Interview Delia

Inclusion is a balancing act between a feeling of belonging and appreciation for authenticity

We interview Delia Mensitieri, winner of the Stone Soup Award on Research in Social Innovation 2021, and learn about her winning research "Inclusion starts with I: Reducing identity threat to promote an inclusive environment and to improve performance, career aspirations, and satisfaction".
Continue Reading Inclusion is a balancing act between a feeling of belonging and appreciation for authenticity

9th of Februrary 2022
By Amanda Rubio

‘’Although organisations are investing resources and efforts to create a truly diverse learning environment, they still struggle to foster an inclusive space where all employees feel that they belong and can reach their full potential.’’

Delia Mensitieri has won the 4th edition of the Stone Soup Award on Research in Social Innovation. This edition of the award focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and at Stone Soup we feel that Mensitieri’s research “Inclusion starts with I: Reducing identity threat to promote an inclusive environment and to improve performance, career aspirations, and satisfaction” emphasises the importance of having D&I as the backbone to any organisation to boost individual and corporate performance. In this interview with Delia Mensitieri, she shares the main concerns and insights about her research.

Congratulations Delia for winning Stone Soup’s Research & Innovation Award 2021! Delia, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and how did you get interested in this research topic?

I have a background both in psychology and in international management. I have always been fascinated by how people collaborate, how they feel and think, and how it impacts on the way organisations’ function. I am also a firm believer in equity, diversity, and inclusion. I believe we can only tackle complex problems, as a society, by giving a voice to everyone. We need multiple perspectives and the only way to achieve this is by focusing on diversity, equality and inclusion.  

Could you explain what your research is about and how it relates to the theme ‘Inclusion and diversity in the workplace’?

My research is about finding out what organisational inclusion is, why it is important, and how you can actually create or foster inclusion. The research has three main questions:

  1. What is inclusion, how do you measure it and what are its outcomes?
  2. What are the factors that can hamper inclusion?
  3. What works to create an inclusive environment?

The research tries to answer these questions from the individual, contextual and behavioural perspectives. So, from the personal perspective the question then becomes how do we change mindsets and develop the key competences of our employees in order for them to thrive in a diverse work context? From the contextual, how can we create and maintain an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe to express who they are, feels included and valued for their unique talents? Finally, from the behavioural perspective, which diversity and inclusion efforts have the biggest impacts on reducing microaggressions, creating a truly inclusive environment and improving KPIs such as performance, engagement, employee turnover, career ambitions?

Your research, in essence, deals with the issue of belonging. A complex and fascinating topic. Could you explain why belonging in the workplace is important?

My research goes further than belonging. While belonging is important, inclusion is about a balance between feeling that you belong and feeling that not only you can express who you are, but that your authenticity is being appreciated. If there is too much emphasis on belonging, people might feel that they need to assimilate, to behave or dress in a certain way. Then, the risk is that people do not dare to think differently or speak up. This is of course detrimental for diversity of thought, innovation and creativity.

On the other hand, if there is too much focus on authenticity, people will not identify with the common organisational identity and mission. This also impacts the employees’ engagement, feeling of support, empowerment and the willingness to stay in the organisation.

Inclusion is also important to manage diversity. We can all agree that if we put people together with different backgrounds, views and opinions, it can lead to disagreements or conflicts. For diversity to work, you need a climate where people feel that it is possible to have a different opinion, and that you are all working for the same goal and purpose. Only then can all the potential benefits of diversity rise.

To your understanding, what can employers do to create more inclusive work environments? Also, what is the role of the employees in the same task?

Employers need to work on two main levels to create an inclusive work environment. First, they must set up fair practices and processes, include people in the decision-making processes, welcome different ideas and integrate them. Second, they need to focus on leadership skills such as openness, availability, being able to handle ambiguity and differences; employers have to be able to generate trust and psychological safety, and  establish a united goal and purpose.

It is important that organisations do not only focus on diversity numbers, but start working on creating environments where diversity can thrive.

Employees also have an important role to play. By speaking up, when they see things that could hamper or promote inclusion, by being conscious about their beliefs and stereotypes and understanding when they act upon them.

Register to Delia Mensitieri’s free webinar ‘3 Tips to reduce identity threat and promote an inclusive workspace’ on February 22nd! 

Stone Soup