Sep 08, 2022 11 min read
Diversity & Inclusion
“Diversity” is the noun, and “inclusion” is the verb.
Diversity includes all experiences and characteristics that define each of us as individuals.
The Chancellor's Committee on Diversity defines Diversity as: ""The variety of experiences and perspective which arise from differences in race, culture, religion, mental or physical abilities, heritage, age, gender, orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.""
Organizations and individuals should recognize how these dimensions affect individual’s motivation, performance and success. Various studies on diversity indicate that when accepted and valued, diversity is found to enhance individual productivity, organizational effectiveness, and sustained competitiveness.
Inclusivity puts the concept of diversity into action by creating a conducive environment for individuals where they learn to involve, respect, and connect with others in the organization. It is an initiative to create a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who they are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that individuals can do their best work.
Inclusion requires a shift in organizational culture. Individuals can harness their full potential and contribute to the organization’s success, only when they feel valued and included in the organization’s mission. This shift in culture & attitudes of organizations creates learning and integrated organizations with high performance culture and loyal employees.
In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together. Organizations need both diversity and inclusivity to be successful.
Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
More and more companies and CEOs are learning that a strong business is one that includes people with disabilities as well as diversity in race, gender, and cultural backgrounds, and business leaders across industries have pledged to become more diverse and inclusive.
According to the survey conducted by global job site Indeed - Uncovering Blind Spots: Outlook on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) in Indian workplaces, about 77 per cent of the employers believe that not prioritising diversity, inclusion and belonging could adversely affect their company's performance.
The survey was conducted by Valuvox in March 2022 on behalf of Indeed among 1,142 employers and 1,430 employees, covering 10 sectors such as Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), IT, media and entertainment, retail and telecommunications across 11 cities.
Only 21 per cent of organisations surveyed have instituted formal DI&B policies, said the survey.
The survey also found that 73 per cent of employees wish to work at organisations that actively promote such initiatives.
"Greater acceptance of a diverse workforce has been gaining ground among Indian employers for more than a decade now. Companies understand that these initiatives are valuable in attracting and retaining talent, boosting innovation and productivity. With nearly half of all employers surveyed (49%) having implemented DI&B initiatives over the past 18 months or more, we can see that prioritising DI&B is at the forefront for organisations," Indeed India head of sales Sashi Kumar said.
According to the DiversityInc – Top 50 Companies For Diversity List
Benefits of a Diverse Team
Analyzing issues from different view points
Gathering fresh perspectives
Customers can better identify with the workforce and this helps to generate better insight of customer relationship strategies
Learning about the values of various lifestyles and cultures
Makes an organization stronger, more competitive and better equipped to understand its customers or constituency
According to Deloitte, diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee. Gartner found that inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30 percent in high-diversity environments. In a BCG study, companies with diverse management teams had a 19 percent increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.
Popular HR influencer, Brene Brown, says, “We need to do more than diversity and equity and inclusion. We need to create real belonging in our culture.” In her own business, Brown has gone so far as to reframe diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts as DEIB, which stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Our philosophy on D&I is rooted in two themes: connection and belonging. These elements must go hand-in-hand in the workplace in order to truly make an impact.
Is it merely filling quotas? Or is it “inclusion” that we are interested in?
There's no doubt many organizations, particularly in advanced countries, are increasingly diverse. But are they inclusive?
Inclusion focuses on not just who you are but how you do business and also who you do business with. In case of truly inclusive organizations diversity is embed in all aspects right from recruitment to procurement. In these organizations diversity is not just included in the junior level but also in the C-suite and boardrooms. It is a subtle but important move towards embedding diversity in the DNA of an organization and its culture.
Getting the numbers in is only one part of the story. But creating an environment that makes them feel included is another very important part that we need to focus on. The story remains complex and contradictory. Degrees of stereotyping remain as leading organizations appoint chief diversity officers and embark on ambitious programs to drive diversity and embrace "inclusion."
Organizations today may be forced to recognize diversity in hiring practices or to have diversity programs in place due a legal mandate or legislations. Labor laws may direct an organization's employment practices and may even charge fines or punitive damages for noncompliance. Often, organizations implement diversity programs when forced to - due to addressing a succession challenge or an external litigation.
Some organizations might still be focused on numbers and lack a complete understanding of the vital role it plays in uplifting their business. While organizations are increasingly respecting diversity as a fundamental characteristic, neither the acceptance nor the appreciation have equated to inclusive workplaces where unique aspects of diverse people are valued.
Discrimination and Favoritism
Discrimination and favoritism are not different sides of the same coin. While discrimination is considered illegal, favoritism and offering advantages to a relative or friends is not.
Many companies give preference to referral hiring programs, especially for middle- level and senior-level positions. Employees also earn a reward for making such referrals. These practices of the organizations are likely to replicate the existing composition of the workforce, suppressing other efforts to be diverse and inclusive.
