The Business Gay Podcast with Host Calan Breckon
The Business Gay
The Corporate Cost of Exclusion: Over $1T (with a T)
The corporate cost of DEI exclusion is an estimated $1.05 trillion dollars. DEI consultant Geffrye Parsons.

In this episode of The Business Gay Podcast, host Calan Breckon speaks with DEI consultant, Geffrye Parsons.

in 2022, Geff retired from a 35-year front office executive career in financial services to set up his own Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consulting practice, The Inclusion Imperative.

Formerly based in the UK and now living in Canada, Geff has received multiple decorations for his work around LGBTQ+ inclusion, including a long-standing chair of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at his former employer, in which capacity he led it both to winning the Business Equality award at the annual PinkNews Awards, and to #1 in the annual Stonewall rankings – making it officially the most LGBTQ+ friendly employer in the UK.

Individually, Geff has also won the Inspirational Leader of the Year award at the annual British LGBT Awards, and been named on both The Guardian’s ‘Pride Power List’ of the 100 most influential LGBTQ+ people in the UK, and OUTstanding’s annual list of the top 100 LGBTQ+ executives globally.

He now works with commercial organisations to help build leadership capabilities and harness the power of inclusion as a key strategy for individual wellbeing and organisational learning.

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Links mentioned in this episode:

Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

  • [02:31] LGBTQ individuals are often in DEI spaces due to familiarity with discrimination, while backlash is seen more from privileged individuals.
  • [04:23] DEI in organizations is not just about social justice, it is essential for future business success and not pursuing it can lead to missed opportunities in the market.
  • [07:23] Embracing DEI is crucial for future-proofing organizations, as failure to adapt can lead to being overtaken by competitors, as seen in the case of Kodak.
  • [15:25] Companies opting out of DEI efforts face financial risks such as lawsuits, high turnover rates, unproductive staff, and lost customer base, leading to a significant opportunity cost.
  • [17:37] US companies lose over $1 trillion per year due to lack of inclusivity, emphasizing the importance of creating psychologically safe spaces for diverse perspectives to drive innovation and problem-solving.
  • [21:59] Strategic thinking in DEI initiatives can enhance shareholder value and brand power.
  • [25:13] Negative impacts of DEI backlash are not as dramatic as perceived, with most CEOs prioritizing DEI initiatives.
  • [27:16] Reframe DEI as a leadership development initiative to avoid stigma and increase effectiveness.
  • [32:50] Align DEI initiatives with business goals, repositioning DEI as an innovation and improvement strategy in the front office.
  • [35:13] Avoid episodic DEI efforts and focus on broader strategic changes for long-term impact.
  • [39:29] Embracing inclusion is essential for organizations to stay relevant in a changing society and to future-proof their business.


[00:00:00] Calan Breckon: I don’t have time to create social media content for this podcast. It’s just a fact. When you’re a solo entrepreneur, your time is very, very precious, and the thought of me taking that time and sinking it into editing a bunch of short videos for social media was absolutely not at the top of my list of things to do. Problem is, how are people going to find out about my show if I don’t have anything on social media? Thank goodness today’s sponsor was invented and saves me countless of hours editing each and every week. OpusClip is a generative AI video tool that repurposes long form videos into short social clips for social media in one simple click. Seriously. After I record an episode, I upload the video into OpusClip and within minutes, the powerful AI tool has created about 25 ready to use short videos for me. You can even create templates for the AI to follow so that your videos come out perfect each and every time. I 100% would not be sharing any videos on my social media if it was not for Opus clip. Check out OpusClip by going to or click the link in the show notes to start repurposing your long form content today with an easy, simple click. Now let’s get into today’s episode.

[00:01:20] Calan Breckon: Welcome to The Business Gay podcast, where we talk about all things business, marketing and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Calan Breckon, and on today’s episode, I have DEI consultant Geffrye Parsons. In 2022, Geff retired from a 35 year front office executive career in finance services to set up his own diversity, equity and inclusion consulting practice, the inclusion imperative. Formerly based in the UK and now living in Canada, Geff has received multiple decorations for his work around LGBTQ inclusion, including a longstanding chair of the LGBTQ employee Resource group at his former employer, in which capacity he led it to both winning the business Equality award at the annual Pink News Awards and to number one in the annual Stonewall rankings, making it officially the most LGBTQ friendly employer in the UK. Individually, Geff has also won the Inspirational Leader of the Year award at the annual British LGBT Awards and has been named on both the Guardians Pride Power list of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people in the UK and outstandings annual list of the top 100 LGBTQ executives globally. He now works with commercial organizations to help build leadership capacities and harness the power of inclusion as a key strategy for individual well being and organizational learning.

I’m excited to find out from Geff how DEI really affects the bottom dollar at companies and if the current ragers against “Wokistan” are actually hurting the progress, his answer may actually surprise you. So let’s jump in.

[00:02:57] Calan Breckon: Hey, Geff, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for taking the time. How are you doing?

