such”. To move forward, Atcheson believes that it is simply not good enough for people not to understand the full picture, and the underlying decisions that has created the inequalities that persist to this day.
The Best Advice
Sheree Atcheson says the best advice she can give companies and people in general, is to stop being defensive. She believes that people tend to become defensive and shut down when being confronted with the issues of inequality, and that they therefore lose what could have been an interesting learning experience and a chance to grow. People must be willing to be wrong so that we can start to break down exclusionary processes and systems to rebuild them with equity in mind.
Are we there yet?
Many years of oppression and discrimination of minority groups are not changed in a day. So when will we know if we are getting closer to an equal society? When will we stop demanding more – such as Atcheson’s title urge us to do?
“We are getting there the day that companies can be transparent about diversity and inclusion. When there is accountability for harm caused so we can move forward with purpose.”– Sheree Atcheson
She hopes that companies will see the value in honesty while working to do better and not make the same mistakes as we have done in the past by discriminating minorities. •
You can purchase Sheree’s book here:
Kogan Page (use DEMANDINGMORE for 20% off)