Diversity over Inclusion? The State of Workplace Diversity Today

Everywhere you look, diversity is in the headlines. Most recently, Intel committed $300M to diversity hiring over the next 5 years, Google committed $150M in 2015 alone, and Pinterest unveiled their new diversity hiring quotas and goals. It’s been a stand up year for diversity hiring, and tons of research is coming out (no pun intended) on the value of a diverse workforce. Not only does it make your organization more innovative, it also makes your teams stronger – having diversity in your workforce makes everyone perform at their best.

But what about inclusion? If diversity is all about opening the door and inviting someone in, inclusion becomes about making them feel at home. However, inclusion is more than just funding an employee resource group (ERG), or putting a rainbow flag up in your office during Pride. Inclusion means challenging yourself – and your peers – to see the world a little differently.

True inclusion means seeking to understand where people are coming from with their world view – and seeing how yours might change a bit as a result. Everyone was brought up to see the world in a certain way, and that’s actually a good thing – this is its own form of diversity, called “acquired diversity” (a great article about that here). However, sometimes seeing the world in a certain way makes it really difficult to understand another world view because it seems just a tad off. Instead of placating and appeasing someone by simply “tolerating” them, inclusion seeks to create duality in the workplace (here’s a great TED talk on duality).

This is all easier said than done, however, so what is a business supposed to do about it?

Recognize diversity means more than one identity: It’s tempting to go with the “most obvious” marker of diversity – being a woman, or having non-white skin. However, talking about diversity means understanding how identities intersect with one another. Every person has many intersections of identity (along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, academic background, etc.), and true diversity realizes that you do not have to only pick the one piece that makes you “most” diverse.

HR Can Help: Having consistent recruiting efforts targeted towards all sorts of candidates is important for keeping new ideas and conversations flowing- noting that traditional recruiting methods (i.e. campus recruiting and large job boards) are only part of the equation when it comes to finding a large talent pool.

Allies are Important: An ally is anyone who supports a given group but does not technically belong to that group. This is often seen as men supporting women or white people supporting racial minorities, but being an ally can also happen within minority communities – straight women supporting LGBTQ individuals, gay men supporting racial minorities, etc.

Diversity & Inclusion today has reached what I believe to be a tipping point – it’s not just the trendy firms or global conglomerates who are paying attention. However, in order to move forward we must change systems and culture so that we can truly reap all the benefits a diverse workforce has to offer.