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Exclusivity is Dead! 7 Tips for Embracing Inclusion

Exclusivity is dead, because it is in fact a restriction whereby we exclude others. The world has led us to believe that “exclusive” means special and having obtained a certain status or power through possession or selective inclusion. Think luxury goods, exclusive institutions, and executive memberships where hierarchy, social groups or money reinforces belief in status. However, the evidence is clear that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is good for business and exclusivity is dead. Diverse companies are more likely to attract and retain top talent.

A 2022 Glassdoor study found 76% of job seekers say that a diverse workforce is important to them. In 2019 a study by Harvard Business Review said that teams with a wider range of perspectives are better at decisions and solving problems. In 2020 the World Economic Forum said that companies with a more diverse workforce are more likely to be successful in new markets.

Exclusivity is Dead: Why is Exclusivity Harmful?

  1. Social Division: Exclusive practices create social divisions, fostering a sense of elitism and superiority among those included, while excluding others based on arbitrary criteria like wealth, social status, or background. This division can lead to societal fragmentation and reinforce existing inequalities.
  2. Limited Perspectives: Exclusivity is dead because it narrows the range of perspectives within a group. When a particular group is exclusive, it tends to lack diversity in thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Inclusion, on the other hand, brings together people from diverse backgrounds, leading to a richer exchange of ideas and innovation.
  3. Missed Opportunities: Exclusive practices can lead to missing out on valuable talent, creativity, and skills. By excluding certain groups, companies might miss hiring the best people for the job, limiting their own potential for growth and development.
  4. Negative Reputation: Companies that are perceived as exclusive may face public backlash and damage their reputation. In today’s interconnected world, exclusionary practices can quickly become public knowledge, leading to boycotts, negative media coverage, and loss of trust among consumers.
  5. Legal and Ethical Implications: In many jurisdictions, exclusivity can lead to legal issues related to discrimination and equal opportunity. Companies that engage in discriminatory practices may face legal consequences and damage their brand image.
  6. Market Expansion: Inclusive practices allow companies to tap into broader markets. When products, services, and marketing strategies are inclusive and appeal to a diverse audience, companies can expand their customer base, leading to increased sales and profitability.
  7. Employee Morale and Productivity: Inclusive workplaces foster a sense of belonging and acceptance among employees. When employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and productive. In contrast, exclusive environments can lead to dissatisfaction and decreased productivity among employees.
  8. Innovation and Problem-Solving: Diverse and inclusive teams are better equipped to tackle complex problems and foster innovation. Different perspectives and experiences lead to creative solutions, helping companies adapt to changing market demands and stay ahead of the competition.

Exclusivity is Dead: So Why Do We Exclude?

It is important to note the reasons for exclusion are complex, often intertwined with individual attitudes, social dynamics, and cultural contexts. Addressing the belief that exclusivity is dead requires raising awareness, promoting empathy, challenging biases, and fostering inclusive environments where diversity is valued and celebrated.

  1. Insecurity: People who feel insecure about themselves or their social status may exclude others as a way to feel more powerful or superior. By putting others down, they attempt to elevate their own self-esteem.
  2. Fear of the Unknown: The unfamiliar can lead to exclusionary behaviour. When people encounter individuals who are different from them in terms of culture, beliefs, or appearance, they may feel uncomfortable and respond with exclusion as a way to cope with this discomfort
  3. Social Norms and Conformity: Individuals often conform to social norms within their communities or social groups. If exclusionary behaviour is normalised within a particular social circle, individuals may engage in it to fit in and be accepted by their peers.
  4. Prejudice and Bias: Prejudice, based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, can lead to exclusionary attitudes and behaviours. Stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs contribute to the exclusion of certain groups from social, professional, or educational settings.
  5. Competition: In competitive environments, people might exclude others to gain a competitive advantage. This can be observed in workplaces, schools, or other settings where individuals compete for limited resources or opportunities.
  6. Lack of Empathy: Some individuals may lack empathy, making it difficult for them to understand or relate to the experiences and emotions of others. Without empathy, they may not recognise the harmful impact of their exclusionary behaviour on others.
  7. Group Identity: Exclusion can strengthen group identity and cohesion. By excluding outsiders, a group can create a sense of belonging and solidarity among its members, albeit at the expense of those who are excluded.
  8. Cultural and Societal Influences: Historical prejudices and discriminatory practices, can contribute to the normalisation of exclusionary behaviours. These influences can perpetuate exclusion across generations.
  9. Perceived Threat: People may exclude others whom they perceive as a threat to their social, economic, or cultural values. This perception of threat can lead to defensive behaviours, including exclusion, to protect what they hold dear.