[00:03:01] Geffrye Parsons: Very well, thank you. How are you?

[00:03:03] Calan Breckon: I am very good. I’m really excited to jump into this conversation. You and I had the pleasure of meeting in Vancouver not too long ago where I was like, I need to have you on the podcast to talk about all the good stuff you’re talking about. So with that, I want to jump right into it. There is an anti-woke, anti-DEI backlash happening right now, specifically in the US. We’re not strangers to it. We know a lot of budgets and things are getting cut. Why is this backlash happening?

[00:03:32] Geffrye Parsons: Well, I mean, first of all, it’s worth saying it’s not just happening in the US, right? It’s happening everywhere. I live in Canada, but I’m english and I’m in the UK right now.

A general election has just been called and for the next six weeks there will be an election campaign and de, and I, trust me, is going to be a political football. So it’s everywhere. But a lot of it does root is rooted in the US, for sure. And a lot of the reason it’s happening there is the same reason it’s happening everywhere. And a lot of this is to do with human emotion. It’s a very emotional trigger, like somebody coming along to you and trying to change something which you.

We’re not good at change. Humans are not good at change. We think we should be because we know that change is constant and it’s inevitable. But we don’t like it. We shrink from change, and we particularly shrink from change which we think is detrimental to us. Anybody that thinks, well, something’s happening to my, let’s call it relative privilege, people are chipping away at that. And that’s going to create a reaction which is adverse, that even if I know that ultimately this is probably inevitable because there will be societal changes and demographic changes, et cetera, I’m going to push back against that. I’m going to be reaction, I’m going to hold back the tide, stop the world. I want to get off. And that’s why it’s happening. It’s playing out large in people’s minds and they’re finding ways to justify it, which in some cases are valid. In most cases they’re not. I’m sure we’ll get into those reasons, but it’s genuinely a reaction from a lot of people to say, look, this is. This is not good for me, so I’m going to push back against it. And what they’re missing there is the upside that it actually brings, and I think that that’s how we really need to recalibrate the conversation going forward.

[00:05:18] Calan Breckon: Yeah, there tends to be a large portion, I would say. I. Maybe it’s because we’re in the community, but I find that a lot of LGBTQ people, or LGBTQ adjacent people tend to be in the DEI space because we’re already so used to being discriminated against that we know and we see and we recognize it needs to be done. And the people I see pushing back on DEI tend to be the very hetero mask white, cisgendered males of the world. Has that been in your findings? What have you found about that?

[00:05:55] Geffrye Parsons: It is. I mean, you know, it’s perceived to be a minority movement. I mean, you know, there was. I think it’s the Claremont Institute in the states, which is. I was just reading about this institute, and apparently it’s allegedly affiliated or closely related to Trump and DeSantis and people like that. And they made this horrible point that it was basically likening it, the cultural revolution in China. So this pushback against privilege, et cetera, it’s just. It’s not fair.

So couching it very much in social justice terms, which, of course, it is, I mean, there is an awful lot of social injustice which needs to be recognized, acknowledged, and. And corrected, for want of a better word. But de and I shouldn’t only be about that. And it’s actually, you know, de and I is something that we practice in. In organizations as much as in social settings. In fact, more in organizations. And seeing it in the context of an organization removes, to a certain extent, the social justice piece. And you need to look at it from a different lens, as in, you know, is it good for, you know, the corporate environment? And I’ve seen lots of research out there or lots of comments out there, which really bemused me. There was something I read about the National center for Public Policy Research in the states that loads of complaints have actually been part, been filed by them complaining that companies are neglecting their fiduciary duties to shareholders by pursuing D and I, in other words, saying, this is bad for business. And as someone who practices DEI, and I’m sure I’ll get a chance to explain why later, DEI is actually fundamentally good for business and not only essential for business success in the future. So it surprises me. People always try to come at it from just the social justice perspective. And I don’t blame them because there are a lot of very hot buttons out there, like what happened to Claudine Gay and all of the stuff that’s happening on academic campuses in the States and in the UK. We’ve got half of the government departments being told not to spend anything on DEI. And for heaven’s sake, don’t wear a rainbow lanyard, because the world will end.

These are very, very emotive headlines. It’s very easy to fixate on those. But stepping back, there’s a bigger picture, which we need to look at the other aspect of it. And that’s very much what I do, working with organizations and seeing how they can become agents of change through what they do in the DEI space.

