29 Jul Attaining Authentic Diversity
Recent events have forcibly brought the issue of diversity to the forefront of business. Due to social scrutiny companies will most likely have reviewed their diversity practises and conveyed this to their employees, consumers, and stakeholders. Whilst the wave of interest and good intention to enable diversity is positive, it is important to take it beyond a buzzword (or PR opportunity) or risk actually reinforcing existing bias. Moreover, whether just beginning diversity efforts or aiming to improve on measures already in place, to assume that just employing a certain quota of a specific demographic will fix this problem is a misjudgement.
What not to do
A large part of diversity is hiring talent regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, disability, and gender. It can also mean ensuring representation of talent from minority groups within a workforce. It involves hiring this talent at all levels of business, from junior to c-suite roles. A diverse workforce can have rewarding benefits, for example “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15% and those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 35%.” However, by simply employing a certain number of minority staff to adhere to diversity quotas without an inclusive working culture is likely to actually exacerbate issues. It can result in unhappy and unproductive staff, leading to high turnover, lack of innovation and maybe even lack of profit.
Diversity must be accompanied by inclusivity
Diversity should encompass equal opportunity for job progression into leadership roles, and equal pay (i.e. removing gender and ethnicity pay gaps). It should also always be accompanied by inclusion. You may have heard the phrase ‘if diversity is being asked to the party, then inclusion is being asked to dance’. Inclusion therefore means recognising and dismantling existing conscious/ unconscious bias in the workplace and providing diverse talent with an environment and working culture that allows them to be authentic, succeed, and progress. Inclusion allows an employee and employer to reap the benefits that diverse employment can bring.
Inclusive practises are plentiful and vary from the requirements of the person and organisation. These may look like the opportunity for flexible working (particularly for parents and people who are neurodivergent or disabled), and access to equal mentoring opportunities.
Your actions need to be consistent and relevant
In order for diversity and inclusion to be authentic, businesses should not be making claims of their commitment to these practises via public posts if they are not regularly making actions and reviewing their progress. They should also not burden employees that represent a minority group with the responsibility of resolving diversity and inclusion issues. “There is no single approach that all businesses can adopt to ensure equality and diversity are beneficial. To be effective, equality and diversity need to be embedded in the business strategy, not treated as an ad-hoc addition.”
Starting or improving your diversity and inclusion efforts in a way that is authentic and sees results for employees and the business, will mean having potentially uncomfortable conversations that need to be ongoing. The resulting diversity and inclusion efforts will need to be actionable and have measurable results. In particular, data driven EDI efforts can provide ongoing results, accountability, and remove bias.
Author: Mary Ord