Introducing Principle 1: Make it Local

Updated: Jul 7

I am excited to share lessons from my upcoming book, Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • You come to the U.S. on a business trip and are surprised by how openly U.S. Americans talk about personal experiences with race. You are uneasy about inviting any U.S. facilitators to your country to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in case they don’t understand the sensitivities in discussing race.

  • Or your women’s employee resource group has been very successful in creating a sense of community and belonging for women and you’ve tried to replicate this in other countries. But in some places, women don’t seem to be interested and at times are even openly hostile to the idea.

I too struggled with challenges like these when I launched global inclusion transformation work. Global DEI work is not easy and I have learned some hard lessons! I am excited to share key learnings from my journey so that you can benefit from the challenges I experienced and enable your DEI efforts to matter, to stick, to last and to make a difference. Given the complex and dynamic nature of the work, there is no quick checklist or playbook for global DEI culture change. It’s not enough to have the right initiatives, strategy, or best practices.


In my own journey and in my effort to figure out how to advance DEI culture change and progress globally, I’ve come to recognize some principles that provide a through line in working in divergent cultures. I share these in my upcoming book, Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


In the book I explore each principle, drawing from my own experience, as well as anecdotes and hard-won successes from over 65 colleagues who have done this work in other multinational organizations.


Each principle is a simple statement. They are simple, yet disruptive. They are not intended to provide standards, or a plug-and-play template based on what has worked in the US. In fact, this has been one of the foundational mistakes in global DEI work. What makes them powerful and useful is they can be applied with sensitivity to any culture.


The significance of a principles-based approach is that it empowers global leaders to develop their own solutions organically, rather than mimicking any one country’s experience. The principles are not discrete, sequential, or linear. Instead, they are iterative and work in concert with each other as a holistic ecosystem. So what are the principles and how can they positively impact your own organization’s DEI journey?



Principle 1: Make it Local


‘Make It Local’ suggests that any global framework for DEI change must be rooted in local particulars, informed by the history, culture, language, and laws of each place. Identity - the way it shows up and even the ways we define it - can differ enormously from place to place. The first principle, ‘Make it Local’ implies understanding the context and with that knowledge, designing interventions to disrupt the status quo.


This June is Pride Month and it is being celebrated in the US and in many countries around the world. But LGBTQ experiences can vary dramatically from region to region. Same sex marriage is legal in twenty-nine countries, while in seventy countries, same-sex relationships are outlawed and in a dozen countries are punishable by death. Some societies demonstrate growing awareness of transgender and non-binary identities, while in others it remains extraordinarily dangerous to defy conventional binary gender categories. Given this disparity in acceptance across countries, organizations have to tailor how they approach LGBTQ inclusion.


Transgender Inclusion In India


The Godrej Group is a leader in hiring transgender employees in India. A large Indian conglomerate operating in sectors as diverse as real estate, consumer products and industrial engineering was one of the first Indian organizations to focus on intentionally recruiting transgender employees. In order to do this, the Godrej Group needed to consider the very unique position of transgender people in India.

Transgender people are individuals who are socially, medically, legally assigned as male or female but for whom that this is not their self identity/expression. [1] Although formally recognized as a third gender by the India’s Supreme Court in 2014 and further protected by The Right For Transgender Persons Bill in 2016 [2] , they are shunned by their families and society, live in segregated communities and are often forced to rely on begging or prostitution for their livelihood. Intersex babies, “who have atypical sex characteristics (anatomical, chromosomal, hormonal, etc) that do not conform to social, legal, medical categories of being male or female category,” [3] are often abandoned by their families and adopted into these communities. “According to the National Human Rights Commission Report on the living conditions of transgender people, 92% of India’s transgender people are unable to participate in any economic activity. Less than half of them have access to education, and 62% of those that do, face abuse and discrimination.” [4]


While traditionally they had auspicious powers, rooted in Hindu mythology, the British colonizers passed the Criminal Tribes act in 1871 persecuting trans people as criminals. [5] The auspicious tradition still exists in common practice; people believe that they can bless or curse. I recall my wedding in India when members of the transgender community showed up at my in-laws’ home promising to shower blessings - or threatening to curse us if they were not compensated.


The importance of understanding the local context, as Godrej did in India, is critical to the success of your global DEI strategy! They understood the marginalized position of the transgender community and the challenges they encountered. With this knowledge, they intentionally recruited and offered benefits and support for their transgender employees and ensured their safety.


In my book, which is now available to pre-order, I share many of my own experiences of making it local as well as how other organisations such as Barilla and Barclays tailored their DEI strategy to the local context.


In next month's blog post, I will cover another aspect of the first principle, Make it Local. In the meantime, I have created a series of resources that I hope you will find useful. I look forward to joining you on your DEI journey.


Learn from Leaders

30th June | Mark McLean, Head Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing for M&G


In this monthly interview series, I'm delighted to have wide ranging conversations with industry leaders about their DEI journeys.