[00:08:19] Calan Breckon: Yeah. So there’s two pieces I want to touch on here. One will lead to our next little spot. First piece is, the way I see it is that people of privilege are, are being attacked and people are coming after them because we’ve had it. A lot of us are just like, we’ve had it. And especially the younger generations, they are having none of it. And what I’m seeing is that it’s almost like the equivalent of when you back a dog into a corner, like a. Maybe an angry or rabid dog, and you back them into the corner, they’re going to fight tooth and nail against you because they’re backed into a corner and they’re going to do anything to save themselves. And that’s how I’m seeing everybody. Like, the pressure’s on right now because those who, the small minority in that privileged powered space, are being backed in corners and they’re shouting and screaming because they’re like that attack dog. They’re like, I’m going to do everything I can to save myself. That’s kind of how I see that scenario being played out. And it plays out in far, far right politics, it plays out in far right religious beliefs. That tends to also play out in far right. And so that’s how I’m seeing them. They’re all. They’re getting smaller and smaller and smaller and the world is changing and it’s scary and they don’t know how to deal with it. So there just going to scream from the rooftops. The second piece is there’s people like Elon Musk in the world who are saying DEI stupid, like there’s no point to it, who he, you know, represents the most, the most white privileged person in the world. And then there’s also people like Mark Cuban who are like, no, no, no, no. This is actually a good thing, and I can tell you why it’s a good thing. And I think it speaks to the part you were talking about where it’s not just looking at it from the social aspect of it, but actually what it means to the company.

So, I want to get into the numbers a little bit. Looking at those. What’s the real bottom line for a company when it comes to the benefits of DEI in that lens?

[00:10:12] Geffrye Parsons: The bottom line is it’s essential to your future business. The world is never going to stand still.

You can push back against what are effectively societal and demographic changes as much as you want, but eventually somebody else who’s not pushing back and is embracing them, you know, is going to overtake you if you. All you do is resist change. You know, a very common example that was always used is what happened to Kodak. You know, Kodak used to be a dominant, you know, the predominant camera company. Everybody had a Kodak camera. Then along came digital photography, and they knew about it. In fact, I think they were the first people to know about it, but decided not to embrace it because they were so dominant in their, in their existing space that why would they want to dilute that? And it just said, okay, we’re not embracing that. We’re resisting change. And of course, that’s fine for them, but along came everybody else, and who even needs a camera now? You’ve got one in your phone. So Kodak is. Where’s Kodak?

You can resist all you want, but eventually these things will always happen, because if you don’t do it, somebody else will, and you’ll be overtaken. So the bottom line is, if you want to future proof yourself or your organization, then you have to embrace change. And that means you’ve got to embrace different ways of thinking about things. And that’s what Mark Cuban is basically saying. And it’s what people like Elon Musk should say. Because when you think, I mean, he’s actually a disrupter, you know, like, his business is very disruptive, as in, they did things very differently than cars were made in a very different way.

It’s surprising when you think about that. Okay. In his case, it was maybe different because a lot of it was his idea. But most of us are not Elon Musk. Most organizations thrive upon lots of different ideas coming from different people, not one particular person. So, you know, we need to encourage that. And organizations are going to be, you know, not only are this is good for them, this is making a change to their bottom line. But we need them to be both beneficiary and actor in this, right, because these big brands are going to outlive all of us, right? I mean they’re going to be around for a long time, they’re certainly going to outlive politicians. They’ve got the brand, the reach, the resources to be agents of change. So we need them to understand that this is a good thing to do and that means that they need to agree that it’s a good thing to do, which means they need to get profits from it. So showing them how to do that, showing them the value of embracing difference, celebrating difference, not just accepting it, but even celebrating it by being inclusive, that’s how were going to get them on side because they are the agents of change we need, and we need them to be on side because it makes sense to them and it is the bottom line. So this previous argument that I referred to about it being bad for business is utterly paradoxical in my mind because its a failure of corporate stewardship not to do this in my view, because if you dont do it then somebody else is going to overtake you and thats the worst thing to do. So its counsel of despair to keep pushing back against this. But it goes back to the point, as you were saying earlier, this dog backed into the corner. It’s an emotional response, you’re fighting against it. A dog fighting in a corner is literally just screaming his way out. There’s no thought in this, it’s just reacting. That’s a little bit of an extreme analogy, but it could be seen to be what happens here. And emotions always outweigh logic in humans. We know that. Otherwise I’m sitting in a country where Brexit happened, for heaven’s sake, and everybody knows that was a bad idea, but it was done based on emotion and all of the facts that it was a bad idea, but people still went with the emotion. There are certain us presidents that probably shouldn’t have been elected if you looked at it logically, naming no names. But humans will always go with emotion and emotion is important and that’s why it is such a hot emotive subject right now.

But we need to pursue, we need to understand that emotions need to be part of it, but we do need to pursue the longer game, looking at it logically. Look, if you want to be future proofed, then this is the way you’re going to have to go about it. You can’t put a number on the bottom line because this is about changing culture, it’s very much a changing culture is like turning the Titanic. It’s not something you can just. If I put a pound in here, it’s going to be two pounds coming out there, or dollars. It’s very much trying to play the long game. If you try to go short term mentality, you’re going to be pushed in the wrong direction of things like quota based, looking at trying to achieve diversity, which you can just do through hiring, which is affirmative action and is something which, of course, the Supreme Court has kicked out quite rightly, because you shouldn’t need to do affirmative action. If you create an inclusive environment, it’ll make it, you know, it’ll do it for you, for you. So, you know, it’s. It’s very much, you know, trying to build it for the long term.

