OPINION - Diversity is just window-dressing for companies — how can they be so foolish?

 (Ibrahim Kamara)
(Ibrahim Kamara)

So, picture this: you’re deep in the media world, where everyone talks about “diversity” and “inclusion” like it’s second nature. It’s in every chat, every memo, and every big event. But here’s the thing — do we really know what these words mean? And do we actually care about what they stand for?

In reality, the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” have become buzzwords, thrown around without much thought to their true significance. They adorn corporate statements and meeting agenda. Yet there’s a sense of complacency in the industry, where surface-level gestures take precedence over genuine action. We need to delve deeper into what these concepts actually mean.

Let’s rewind a bit to a big moment — the sad passing of George Floyd, who was killed four years ago this week. Suddenly, every brand was rushing to show they cared, making big promises to make things better. From hiring more diverse teams to supporting marginalised groups, it felt like a turning point for fairness and equality. But as time went on, those promises started to fade. Money worries crept in, and soon, the budgets for diversity and inclusion were getting cut.

The aftermath of George Floyd’s death sparked a flurry of corporate pledges and public commitments to address systemic inequalities. However, as the initial shock subsided and attention shifted elsewhere, many of these promises began to ring hollow. Budget constraints and economic uncertainties became convenient excuses to backtrack on diversity initiatives, leaving marginalised communities once again overlooked and underserved.

Ignoring different groups isn’t just a moral problem — it’s a missed chance for brands to make money

Behind the scenes, cutting those budgets shows a bigger problem in how companies see fairness and including everyone. And here’s the thing: ignoring different groups isn’t just a moral problem — it’s also a missed chance for brands to connect with more people and make more money. It’s like leaving money on the table and not even realising it.

In my experience, the pursuit of diversity and inclusion within companies has often been championed by a lone voice or a small group of passionate individuals, rather than being embraced as a collective responsibility.

While there are certainly pockets of genuine commitment, the broader culture often fails to prioritise diversity and inclusion as integral components of business strategy.

This fragmented approach not only limits the scope and impact of diversity initiatives but also perpetuates a cycle of tokenism and surface-level engagement. It’s time for companies to shift from individual advocacy to institutional commitment, embedding diversity and inclusion into every facet of their operations and fostering a culture where everyone feels valued and heard.

The erosion of diversity budgets and inclusive initiatives exposes deeper systemic issues within the corporate world. It reflects a lack of genuine commitment to equity and inclusion, with short-term financial gains prioritised over long-term societal progress.

By neglecting diverse audiences, brands not only betray their ethical responsibilities but also overlook significant opportunities for growth and innovation.

Now, let’s think about who is hit hardest by all this — folk who have always struggled to be heard. With less help and fewer chances to do well, their voices might get lost in the noise. It’s a wake-up call for all of us to think hard about what really matters and whose voices we’re really listening to.

Marginalised communities bear the brunt of this neglect, facing limited opportunities for advancement and diminished representation in mainstream media narratives.

Despite the lip service paid to diversity and inclusion, these communities continue to face systemic barriers that hinder their progress and perpetuate inequality. We need to move beyond token gestures.

By neglecting diverse audiences, brands not only betray their ethical responsibilities but also overlook significant opportunities for growth and innovation

So, what’s next? It’s time for brands to do more than just talk the talk. They need to actually make things fairer. That means hiring people from different backgrounds, supporting small businesses run by minorities, and making sure everyone’s voice gets heard loud and clear.

There’s some good news, though. Brands are starting to get creative. Some of the most groundbreaking work is emerging here in London. From selling straight to customers to creating cool events, they’re finding new ways to really connect with people. And that’s what it’s all about — building a world where everyone’s included.

Looking forward, one thing’s for sure: it’s time for a change. A change where you don’t say diversity and inclusion, if you don’t really mean it. If you really want to make change, be that change.

Ibrahim Kamara is the CEO and co-founder of GUAP magazine