For years, we’ve been making the case that diversity and inclusion are worthwhile goals for any business, not just because they are feel-good goals, but because they are sound business goals. Not only do inclusive policies bring in new perspectives and broaden the pool of talented individuals available to your organization, they also help you connect with an increasingly diverse national and international market, where women, minorities and other previously under-represented groups are gaining increasing buying power.
But a recent story that emerged in the world of fashion shows that promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. As Amanda Jackson reported in a recent article for CNN, Amena Khan made history as a feature model in a hair care advertising campaign for L’Oreal by wearing her headscarf, or hijab, in her photos. Khan’s appearance in the ads was celebrated by many, but the celebration was short-lived, and the model recently announced her decision to leave the campaign.
Jackson quotes a statement released by Khan announcing her decision to stepdown: "I recently took part in a campaign, which excited me because it celebrated inclusivity," her statement read. "With deep regret, I've decided to step down from this campaign because the current conversations surrounding it detract from the positive and inclusive sentiment that it set out to deliver."
Khan is referring to tweets she made in 2014 that were critical of Israel. The decision has proven controversial, with many supporters expressing anger and frustration at what is seen as a Muslim woman being forced to step down because of criticizing a country – as opposed to a group of people, for example.
The episode demonstrates the complexity of policies promoting diversity and inclusion. In Khan’s case, being inclusive of this individual was portrayed by isn’t easy. But it is important.
It’s not always easy to be accepting of inclusive viewpoints, especially when they differ from yours. It’s not always easy—but it is important. Be inclusive!