[00:15:06] Calan Breckon: Yeah, it’s.

It’s one of these things. We could go down so many rabbit holes with this, but it’s one of these things where as a younger person, I mean, I am a millennial, but I include myself in the thoughts and thought process of being a younger person. And I think that’s one of the benefits of being of the LGBTQ community is we’re so used to already being outside of the norm that we’ve created our own ways of being in the world that when all of these things happen, we’re like, well, yeah, we’ve known that forever, but it’s because we weren’t indoctrinated into the way that things are because that’s the way they are. And looking at companies and corporations and how they are now, a lot of them have been around for a very long time, and they need to evolve and grow and change in order to stay relevant. Otherwise, you’re going to go extinct. But we’re still in that space where the people who are currently running those places started life at a very different time than where we are now. And it’s almost like this absolute fear of death. And it’s not just death of themselves, but it’s death of themselves. It’s death of how they think the world should work. It’s death of, you know, they. The way they think they’re their company should be, and they are just raging against it. And again, it just comes back to the fact that the majority of CEO’s and people up the top are cisgendered white men and they’re just going to live the way that they want to live and they’re going to try and change the tides to bring it back to quote unquote, better ways. There was just that douche canoe that just went viral for saying the things he said about women being back in the kitchen. And just these backwards thoughts of, you’re like, they’re reminiscent of a time that was, quote unquote better, but quote unquote better for who? Who was that time better for? It was only better for one specific type of person in this world. But it was an awful time for many, many more of us. And so what we’re going through in today’s society, I think, is the growing pains of change. And that growing pains hurt. I remember growing up as a kid, my knees, I would scream at night just because my body was growing so fast. My knees couldn’t keep up. And it was so painful that I would scream. I feel like we’re just. We’re in that right now because there is such a difference between the boomers and Gen X compared to the Gen Z and the gen alphas. And then there’s the millennials in the middle being like, okay, let’s try and keep this together. But nobody can afford to do that. And it’s just this wild, wild west of what’s happening in the world. Um, I’m really curious, what’s the negatives in a financial regard when it comes in a financial regard, when a company opts out of DEI? Because I agree with you on what you say, you need to have that variety of thought in your organization in order to grow, move forward. But what are the actual measurable negatives that you can actually see if a company is, like, we’re opting out of this?

[00:18:12] Geffrye Parsons: Yeah, well, I mean, there are several ways that you can look at this. And unfortunately, most companies limit their way to looking at it as to just managing the downsides. So they ideologically frame Deni as a problem rather than an opportunity or a solution. And that’s missing a trick, because all you’re ever doing is trying to get back to zero. You should be building from zero. But getting back to zero is one of the things that interests organizations, because there is a potential downside if you get this wrong. And this is more on the social justice piece, as in, if I am seen as an organization to be discriminatory or biased or whatever. And, you know, Bloomberg, I think it was about a year ago, Bloomberg Law report mentioned that there had been a 400% increase in wrongful dismissal lawsuits over the last 20 years. I mean, and you can see that, you know, there is a potential lot of money going in the door if you just get fundamentals wrong and you are seen to be a bad employer who treats people inappropriately. So if D and I is just removing that and getting it back to zero, managing the downside risk, then theres some value in that. Its a limited scope value, but you can see that there is a value in that. Thats simply just dont be a bad employer, dont let people be inappropriate in the workplace, do inappropriate things.

That’s a very limited frame. On top of that, I think the biggest point is the opportunity cost, not the actual cost of money going the door if you’re settling lawsuits, et cetera. The opportunity cost of money left on the table by not being inclusive. So manifesting itself in high turnover rates of staff, unproductive staff, staff who are not engaged, lost customer base, etcetera.

There was a report by Accenture, I think it was only last year, who concluded just us companies. Us companies leave more than not just exactly north of $1 trillion per year on the table as a result of not being inclusive. That is a lot of zeros. That is a huge figure. And just by not being inclusive, if you are being inclusive and you can just chip away at that trillion, every incremental dollar you can make by being inclusive is value that youre going to get back. And you need to do that by embracing the things that we were talking about earlier, saying, look, I need to future proof myself and I need to celebrate different perspectives and give them a psychologically safe space so that they can feel included and actually will contribute different experiences. Whether its a different demographic experience of being a different gender, or a different ethnicity, or a different orientation, or whether it’s even an acquired trait, like, you know, somebody who’s just got a different, went to a different school or some overseas experience, or just brings a different perspective to bear so that you don’t just replicate yourself in your own image and fall into the homogeneity trap, you know, everything you do which changes the way you look at things. So you don’t just keep doing things in this perpetual fornix loop of homogeneity and repetition and will give you the opportunity to look, to innovate for the future and be better at identifying real risks and creatively problem solving. That’s where the value of D and I comes in. And it’s about the I, it’s not about the d. It’s make sure that you actually include people. It’s no good putting people around the table that look and sound a bit different if you just ignore them. You’ve got to empower them to give a contribution. And that’s where the I comes in. And, you know, that’s why I often push back against the idea of calling it d and I, because they don’t really belong together. Diversity will not create inclusion, but inclusion will create diversity.