Focusing on inclusion is not just a moral imperative, it is also a strategic business decision. Inclusive companies are better positioned to navigate the challenges of a diverse global market, foster innovation, and build a positive brand image, ultimately leading to long-term success. We must recognise that exclusivity is dead.

Exclusivity is Dead: How Can We Cultivate Inclusion?

Recognising that exclusivity is dead and that the journey to becoming an inclusive organisation is transformative and complex which requires a robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) framework to reshape cultures and ensure every voice is valued. To achieve this, organisations must strike a delicate balance, avoiding excessive inclusivity and guarding against workplace groupthink. By acknowledging exclusivity is dead and by establishing DE&I strategic goals under senior leadership, organisations can transform.

True inclusivity goes beyond mere tolerance; it requires a non-judgmental, genuinely curious openness that embraces differences, cultivates empathy, and creates a harmonious environment where every individual feels heard, understood, valued, and respected. An open mind in the realm of DE&I welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds, appreciating their unique strengths and valuing diverse perspectives. Conversely, a closed mind resists change, sustains stereotypes, and dismisses diverse viewpoints, hindering progress and perpetuating discrimination.

Closed-mindedness and judgmental attitudes are formidable obstacles to inclusivity, fuelling exclusion and systemic inequalities. These attitudes prevent marginalised communities from fully participating in various aspects of life. Embracing an inclusive mindset offers numerous benefits: individuals develop greater cultural competence, forge stronger connections with diverse people, and foster a sense of belonging. In the workplace, an inclusive mindset enhances creativity, innovation, and productivity. Employees collaborate harmoniously, leveraging their unique perspectives to solve problems and drive positive change. The infographic below outlines seven inclusive versus exclusive practices for transformation. 

Exclusivity is Dead: 7 Tips for Embracing Inclusion 

Download the infographic here

Embracing an inclusive mindset is crucial for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. By fostering openness, empathy, and understanding, we can break down barriers and create a world where everyone’s unique contributions are valued. In support that exclusivity is dead, challenging biases, engaging in uncomfortable conversations, and dismantling systemic inequalities are essential steps toward a more equitable and inclusive future, celebrating diversity as a source of strength. Maintaining an open mind enriches lives, strengthens relationships, and promotes harmony, fostering personal growth and positive interactions. By practicing empathy and active listening, we can create a more inclusive and understanding world for ourselves and future generations.

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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November 6, 2023


  1. David

    Great article Karen.
    Often exclusion and exclusivity are used interchangeably, but don’t necessarily mean the same thing right? Exclusion is purposefully keeping people out, whereas exclusivity is limiting the amount of inclusion.

    I think everyone should be represented for inclusion, but that doesn’t mean to say everyone should be included.

    Let’s take an example of putting together a new business process that impacts all parts of the company. All departments should have a representative, a voice in the decision-making of that process. But it would be limited involvement to avoid delays and over-discussions. However, there are times when open collaboration (full inclusion) can have a very positive outcome (innovation being the obvious one).

    I totally agree with you that our mindsets need to change to be thinking inclusivity and not to be afraid of it. This needs to be the norm approach of companies, not the exception.

    • Karen Eden

      Dear David,

      thank you for your comments. You raise an important point and I agree on a micro level with your example. In my article I am alluding to macro level of an inclusive culture within an organisation, whereby everyone should be have a sense of belonging through the acts of inclusive behaviour and inclusivity.

      Best Wishes


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