The recent #metoo movement has highlighted how far we still have yet to go to achieve a safe workplace and how diversity and inclusion have now become a CEO-level issue around the world.
Despite being well into the 21st century, we still face major obstacles in order to achieve a fair and equal society.
Modern-day global organizations function as organic networks of teams connected digitally where collaborative working and mutual understanding are key. The world’s leading organizations now view diversity and inclusion as a key pillar of their overall talent and retention strategy to drive employee engagement and performance.
If the stakes are that high, diversity and inclusion is far too important to be left just in the hands of one department or one group of professionals. It should be on the agenda of every Board, C-suite, Global Mobility team, Learning, Operations – and any other major department in every organization.
Diversity and inclusion: not the same thing
Diversity and inclusion are frequently mistaken for the same thing. They are not. Let’s take a look at the definitions:
- Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. In a nutshell, it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin*
- Inclusion is an organizational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated. These differences could be self-evident, such as national origin, age, race and ethnicity, religion/belief, gender, marital status and socioeconomic status or they could be more inherent, such as educational background, training, sector experience, organizational tenure, even personality, such as introverts and extroverts.*
Now we’ve established the difference between diversity and inclusion. What are the five biggest diversity and inclusion challenges you may face?
1. One doesn’t lead to the other
Unfortunately, simply giving jobs to people of different genders, ages, ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds isn’t enough. Diversity doesn’t lead to inclusion.
An HBR study showed, for example, that once in the job, senior-level people from non-white ethnic groups felt pressure to sponsor people from the same group without focusing on hiring the best people – regardless of ethnicity.
2. The influence of wider society
We’ve made progress in the last century on women’s rights, equal rights, gay marriage, and many other things, so society is perfect, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors
A recent study by the Council on Contemporary Families at the University of Texas-Austin shows that many “millennials” have very traditional views of home life and who the breadwinner should be. We should not take anything for granted. Societal evolution is not a straight line – it has many twists and turns.
3. I don’t matter to this company
Those employees from different ethnic and social backgrounds may often feel a sense of exclusion – due to previous experiences or a feeling of exclusion with their current employer.
81% of women say they feel some form of exclusion at work.
The failure to form social and emotional bonds with colleagues can lead to early departures with those leaving often citing the lack of networking opportunities and opportunities for enhanced responsibilities. They feel that no one is talking about them when there are opportunities for extra responsibility or promotion.
Women’s feelings of exclusion, for example, do not relate to isolated examples or situations but rather an ongoing pattern of male behavior (which may or may not be intentional).
Whether it be inadvertent or not, male behavior tends to exclude women from informal networks, reduce or severely limit their chances for mentoring and sponsorship, and overlook their ideas and questions during meetings – what woman has not been “manteruppted” by a male colleague? The findings are eye-watering:
Eight-one percent of women say they feel some form of exclusion at work.
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4. Hiding sexual orientation
Employees often hide their sexual orientation from colleagues and bosses. Be it for the desire to “fit in” or to not “stand out”, many LGBT employees still do not consider their workplace to be inclusive.
Well if a gay Irishman can become the CEO of Qantas then an indigenous lady can (Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas)
When Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Australian airline Qantas, was asked by a young indigenous woman whether she could ever head up the firm his answer was unequivocal – “Well if a gay Irishman can become the CEO of Qantas then an indigenous lady can.”
Sending a clear message from the top of an organization that it is ok to be who you are is a vital step on the road to an inclusive organization.
Companies such as EBRD have developed specific networks to raise the visibility of LGBT staff at the Bank so that employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual feel more comfortable about being open about their sexuality in the workplace.
5. Respecting other ethnicities and cultures
The impact of globalization is everywhere – in how we dress, what we eat and where we travel. The typical office is now made up of people from a diverse spectrum of cultures and ethnicities.
Companies with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors (McKinsey)
Despite the huge advances made over the last 30 years, many employees do not feel entirely “at home” in office surroundings. Coffee “banter”, stereotypes or jokes in poor humor are still rife in many office environments. It is therefore paramount for managers to implement policies of inclusion and not exclusion.
Diversity and inclusion make good business sense. Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, according to management consultancy McKinsey, which looked at 366 public companies across a range of industries.