If you get inclusion rights, you don’t need affirmative action, you don’t need quotas, because an inclusive environment will attract diverse thought and people will go there because they will feel valued and they will go there and they’ll want to be there and they’ll stay there. If you create a diverse environment and ignore everyone, they’re all going to leave.

[00:22:24] Calan Breckon: Yeah.

[00:22:24] Geffrye Parsons: So simple as that. Create that, that environment and you don’t need any of these quotas or any of the things that the Supreme Court doesn’t like.

[00:22:30] Calan Breckon: Yeah. And all of these things trickle down from the top or from the top down. We all know it. Every company is an example of from the top down. It’s always like, why are you leaving this place? Well, it’s a shitty place to work, but why is it a shitty place to work? Because x so and so has control over me in some way. That is an awful way. And that always trickles down from the top. But I’ve. I’ve always seen companies that people are like, well, I love this company. It’s like, well, why? You see the people running it and you’re like, oh, well, they’re good people and they’re doing the inclusive things and they’re making this a fun place and an enjoyable place to work and that trickles down. There’s this great organization called OrgMatch and their founder, Trevor Loke, I just interviewed him on the podcast, and they’re doing the work to connect these big organizations, these big company corporates, to, um, uh, be more equitable in their donating. And he used the example of, um, uh, JC Penney and, oh, what’s the company? Pen. Pen. Oh, it starts with a p. Patagonia. Patagonia. Um, and how JCPenney went out of business and they were marketing and doing all of these things, but they just couldn’t get ahead regular marketing wise. And Patagonia didn’t do any of those kind of commercials. And all they did was they were just very strategic at their giving and they gave to really inclusive things that nobody else was giving to creating genuine relationship within these communities, in these spaces. And like that brand power just exploded. Who they are and that’s why they are the way they are today is because they don’t do that. Typical. They go more of the inclusive route and so match is working to equity, make it more equitable, bull giving situation. So it’s not just the typical people you always give to. They can really go into different communities, different environments, different places, and give the money where it really needs to go to places where it doesn’t usually go. And that to me is just, I mean a, it makes you feel better and it’s inclusive and it’s just how I roll. But also you’re improving the quality of life in so many different ways and that creates that brand power that I think a lot of corporates are missing that connect the piece dot because everybody is just so concerned with shareholder value, theyre missing the whole piece of the puzzle that would add the shareholder value if they just did it right.

[00:24:58] Geffrye Parsons: And thats the point of shareholder value is ultimately theres more than one way to get there and you can get there to a better result if you think about going it a slightly different way. And the point youre just making there is seeing things in a strategic sense. There is a moral sense to all of this, why we should be doing d and I why you would be giving to certain causes and that is important. But theres also a strategic sense and patagonia was obviously seeing that opportunity. So the two need to be seen together. And there are people out there who find it a bit icky to talk about the strategic business type of mentality around this. We should just do it because its the right thing to do, which I completely agree its the right thing to do. But what we should do is where the right thing to do meets the best thing to do. They’re not mutually exclusive, so put them together. And the point you’re making around the strategic alignment, it resonates very strongly with me because one of the failings I see of organizations who don’t quite get this right is where they don’t think of it strategically. There’s maybe some lip service, there’s a lot of nice words coming from the C suite, but there’s not enough follow through.

[00:26:02] Calan Breckon: And Gen Z is on that.

[00:26:06] Geffrye Parsons: I mean, they’re not going to stick around, right. You know, the phrase is, you know, people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses. And if they’re going to see bad bosses, you know, at any stage in that, whether it’s a C suite or their immediate people manager or team lead or something like that, then they’re going to react to it. And it’s so interesting in as much as, you know, I don’t expect c suite people to roll up this even do all of this stuff because they obviously have lots of other things to fill their day, but they need to, you know, create the right tone from the top. And they also need to create the space within the organization for other people to facilitate this. And typically the work experience of the average person isn’t their relationship with the CEO because they are stratospheres away. It’s with their team lead or their immediate boss. And those are the people that create your day to day workplace experience. And if they are not getting the message from the C suite or the senior execs and the resources and space and time and effort to prioritize what is effectively a business development thing, as in youre developing your staff world to promote the business, then obviously its going to be crowded out into just meeting the budget, making the widgets, whatever it is. So we have a failure of strategic alignment. In that case, were missing the fact that this is actually a sound thing to do for business. But we need to empower the people who are the change makers within the organization, the C suite, to give the right strategic direction and the positive role modeling and, and to facilitate what other people in the organization can do to deliver it so that everybody in the organization is able to contribute to their maximum or optimal level. And you need to see it from both perspectives of just, you know, not just the right thing to do, it’s the best thing to do as well. They’re not mutually exclusive. The strategic part is very, very important.

