Prioritizing Diversity in the Workplace

Prioritizing Diversity in the Workplace

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Diversity is a buzzword that we hear about a lot these days. It's in the news, it's in our workplaces, it's everywhere. But with so much information being thrown at us, it's easy to forget what diversity really means. And while many leaders talk about diversity, they may not fully understand the concept of accountability or how to implement it.

It's a common challenge when it comes to diversity: knowing what it is and how to make it a priority in our organizations. In this blog, we'll dive into the importance of accountability in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, and provide some practical tips for how to achieve it.

Diversity is a human issue

diversity in the workplace

Okay, so when we talk about diversity, "tolerance" isn't really the best word to use. It's not just about putting up with someone who's different from you. Diversity is actually a human issue, not a political or workplace one. And get this, every single one of us is diverse in our own way, some ways we might not even realize! So, here's my question for you: how many different aspects of diversity do you think there are?

The Dimensions of Diversity

If you said 18, or more, then you would be correct! It's mind-blowing, right? Because when we talk about diversity, we often just focus on surface-level differences like skin color and hair texture. But there's so much more to it than that. And I think it's important to understand and recognize all of these different dimensions. To give you a better idea of what I mean, here's a list of the dimensions of diversity.

The dimensions of diversity include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Culture
  • Family Status
  • Gender
  • Gender Identity or Expression
  • Generation
  • Language
  • Life Experiences
  • Organizational Function
  • Personality
  • Physical Characteristics
  • Race
  • Religion, Belief, or Spirituality
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Thinking/Learning Styles
  • Veteran Status
  • Educational Level

And all of these is what makes you unique. The beauty of diversity lies in the fact that each of us is unique in our own way. And that uniqueness brings value to the workplace. It leads to higher employee engagement, improved team performance, and more profitable companies. But unfortunately, many deserving individuals often face barriers when it comes to creating opportunities for themselves.

Embracing diversity means creating an environment that welcomes and celebrates our differences, and that creates opportunities for all. By doing so, we can build a more inclusive and successful organization where everyone has the chance to thrive.

Name Bias

Let me share with you a striking example of how biases can impact diversity. Name bias is a well-documented phenomenon, where resumes with names that sound "ethnic" or deviate from traditional Anglo-Saxon names often get rejected without even being considered for job interviews.

This bias prevents qualified candidates from receiving opportunities that they deserve and hinders organizations from benefiting from diverse perspectives and experiences. It's important to remember that a resume represents a person, with their unique hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

By allowing our biases to influence our hiring decisions, we inadvertently limit ourselves and miss out on exceptional candidates who could bring value to our teams.

We must recognize and address these biases if we want to build truly inclusive workplaces that welcome diversity and promote equity.

Name bias is a real issue that affects many job applicants. It's just one of the many ways that diversity can become an idea rather than a reality. Many companies and organizations talk about diversity on their websites, but when it comes to actual implementation, progress is often slow.

The truth is, creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace requires significant effort and a willingness to confront biases and systems that perpetuate inequality.  It's not enough to pay lip service to diversity; it requires ongoing education, training, and a commitment to action.

Diversity Requires Dedication

So, why is it so difficult for diversity to become a reality? It's because it's an ongoing process that requires dedication and a willingness to take a hard look at ourselves and our biases. One reason for that is bias, (which we've already touched on), and the other is the status quo, difficulty and changing.

Outgroup and Status Quo Bias

When we talk about biases. I'm going to ask you another question. How many biases are there? The answer is 180. Surprised? And when we talk about biases as they relate to creating diverse and inclusive workspaces. Think about this, there are two biases that you need to remember, in addition to the name bias we've already discussed, one is the outgroup bias. 

The outgroup bias fundamentally states that if you see someone outside of your group, you dislike them because you perceive them to be different from you.

Then you couple that with an affinity bias, which means you prefer people that you perceive are like you and in your group, creating this less than virtuous cycle that keeps you from ever moving outside of your group to let anyone else in, which in turn creates organizations that are monolithic, and filled with one homogeneous voice that cannot adapt to rapidly changing times and doesn't fully understand its customer base, and can't fully innovate and create new things.

