A strong diversity, equity and inclusion strategy can help your organization attract top talent and drive innovative results. Research shows that even just the presence of physical diversity results in better performance.

“Companies with more inclusive business cultures and policies see a 59% increase in innovation and 37% better assessment of consumer interest and demand.” International Labour Organization

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are three closely related concepts that are critical to creating a workplace culture that is inclusive, respectful, and fair for all employees.

Diversity

refers to the variety of differences that exist among people, such as differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and more. A diverse workforce is one in which these differences are recognized, respected, and valued. This includes creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and is encouraged to do so.

Equity,

on the other hand, is about ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and has an equal opportunity to succeed. This includes removing any barriers or biases that may prevent certain individuals or groups from reaching their full potential. For example, providing accommodations for employees with disabilities, or creating a flexible work schedule for parents.

Inclusion,

is the act of actively engaging and welcoming diversity, working to create a culture where all employees feel a sense of belonging and are treated with respect. It is about creating an environment where everyone can be themselves, share their perspectives and ideas, and feel valued for who they are.

Source: Inclusion by Design: Insights from Design Week Portland; Gensler

Different types of Diversity

There are many different types of diversity, but some of the most common include:

  • Differences in skin colour, cultural background, and national origin constitute race and ethnicity.
  • Gender: Sexual differences, including cisgender, transgender, and non-binary people.
  • Differences in sexual attraction and behaviour, including heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual persons.
  • Age: Disparities in the number of years a person has lived, especially differences between generations.
  • Ability: Variations in physical, mental, and emotional capacities, especially those of people with disabilities.
  • Religion: Variations in ideas, practises, and customs linked with a specific religious or spiritual tradition.
  • There are disparities in income, education, and occupation based on socioeconomic position.
  • Language: Differences in the language(s) a person or group speaks or writes.
  • Differences in a person’s place of origin or current place of residence.

“We tend to think about that in terms of things like racial diversity and gender diversity and ethnic diversity. Those things are all important. But it’s also important to have diversity in how people think.”

Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler

It’s crucial to emphasise that diversity can also be intersectional, meaning that an individual may belong to numerous different groups and may have unique problems or opportunities as a result. A woman of colour, for instance, may endure both gender and racial prejudice.

It is equally essential to remember that variety encompasses not just observable distinctions, but also differences in attitudes, opinions, and experiences.

Diversity in the workplace is crucial due to the fact that diverse experiences contribute to a variety of viewpoints, which, in turn, produce superior ideas and solutions.

Diversity and Affirmative Action

Affirmative action refers to a set of policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to increase the representation of particular groups based on their gender, race, sexuality, creed or nationality in areas in which they are underrepresented such as education and employment.

The typical criteria for affirmative action are race, disability, gender, ethnic origin, and age.

 Here are some examples of affirmative action:

  1. Quota Systems: Quotas are a form of affirmative action that establishes a minimum number or percentage of individuals from marginalized groups who must be included in a particular institution, program, etc.
  2. College Admissions: Many colleges will reserve a certain percentage of placements for marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
  3. Targeted Promotions: Many corporations will look at their employee profiles and see that there is an overrepresentation of advantaged social groups within their managerial group.

Equity vs Equality

The principles of equality and equity are linked but separate. Equality refers to treating everyone equally, regardless of their unique characteristics or requirements. Equity, on the other hand, is offering varying degrees of support or resources to various individuals or groups to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. In other words, whereas equality focuses on treating everyone equally, equity focuses on treating people fairly by considering their individual circumstances and needs.

It relies on the circumstances and objectives of the given setting. Both equality and equity possess their own benefits and drawbacks. In addition to being easier to implement, equality can generate a sense of fairness and uniformity. However, it might be oblivious to the ways in which people or groups may have distinct requirements or confront distinct obstacles to success.

In contrast, equity is more complex and may need more resources to accomplish, but it is more effective in addressing and repairing systemic inequalities. It is essential to remember that equity does not include treating everyone differently, but rather treating everybody equitably by understanding their individual circumstances and needs.

How to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace

  • To create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, organizations must be intentional and proactive in their efforts. This includes:
  • Developing policies and procedures that encourage DEI, such as anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and unconscious bias training.
  • Regularly engaging in self-reflection and self-evaluation in order to identify and improve any areas where the organisation may be falling short.
  • Recruit, hire and promote employees from underrepresented groups to construct a workforce that is diverse and representative.
  • Providing all employees with the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve their careers.
  • Developing a culture in which all employees feel comfortable speaking out, sharing their opinions, and being heard.
  • Measuring and evaluating the organization’s progress on DEI on a regular basis, and making adjustments as required.

It isn’t enough to teach employees what it means to be inclusive. Like any form of behaviour change, inclusion requires individuals to identify key moments in which to build new habits or “micro-behaviours” (daily actions that can be practised and measured)

Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. A diverse workforce brings a wider range of perspectives, ideas, and experiences, which can lead to better decision-making and increased innovation. Additionally, a DEI-focused workplace can result in increased employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction, and can also lead to stronger relationships with customers and other stakeholders.

However, DEI efforts can’t stop at the workplace, it also encompasses the community and society at large. For example, organizations can partner with non-profits and other community organizations to support underrepresented groups, or advocate for policies and laws that promote DEI.

Creating a diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive workplace is a process, not a one-time effort. It needs continuous dedication, self-reflection, and a willingness to adapt. Organizations that successfully create a DEI-focused workplace will reap benefits for both their employees and the enterprise as a whole.

Like a string of beads, it is our unique differences and intricacies that make us so appealing and attractive. We would not be as beautiful if we were all the same. It’s the contrast and asymmetry that makes us worth while.

Lindsey Lunsford, M.E.M., Second Edition DEI Fellow 

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