[00:27:53] Calan Breckon: So, so I’m curious, why isn’t DEI working as it should? Like what effect is this backlash actually having in today’s world that you’re seeing?

[00:28:04] Geffrye Parsons: Well, actually the effect is interesting. It’s not actually having as much of an effect, a negative effect as you would think. If you read all of the press and everyone’s saying go woke, go broke, DEI is dead, et cetera. Actually, most of the statistics are not supporting that.

The business case is robust enough and CEO’s get it, they get it more and I think they’re more swayed by that than all of the political dialogue that’s happening. There was a survey done, I think it was actually even earlier this year by the, I’m trying to remember who did it, but there was a survey of nearly 200 chief HR officers in the US asking them what their plans were for DEI, would they scale back, et cetera, for this year? And not a single one plans to scale back. And that’s just because they can see the compulsion. And my favorite little piece in this regard is Jamie Dimon who’s CEO of JP Morgan at World Economic Forum. Earlier this year, he came out with a speech which im going to be paraphrasing, but he basically said, look, Im red blooded. Nothing woke about me. Trust me, Im the least woke person youll ever see. But we are carrying on with our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and thats because hes realizing that you dont need to be woke to understand that there is a valid reason to do this. And its in his case because it makes business sense and we want that to happen. You know, it is the means by which we’re going to get organizations like JPMorgan, which are enormously important and influential, to be change agents for us. And therefore they are going to get the benefits from pursuing this, but we are going to get the benefits from the consequences of them being a good corporate role model and change agent. So the negative benefits, sorry, the negative impacts are not as dramatic as perhaps you would think. You know, there are lots of things that are being done wrong, let’s be honest. I mean, as I mentioned, you know, framing the problem wrongly, you know, it’s ideologically seen as a problem rather than opportunity or a solution. You know, lots of things in that regard. You know, we have to take it on the chin. There’s loads of things that we as DEI practitioners and look at myself are getting wrong as well. You know, we are very good at making this very, very opaque, you know, like, you know, shroud in mystery, bury it in jargon. In the end, this is about leadership development. We’re talking about creating and boosting leadership skills. That’s ultimately what De and I is actually about to facilitate everything else that we want to happen. Why do we sell it as anything other than that? It’s exactly the same as all of the other business and leadership development skills that we want people to have. So let’s not make it sound this mysterious thing and bury it in jargon. So we get that a little bit wrong. So it’s partly on us and it’s also on us to not get this, not sell ourselves for what we’re not. We’re not creating miracles here. We’re all learning. This is going to take time. And let’s not pretend that we have all the answers. We’re working on this together. So embrace that sort of learning journey. Take the organizations along with you and then make them understand that actually what we’re trying to do here is for the greater good. It’s not just for an individual. It’s not only about social justice. It’s about doing things like developing leaders who will be champions of good causes, but also valuable causes, as in commercially valuable causes for the future.

[00:31:31] Calan Breckon: William yeah, well, but that is kind of the big problem, is you can’t ration with irrational people. And the ones who are saying, go whoa, go broke are the ones who are completely irrational. No matter what you say. It’s, they were told this one thing or they believe this one thing, and it’s just the way it is in their mind. And there’s no wiggle room where there are people like, I personally don’t maybe support Jamie Dimon, but there are those people who are like, okay, but I can see the financial benefit and money talks louder in his world. But if you go to an irrational person and they happen to be running a company, no matter how much logic it makes to them, they’re still not going to do it, because they’re like, I don’t care, I’m an irrational person. They’re not going to say that. But we know that. That, at the end of the day, is what it boils down to is if you have an irrational person who has a belief or a belief system, they don’t care what proof you throw at them. They’re just going to believe what they want to believe because it’s what they want to believe.

[00:32:27] Geffrye Parsons: It’s what I was saying earlier. I mean, it’s always a tension here between emotion and logic, and emotion is always going to win. It takes a very strong personality to suppress their emotions enough to let logic happen. We’ve all think about all the decisions we make in our lives, and most of them are actually dictated by emotion rather than logic. So we blame business people if they do that. But eventually logic has to prevail. In the long run, emotion is a short term reaction and often requires you to do some fixing afterwards. And logic would prevent you from having to do that.

[00:32:58] Calan Breckon: Yeah, I personally, I am a very rational, logical person. Like, my thought process is always like, logical first, emotional later if it comes up. I’ve been told I can be a bit cold hearted in that way, but when I do get passionate, it’s because it’s already gone through the filter of, like, reasoning and rational thought that it’s just like. But this doesn’t make sense in so many different capacities. How can you not see it? And so me talking to an irrational person on something that’s just so simple, that’s where I get triggered. I’m like, how can you just choose to ignore facts that are right in your face? But you know, that’s the story of the queer community.

