Ways to take action

3 questions to Hager Jemel-Fornetty on diversity and inclusion

Hager Jemel-Fornetty , Associate Professor, Diversity & Inclusion Chair Director

What are the differences between diversity and inclusion? What are the consequences of taking them into account (or ignoring them)? And in companies: what are the issues and what are the levers? In this interview, Hager Jemel-Fornetty, Associate Professor at EDHEC and Director of the Diversity & Inclusion Chair, draws on her research and experience to answer these questions.


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17 Apr 2024

You work on the subjects of diversity and inclusion within the chair bearing the same name. What do you mean by these terms?

Diversity refers to the heterogeneity of the individual characteristics of the members of a social group, be it a team, an organisation, a club or a class. These characteristics may be visible, such as observable physical features, or invisible, such as beliefs or social background. Increasing diversity in a group can therefore be an achievable objective through recruitment practices.


Inclusion is an individual feeling that depends on the fulfilment of two important psychological needs: the feeling of belonging and the valuing of uniqueness. In other words, to feel included, people must be fully accepted within the group by being themselves. If he or she has to hide or erase his or her uniqueness in order to be accepted, the feeling of inclusion is compromised. Cultivating a strong sense of inclusion therefore depends on the way the group behaves and functions. Unlike diversity, inclusion cannot be achieved solely through a recruitment policy, nor can it be decreed by one or two operational decisions. Inclusion has to be cultivated from both an individual and a collective point of view, and requires real transformation and in-depth work. Developing an inclusive environment can be arduous, especially when prejudices and stereotypes persist.


Basically, the real challenge is to have a strong sense of inclusion in a very diverse group!


How do we deal with diversity and inclusion (or the lack of it...) on a day-to-day basis?

First of all, it depends on how sensitive you are to the subject. Some people don't question the lack of diversity in the groups in which they work because they are not aware of the issues. In this case, the notion of inclusion doesn't arise either because this concept doesn't have the same scope within homogeneous social groups. In general, once the importance of these concepts is appreciated, both from an ethical and an instrumental point of view, more attention is paid to them.


Secondly, the experience is different depending on how you look at it. People who are not faced with a diversity problem and who do not suffer from a lack of inclusion, or who are not aware of it, can continue to behave and surround themselves in the same way as long as no major problems arise.


On the other hand, when a person is not fully accepted and valued, the experience can lead to marginalisation or exclusion, compromising the well-being and fulfilment of the individual, who may fall into withdrawal, low self-esteem or depression. It can also have a number of negative consequences on a collective level, such as an increase in discrimination, micro-aggressions, work-related ill-being, compartmentalisation into communities, staff turnover and a drop in satisfaction, commitment, motivation and, more generally, performance. This can also lead to legal risks in the event of discrimination or harassment, for example.


On the other hand, working in an environment that is open to difference and respectful of all people, whatever their individuality, offers a rich and reassuring individual and collective experience, and opens up the field of possibilities for numerous benefits.


What are the challenges facing companies in terms of diversity and inclusion?

For companies, the challenges and pitfalls are numerous. Firstly, they need to develop policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion and guarantee fairness and equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of their origins or personal characteristics. To do this, they need to be able to change the rules of the game, introduce transparency in recruitment and promotion decision-making and incentive systems for managers in favour of diversity and inclusion. One of the challenges is to create a culture and objectives that are shared by the group as a whole, while encouraging a corporate ethic that values individual perspectives and experiences.


In response to the many difficulties and challenges, companies may be tempted to develop a "superficial" diversity and inclusion policy, placing more emphasis on communication and minor "quick wins" than on an ambitious and sincere policy aimed at transforming the culture, operating rules and individual behaviour in depth. As a result, they do not derive any lasting benefit from their actions, and may even be accused of "diversity washing". This situation can lead to a breakdown in identification with the company's values, cause its members to trivialise and discredit diversity and inclusion, and cultivate a climate that is ultimately not conducive to these issues. As a result, the company will be faced with the risks highlighted above, which alone should justify the need for full involvement: discrimination that deprives the company of talent, unhappiness at work, reduced performance, etc.

In addition to these threats, there is a business challenge: a strong homophily in the teams limits the diversity of points of view, of the analysis of problems, of consumer behaviour, of trends and therefore of the solutions proposed in terms of products and services.


It is important at this point to deconstruct a myth: we sometimes hear that diversity is synonymous with creativity and innovation, which is not entirely true, because diversity can also lead to misunderstandings and communication difficulties. In addition, having diverse people who cannot participate fully deprives the group of their talents. This is why a company must not only encourage diversity, it must also put in place the necessary resources to create an inclusive environment.


3 questions à Hager Jemel-Fornetty sur la diversité et l’inclusion
17 Apr 2024
3 questions to Hager Jemel-Fornetty on diversity and inclusion
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"Basically, the real challenge is to have a strong sense of inclusion in a very diverse group!" - Read this #EDHECVox interview with Hager Jemel Fornetty, #EDHEC Associate Professor and Director of the Diversity & Inclusion Chair:
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Diversity, either visible or invisible, refers to the heterogeneity, in any social group, of its members' individual characteristics. Inclusion, rooted in the feeling of belonging and the valuing of uniqueness, has to be cultivated from both an individual and a collective point of view.

But how do we change the rules of the game to reach, everywhere, "a strong sense of inclusion in a very diverse group" ?

Read this new #EDHECVox interview with Hager Jemel Fornetty, #EDHEC Associate Professor and Director of the Diversity & Inclusion Chair:

#MakeAnImpact #PassionNeverRests