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Diversity and Inclusivity in Workplaces

Disclaimer: This article is based on HBR's Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work

by Boris Groysberg and Katherine Connolly.


Have you ever walked into a building, looked up, and thought to yourself that almost everyone looks different that one another? Unfortunately, that's something only a small group of people can say they've experienced.

In this article, we will explore the importance of diversity and inclusion and how great leaders can demonstrate a commitment to diversity to send out a strong message.

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the Workplace

In a survey collected in on Fortune 500 CEOs (2022), it finds that 85% of CEOs are male and that 59% of them are white. This is a staggering result as diversity is directly correlated to an increase in business competitiveness and an enriched workplace of personal experiences and values.

People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you're not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs. Paul Block, CEO at Merisant

With a diverse workforce, organizations are safeguarded from becoming out of touch with it's multicultural customer base, and can better help the people they serve.

Personal Experiences

Commitment often arises when a CEO understands what it means to be excluded. They have felt the impact of being different from other people, and how that makes you feel like you need to work harder and prove your worth. As a CEO they are pushed to ensure to make sure no one is hurt due to lack of diversity and segregation.

The empathy and understanding acquired from personal experiences have shaped managers' attitudes towards D&I, as well as their priorities in it's improvement.

Although a move towards diversity was in progress, it was rather slow. In 2017, it was reported that only 6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female leaders, although making up 50.5% of the American population.

Institutional Barriers One of the largest barriers that affect women, is the exclusion from networks and conversations that open doors to future opportunities. Termed as "social cliquishness" by Arcos Dorados, it is due to a pattern of interactions in which men seek out the company of other men and ignore women. It's a form of hidden and largely unintentional discrimination that works against women in the workplace.

This kind of discrimination is often unintended, unconscious, and embedded in a company's culture.

In addition to social cliques in the workplace, a woman's contributions are typically underappreciated. The male style tends to be more in the spotlight while the female style tends to bring people together to work through problems. Still, this style has many benefits. CEOs said that women were:

  1. Less likely to define themselves by their careers (more anti-fragile)

  2. Better listeners

  3. More relationship-oriented

  4. More empathetic and reasonable

Woman are found to be more likely to focus on completing the job and ignore promotions while men would seek attention.

Diversity vs. Inclusivity

Diversity is important, however even with a diverse team, you may not get the results you need if you don't spend time training the team to work together. An inclusive culture can be defined as one where employees can contribute to the success of the company as their authentic selves, while the organization respects and leverages their talents and gives them a sense of connectedness.

Diversity itself is about the mix of people you have, and creating an inclusive culture is about making that mix work. Jim Turley, Ex-CEO at Ernest & Young

Eight Management Practices to Boost Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)

1. Measure diversity and inclusion:

Metrics are important to measure what you are doing well and what can be improved to make it a better place to work at.

2. Hold managers accountable:

Keep track of things people want to do personally to boost D&I and benchmark diversity objectives to work towards.

3. Support flexible arrangements:

Benefits such as flexible hours and on-site childcare help employees balance their professional and personal commitments.

4. Recruit and promote from diverse pools of candidates:

Start your candidate search in a diverse group of applicants and make use of quotas when hiring.

5. Provide leadership education:

Invest in women-only leadership development programs and in educating both men and women about subtle biases.

6. Sponsor employee resource groups and mentoring programs:

Aside from leadership education, invest in community groups too and support your employees.

7. Offer quality role models:

Make sure you have a diverse management group. If an employee sees that those leaders can do it, then they begin to think that they can as well.

8. Make the chief diversity officer position count:

Make sure your CDI establishes formal processes to implement D&I and show that people and the top really care and want to help make diversity grow.

Lead by Example

Once the vision has been established and the best practices are in place, it's important that the people at the top lead by what they've been preaching. Find time to see how you can personally impact and improve D&I within your group of coworkers and in the workplace. Involvement with diversity programs such as employee resource groups and councils are a great way to get started!

Fostering diversity and inclusion in no easy task in today's evolving and developing workplace. That's why it's important to remember that sometimes the things that really take hard work are the ones that may count the most.

I will be implementing these throughout the planning process of my conference by leading with compassion and a willingness to understand my fellow team members and to offer flexible work schedules. I hope you found this article on diversity and inclusivity, and best practices helpful.

This is Anson Lee, Associate National Lead @ Illuminate, signing out.

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