[00:33:37] Geffrye Parsons: Community, I agree with you. I mean, it’s something like we’re talking about now. And for me, it’s surely it’s obvious that homogeneity is not what you want. I mean, you know, homogeneity of thought, process of experience of, you know, how you frame problems, how you go about them. If you get homogeneity of anything too much, you’re just going to get what you know. Okay, think about the phrase great minds think alike. That’s the epitome of homogeneity, right? Because all, they’re all great minds. They think alike, but that’s the problem. They’re great minds, but that’s the definition of insanity. Keep doing the same thing, expect a different result.

That’s what great minds will do for you. If they all think alike, you’re going to get the same thing. It might be a good thing now, but it won’t always be a good thing because other people will do something else. So you’re in this pushing back against change, but too much homogeneity is going to keep you where you are, particularly if you don’t embrace differences of opinion, perspective, experience, lived experience and heuristics. I mean, just the way you go about looking at potentially framing a problem and how you’d go about thinking about it, if you don’t embrace that, then you’re limiting yourself completely. And for me, it’s all about trying to create an environment, psychologically safe environment, which empowers people to do that.

And it’s not because we want to be nice to the minority or bless them, they deserve a leg up because they had a hard time over the last centuries. Yes, they have. But ultimately, in this context, it makes sense to empower them because they do have a value that you need to unlock. The perspective is something that you don’t have, and you really need it.

[00:35:15] Calan Breckon: So in kind of rounding out this conversation we’re having, what should organizations do then?

[00:35:22] Geffrye Parsons: Okay, I mean, at the risk of repeating myself, the first thing they need to do is bite the bullet and say, look, you know, icky though it is, I need to accept that there’s more to this than just the social justice piece. There is a business case associated with this.

And fan or not, of Jamie Dimon, I guess that’s what he’s done. He’s reconciled in his mind, this isn’t me, but I get it and this is what we’re going to do. So embrace the business case, because that is the first and foremost thing that you need to do, but there’s lots more functional things that they can do.

Recalibrate it as say, I mean related, that recalibrate the whole thing ideologically as not just a problem, it’s an opportunity. Get that into your mind. And it’s not only about not getting sued and trying to keep yourself at zero, it’s how do I get extra? How do I unlock that trillion dollars which we’re leaving? Think about it as a glass half full rather than just a glass half empty. So it’s ideological, there’s lots of other things that people can do, and a lot of it comes down to the way that they think about it and deliver it. I mean, there’s a thought out there quite interesting at the moment that we should just be rebranding the whole thing because there’s a stigma associated with De. And I was going to say there’s.

[00:36:38] Calan Breckon: A bad branding on DEI these days.

[00:36:40] Geffrye Parsons: And what can you do? Because it’s there. But I mean, in my view, as I said, I don’t even like the D because, you know, in a way that’s just the means to an end, that the I is what you want. Inclusion is what creates the value. And it should be in the front office. You know, this is what organizations should do is say, like, okay, let’s not call this an HR initiative because anything that lives in HR is going to get the sort of necessary evil mentality from everyone. I’ve got to do it. Yeah, fine. But I don’t love it. It’s not this strategic alignment like we were talking about this earlier, means that this actually is so important to the business case. It doesn’t belong in back office in HR. Bring it out of that, have it in the front office, have it report directly to the executive, put it in everything that the front office does. And you don’t necessarily even need to call it anything because it’s part of the executive. But if you do, maybe call it something to do with the eye, the inclusion, and I would say even take it to innovation and improvement because that’s what it’s going to do. Make it part of a business development type mentality. So that sort of thing is a good way to make sure that you’re changing the way that it’s perceived. But then it’s just on a much more functional level. Just get serious about this stuff. There’s a terrible failing, and it’s probably partly because it can often not be seen as strategically aligned tactical. Sitting in HR and I see this from organizations a lot. It’s very kind of episodic. They just go like, oh, okay, let’s do a one off training, and everything’s going to be fixed, right? So let’s give everyone unconscious bias training and the world will change. Well, no, I mean, that will only happen if it’s part of a broader scheme of things, which that’s plugged into. And I’ve been on several unconscious bias training sessions, and I went back to my desk and my world was exactly the same and nothing else that around me had changed, which needs to be the case. It needs to be seen to be part of a broader change where everybody understands why we’re doing this and what needs to happen. It’s not just a box ticky exercise where you go along, tick, done that, and I’m all good now, problem solved. That is not the way to change things. That’s very optical, it’s very performative. We need to be much more transformational rather than transactional, if I can use that analysis. It’s very much like, where are we trying to plug this into? So I work with organizations a lot, and I have to resist a lot of time, the temptation to just do the one off thing, because especially at this time of year, coming towards pride, everyone wants to do something, but I always want to know, well, where does that plug into the bigger picture?