Because there just aren't enough voices at the table to bring fresh ideas, fresh insights, and fresh perspectives. Now that you can see these two biases at play, now you can step back and ask yourself: Is this bias at play in me when I'm making decisions?

The second reason why diversity and inclusion can be challenging to implement in the workplace is the status quo bias. It's the mentality of "this is the way we've always done it, so let's keep doing it this way." This mindset can lead to stagnation and resistance to change, even when change is necessary to keep up with a rapidly evolving market.

We've seen the consequences of this type of thinking with companies like Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of the once-popular BlackBerry. They failed to adapt to changing consumer preferences and were quickly overtaken by competitors.

The lesson here is that sticking with the status quo, especially in today's fast-paced business environment, may not be a sustainable strategy. To truly succeed, companies must be willing to challenge the status quo, embrace change, and cultivate diverse perspectives and voices.

It's no secret that change is difficult, but it's essential for organizations to survive and thrive. Without diversity and inclusivity, it is impossible for an organization to maximize productivity and customer satisfaction. Numerous studies have demonstrated that diverse and inclusive organizations lead to engaged employees, high-performing teams, and ultimately, more profitable companies.

Conversely, organizations that resist change and fail to diversify are destined to fail. If you're not actively pursuing diversity and inclusion in your organization, you're already falling behind.

The clock is ticking, and it's time to take action to ensure your organization's longevity and success.

How Can I make a difference?

Even if you're not a top-level decision-maker in your organization, you can still make a significant impact on creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. As a team leader or middle manager, you have a unique opportunity to create a more welcoming environment for all employees. But how can you do this? How can you prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in your daily work?

Here are 3 ways we can do just that.

Creating Opportunities

We focus on, and we ensure that we are recruiting and promoting people from diverse backgrounds, people of color, and not only giving them the opportunity to, but allowing them to succeed. And I say this because this is an important element of it. Like we mentioned with name bias, if you're not even given the opportunity to interview, you'll never be given an opportunity to succeed.

Training and Providing Resources

The second one is to provide training and resources for individuals, and this is on two fronts. The first one is we train our organizations and allow them the knowledge of the value and benefits of diversity. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken with people and shared the benefits of diversity, only to be challenged and say, “Well, where do you find that? Where do you do that?”

And I always have to go back and do the legwork. I've got tons of resources and references now. Now if people ask, either I show them or I encourage them to research on their own. But training your organization on the value and benefit of diversity, and providing them resources to help maintain and sustain that understanding is key.

The flip side of training and resources is making sure that your diverse groups have the opportunities and resources provided to them that may be above and beyond what other groups have. What I'm talking about here is something you may already be familiar with: ERG's, or Employee Resource Groups.

I've spoken to African American ERGs, Hispanic ERGs LGBTQ ERG,’s. B's ERG is exists to provide a safe space and to provide camaraderie when that group may feel like they're in the minority, right. So you want to make sure that training hits on both of those fronts.

Celebrate the Diversity Around You

Workplace diversity

And last, but not least, depending on where you are, no matter how big or small your team is, you can ensure that diversity is not a once a month or three times a month or, you know those calendar months are there to help remind us to celebrate diversity, but they don't dictate that we only celebrate diversity in those months, you can make sure that diversity is celebrated on your team all year long.

Oh, perhaps you have diverse members on your team already. You could go to them, asking them if they'd like to share a bit of their culture. Be very aware, though, of the risk and vulnerability that they are going to experience by sharing a bit of themselves. So if they're not comfortable with it, and they don't want to do it be very, very open and very understanding and tell them that's fine. I completely understand.

But work diversity into your conversations, work diversity into the culture of your team.

Make sure that people understand that diversity is foundational and is a hallmark of who we are and what we do. And that is how you can keep diversity prioritize not just in a month, but throughout the year and build it in bake it into the culture of your team.

For 3 more ways to promote diversity in the workplace, check out my first blog on the topic here.

With that said, my name is Dr. David Arrington. I am CEO of Arrington coaching, and this has been tremendous. Until next time, make today count.

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

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