Studies show that women and minorities are still not being compensated as highly or treated similar to white male counterparts. While there is ""inclusion"" to some degree, diversity expert and practitioners agree that diversity in the workforce continues to be a work in progress.
CEOs of Fortune 500 companies
The most recent Fortune 500 list features the highest number of female-led companies since its inception: 33, a jump of nine from last year which featured 24. This boost is in part due to several female CEOs being appointed before June 2019, including Northrop Grumman’s Kathy Warden and Best Buy’s Corie Barry. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, as these 33 women represent a disproportionately small number of the list in total, with only 6.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies headed by women.
The continued increase does show progress, with Fortune themselves speculating that the rise in female CEOs is in part due to increased diversity on the board level – 15 years ago women made up 15.7 percent of board seats in the Fortune 500; now it’s 25.5 percent.
The society has changed markedly as women and minorities - among other formerly excluded groups - have advanced in academia, business and finance, the professions, and most areas of life.
Today, the major challenge facing organizations incorporating a diverse workforce is to make sure women and minorities rise in the organization. Ensuring that there are adequate resources, tools, mentoring and support from the top management are available to help in their career progression.
""We need to go to the next level, which involves learning how to empower this diversity through quality decisions and strategic diversity management."" Roosevelt Thomas
5 Crucial Diversity & Inclusion Lessons We Need To Learn From COVID-19
We are living in challenging and uncertain times right now. Unprecedented change is happening on a daily basis for businesses, communities and individuals alike and the amount of coverage and opinions can feel somewhat overwhelming. But one thing is for sure: inequity is rife in our society and we need to pay attention and adapt accordingly.
Flexible work is the future
Many employees who were previously told their jobs couldn’t be done remotely are now doing them remotely during COVID-19. Accommodations that were often seen as too expensive or infeasible have now been quickly implemented at many companies. This crisis has shown that disruptions, financial impact, and emotional stress could have been reduced for some companies if they had embraced remote work earlier.
Privilege is invisible to those who have it
Having financial security, good health, ability to drive, access to a vehicle, and a reliable internet connection are things that many of us take for granted, but they’re a privilege. Recognizing privilege and choosing what to do with it are important right now. If you can, donate to a local food bank, offer to shop for neighbours, or offer your workspace to a charity.
Everyone has mental health
Despite efforts to talk more about mental health, there is still a stigma associated with it. The current situation is teaching us that none of us are safe from stress and anxiety, whether it’s being concerned for a loved one, feeling isolated while social distancing, or facing income challenges. There are many wellbeing resources and tips available, and self care is more important than ever.
It’s time to rethink how we interact with each other
Social distancing might feel abnormal, but handshakes and hugs in the workplace have never worked for a lot of people. This situation has forced us to greet each other in more creative and inclusive ways. Additionally, while holding conferences, training sessions, and events online may not be as engaging, it may allow people to attend who couldn’t normally go to events in person
Moving from diversity to inclusivity
The major challenge identified by diversity experts and practitioners is that diversity in many organizations does not reach higher stratums. It is largely applied at the lower levels where workers meet customers but hardly in senior-level. This leaves the controlling mechanisms in these organizations in the hands of a homogeneous group that lacks the ability to make in-depth decisions that a diverse team would display.
These organizations should create an inclusive workforce by granting all members of the diverse workforce of the organization the same opportunities to advance. This variety in workforce composition will result in greater insights and creativity at all levels.
Diversity theorists claim that, "The most influential factor that has assisted in the success of diversity programs is the commitment and support of senior management." Further, organizational change theory argues that support from top management is a critical factor to the success of any change initiative”.
If the organization’s goal is to increase awareness of differences among employees then diversity and sensitivity training may be a good approach, but, if the organization is focusing into transforming the itself to one that values diversity, then the support of the entire organization is needed, especially the senior management.
“Diverse groups outperform homogenous groups,” Karyn Twaronite, EY Global Vice Chair explained. She added saying that data like this is “especially essential as companies [in the modern economic climate] continue to try to do more with less.”
Workforce diversity and inclusivity, although enforced with hesitation in some areas, is gaining importance, and that is pleasing. What is more pleasing is that, of late even the more conventional organizations in developing countries are adopting diversity and inclusion in their business strategies and customer approaches. They are now targeting age, gender and ethnic diverse groups.
However, what is very disturbing is that too often these organizations only do so because customers feel at ease dealing with people who come from the same background or racial group as theirs and to tap higher degree of disposable income available with these groups and not because they feel that it is the right thing to do. And that remains truly regrettable.
Every organization should understand that diversity can cut both ways. An organization can make more profits by applying it and do the morally right thing at the same time, which we consider a win-win strategy.
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