What are you doing the rest of the year, and how does that work with your plans around change management? And what are you doing with your execs? Training up your managers and things like.

[00:39:17] Calan Breckon: That, working all year round.

[00:39:19] Geffrye Parsons: Exactly. I mean, it’s not just all year. It’s on every axis, right? So it’s not just around time, it’s around all of the bits of the organization. Don’t just do it on a lumpy, episodic, tactical, not strategic basis. Make it transformational rather than transactional. So that’s a very functional thing about the delivery. But over and above that, I do think, like reframing it ideologically, possibly even rebranding it, definitely repositioning it so it’s in the front office and then also just making your peace with the ickiness of the business case. I think those are key things that organizations can do to get this right.

[00:39:52] Calan Breckon: Well, I mean, yeah, to me, it just seems foundational. Like if you want to have a company that does well, it needs to just include people and just come from that kind of state of mind, I guess. But I, you know, I grew up in a certain timeframe where I’m like, yeah, of course, you include people like, that just makes life so much more rich and the experience is better. But I didn’t grow up living in silo. I grew up living in a very multicultural place and having very multicultural experiences. Growing up gay. Like, all of these things add to the, you know, spiciness of my life, I guess you could say. Whereas if I grew up in the middle of nowhere in America, where absolutely everybody was exactly like me or similar to me, and there was no differences like you were, you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. So thank you. Thank you for all differences.

[00:40:43] Geffrye Parsons: No differences. Right. And that’s the problem. You had a difference. Which take myself, I mean, for half my career, I put my difference away because it wasn’t safe for me to bring my difference out. And that’s what you want people to actually embrace their difference because that’s the value add. If there is no difference, as you’re just saying, you’re just going to keep getting the same result.

[00:41:02] Calan Breckon: Exactly. All right, so final thoughts. What do you want to leave people off with?

[00:41:10] Geffrye Parsons: Everybody just needs to take this seriously. You know, it’s very easy to be mislaid by the headlines and just say, look, you know, go woke, go broke. It’s just a bad thing. It’s about, you know, trying to, you know, give a sop to poor. It’s poor people who’ve had it hard for, you know, decades slash centuries slash millennia.

There is a social justice, justice aspect to this, and it’s very important. And I don’t want people to. Not to take away anything other than that message. But don’t stop there. I mean, there is a really compelling upside in doing this, both individuals and just in terms of the enrichment that you get as a person by having lots of different perspectives that come to you. I mean, what sort of person wants to have people who are all the same as their friends? I mean, you want to have lots of different things going on in your life. And organizations are the same. They are melting pots, which have so much potential. And if you add all the potential and you’ve just got to unlock it. And the way to unlock it is to actually take inclusion seriously and do the things I was talking about earlier, because otherwise you’re going to be overtaken. It’s a matter of time until you become obsolete. I’ve given some examples earlier, but you cannot push back against inevitable societal, demographic and developmental change.

How much change have we seen in our lifetimes? Incredible when you think about it. And if you resist that, you can resist it for so long, but eventually those waters are going to break through. Somebody else is going to overtake you if you don’t take this seriously. So contrary to what they’re saying, believe that this is good for you. To do it is not bad business. It is bad business not to do it, because eventually that’s a failure of corporate stewardship. Your shareholders will thank you in the end for embracing this. They certainly won’t be punishing you for doing something which is really future proofing.

[00:43:02] Calan Breckon: Money talks.

[00:43:03] Calan Breckon: So if you’re bringing in the money.

[00:43:05] Calan Breckon: It shouldn’t really matter to them. Do it the right way, you’re going to probably end up making more. Look at Patagonia.

[00:43:11] Geffrye Parsons: Absolutely. It’s a win win for us.

[00:43:13] Calan Breckon: Probably. It’s a win win for everybody anyways. We could go on for hours. Where can folks find out more about you?

[00:43:19] Geffrye Parsons: Geff, thank you.

They can find me by my website, which is so that’s the name of the diversity, equity and inclusion consulting practice that I run myself.

I’m also very active on LinkedIn, so if you can find me with the horrible spelling of my name, Geffrey, which is shown on the screen, that’s where you’re on LinkedIn, and I’m very active there. So those will be the two main ways. I’m based mostly in Canada, but I spend a lot of time in the UK. But we’re all available online anyway. So please do find me through one of those routes and I’d love to continue the conversation with, with anyone who’s interested.

[00:43:58] Calan Breckon: Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Geff. I will have all of those links in the show notes for everybody. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today.

[00:44:05] Geffrye Parsons: Thank you so much, Calan. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you.

[00:44:08] Calan Breckon: Thanks again for tuning in today. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. And if you really enjoyed today’s episode, I would love a star rating from you. The Business Gay Podcast is written, produced and edited by me, Calan Breckon. Thanks so much for today. Peace, love, rainbows.

Calan Breckon
Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and host of "The Business Gay" podcast. He has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

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