The topic of this article is undeniably a current world affair, which is not one day too late. But with that said, we’ll not go into the depths of the many layers that this subject holds and instead focus solely on what you can do to have a positive impact at your workplace, both for business and for humanity as a whole.
Diversity, equality, and inclusion (hereinafter DEI) used to be fluffy concepts of ethical principles. Why were they thought of as fluffy? Because these principles couldn’t be measured. Something that has changed as it’s become increasingly crucial for the working population to be treated just. Therefore companies (at least more than before) have begun to implement initiatives that support and promote DEI. We could go so far as to say that today in Sweden, a workplace filled with only white men is not only shrugged at but also shunned by “woke” people in the same industry. Why? Because it shows just the opposite of being woke; ignorance, nepotism, and strong affinity biases. And ignorant people are not highly regarded by anyone who believes that DEI should run this world.
A diverse group of people is a group that consists of and is accepting of people of many various ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexualities. A group in which everyone is welcome and treated equally.
The promotion of an individual’s right to be who they are. Many countries have acts that prevent discrimination against protected characteristics; ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of how they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability. However, equality doesn’t necessarily translate to equal treatment of everyone; this is where you come in and set up proper structures that ensure equal treatment of everyone.
When every person in society is valued, heard, supported, respected, and people feel a sense of belongingness. At a workplace, this means that every person feels safe enough to utter their opinion and is given the equal opportunity to raise ideas and be heard when something feels wrong.
In almost all lines of work and businesses, you’re working for other people.
But not only that, thanks to the Internet you’re most likely working for people all over the world. But if you’re from Poland and want to attract people in South America, how do you do that? All cultures consist of obvious, and less so, social codes, language, and slang connected to their community. It goes without saying that to communicate with populations less known to you, you have to understand how they like to be communicated to. But instead of randomly trying to reach people through haphazard messaging and by that try to get the world’s attention through marketing, begin instead with bringing some of the world to your workplace.
Diversify your team with minds from many different cultures and backgrounds. Rest assured that you’ll speed up the process of reaching your target groups faster with in-house talent that knows their community better than you ever will. It’s essential to pay a considerable amount of respect to our differences because it’s in our differences that we learn from each other and where disrupting innovations can occur.
But to put ethics aside for a moment. Let’s see to actual data that supports the notion of why we’re better together.
- Organizations with higher gender diversity and high employee engagement have 46-58% better financial performance than companies with less engagement and diversity.
- The Harvard Business Review (HBR) did a study on diversity and innovation and defined two aspects of diversity: inherent (traits you were born with such as gender and ethnicity) and acquired (traits you gain from experience, for instance, working with certain demographics and living in other cultures). Two-dimensional (2D) diversity is where leaders of companies exhibit at least three inherent and at least three acquired diversity traits. Therefore, companies with 2D diversity are 45% more likely to report that they’ve expanded their market share and are 70% more likely to report they’ve entered a new market.
- A higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders. Studies also show earnings increased by 8% for every 10% increase in the diversity composition of American executive teams.
Microsoft's Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Gwen Houston, made the following statement about how important qualitative diversity measurements are:
"Building an inclusive organization is not just about the diversity scorecard data we track to measure our progress. It is as much about our attitude and behaviors as leaders and having a sense of empathy for the different experiences that people go through."
In other words, if you build a diverse team just to make your company look good on paper, you’ve missed out on harvesting the actual fruit of your actions. It doesn’t matter how many people of different ethnicities you have in the room if you’re closed off to everyone’s perspectives.
Measuring the obvious, such as genders, ethnicities, age groups, religious beliefs, and sexualities, is the first step you can take to understand how diverse your team is. But that leads to the next question - when is a team diverse? As an example, AT&T made the top spot on DiversityInc's Top 50 Companies for Diversity In 2019:
“AT&T continued to increase the diversity of people and ideas in its workforce in 2018, welcoming new hires who were 43 percent women and 62 percent people of color. The company also fostered an inclusive workplace by encouraging employees to step outside their comfort zones and dialogue with co-workers about race, sexuality, religion and other differences to increase their understanding of their colleagues and appreciate their perspectives and experiences.”
This gives an inclination to the question, the more variation, the better. But when it comes to equality, you need to talk to your workforce - what’s important to them? When you’ve knowledge in this, you can start measuring specific metrics, such as;
You probably won’t retain many women if you’re not offering a reasonable maternal leave deal. Therefore retention is another metric to look for. If your employees are happy and satisfied with what kind of life you can offer them, they won’t be as keen to leave the company.
It’s important to go to the bottom of your procedures. For example, say that you receive 60% applications from women for every job application you post. But the last hires were made up of 70% men. This may be the result of bias on the recruitment level.
Pernilla Alexandersson, CEO of Addgender, a Stockholm-based consultancy service committed to improving equality and diversity in the workplace, mentions that they’re overlooking companies DEI from three principals:
Structure - how do the company’s policies look? How are CEOs looking at KPIs? Is everyone getting equal opportunity to reach goals?
Balance - how is the balance between female/male, trans inclusion, and is there an alternative for those who don’t want to be included in that measurement?
Culture - how is the jargon between co-workers? At meetings, does everyone get the chance to be heard? And leadership, are the leaders treating everyone with the same amount of respect, or is it hierarchical to the point where some people are discriminated against?
In order to measure the more subtle occurrences at a workplace, conduct an anonymous survey that highlights these issues. Give response options ranging from 1-5 where 1 is “Never,” and 5 is “Always.” Examples of these would be:
- In your experience, have you ever been discriminated against due to your ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or disability?
- Do you feel that your ideas and opinions are taken into account at meetings?
- Do you experience that people at your workplace get more benefits because they look a certain way or come from a specific country?
Depending on the results, if you see that change is needed. Bring the results to the top level and discuss which procedures you should incorporate to make your workplace more balanced. As the last thing, don’t fear the truth. Be honest with yourself, admit your flaws, and learn how you, together with your team, can create a diverse workplace based on equality and inclusion.
In the following article, we’ll dive deeper into how to measure every aspect of this topic.