Diversity is an intimidating phrase.
In a society where we work so hard to feel included, we don’t want to think about what makes us different. And yet, the exploration of these differences are needed if we’re going to improve the way we connect with each other on a daily basis.
Diversity should be appreciated and celebrated as a pathway towards creative thinking and innovative solutions - especially within the business environment. And companies who focus on improving diversity will thrive going forward.
When I think of progress in diversity, I think of the two groups involved: those who will benefit immediately and those who won’t. The first step is to determine which group you fall into and examine the role you play in promoting diversity and supporting others.
Remember that we are multifaceted beings and that diversity includes diversity in gender identification, religion, race, age, income level, and a host of other factors. At some point in our lives, we’ve felt like we didn’t belong, and a focus on diversity (and inclusion) will ensure that someone is always working to ensure equity across all the ways we identify.
For those who will benefit immediately: we don’t have to be convinced of why a focus on diversity is important. We want and deserve a seat at the table. Our job is to be vulnerable and honest and to tell our story. We must be brave enough to speak up because we empower others to do the same. Our courage makes it just a bit easier for others to bring their entire selves to any space. Building genuine relationships is important because rapport leads to increased understanding and support. Everyone won’t get it right away, and that’s okay. Be patient.
For those who won’t benefit immediately: this is a sacrifice that we’re making for the greater good. Understand that. We must use our access and our privilege to pave a path of inclusiveness for others. Be patient in the role as an ally and in the fact that our support may be misguided or unwanted. Ask questions with an open heart, and be ready to accept the responses with an open mind. We won’t always hear what we want to hear, nor will we always understand. Our goal is to learn, to support, and to step out of the way to make room.
No matter our role, whether we’re actively promoting diversity or supporting others who do, we all benefit in the long run. We’ll have a more inclusive society, more creative solutions, and lives enriched by the world’s variety.
Our roles will shift between promoter and supporter, between beneficiary and ally during this journey. The key is to never stop doing something. Every action towards improved diversity and increased inclusion takes us that much closer to our goal.
Why does promoting diversity, equity and inclusion seem so hard?
It’s good for business, as most research will tell you, yet many efforts seem to fall flat, or worse, incite anger through insincerity and worsen employee relations. Sometimes promoting these efforts comes off a little preachy.
When will you know if you’re actively or passively contributing to the problem? How do you ensure your efforts are part of the solution?
The first step to supporting diversity and inclusion efforts is to actively work towards an organizational culture that celebrates difference of thought, experience, background, and perspective within all aspects of the workplace. Cultivating and maintaining this culture in the organization begins with real commitment from senior management, but the responsibility lies in all of us. No matter our industry, diversity and inclusion benefits all economies and lives. There’s also a responsibility to consider the diverse demands of your customer base and recruit top talent to improve products and services.
We can slowly change ourselves and our organizational culture in small, but meaningful ways.
Be on the lookout for behaviors and attitudes that are unacceptable in an inclusive workplace and know what you’re looking for. Discrimination isn’t always an outright affront like the use of slurs or other inappropriate comments. It can be subtle and pernicious from seemingly harmless statements, like a female colleague being called sweetheart by male coworkers or a person of color receiving a backhanded compliment tinged with surprise at their talents and abilities in the workplace. Watch and listen to what’s going on around you. If you are hurt or offended, or think someone else might be, confront it - say something or talk to them about it.
There are events that promote diversity and inclusion, such as potlucks that highlight cuisine from cultures around the world, guest speakers and training around a diversity equity topic, or diversity month awareness event. Attend recruitment events and make an effort to encourage more inclusive approaches to filling positions, from broader announcements through nontraditional networks to balanced hiring panels that look for nontraditional backgrounds or fields of study to diversify teams.
Finally, let your voice be heard - it is powerful!
Take a seat at the table with top leaders, share your vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace, tell them when efforts are making the difference you want to see. Bring your coworkers together to have focused discussions on improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in the work your company does. Bring it up in conversations when it’s missing or there is silence. Thank those that dedicate their time to diversity efforts, tell their supervisors what it meant to you, and engage with senior management through employee groups to continue an open, transparent conversation and keep people accountable.
The improvements you will see in your workplace and personal lives will benefit everyone. When all employees feel valued, appreciated, and respected you’ve achieved the ultimate business management goal.
Promoting diversity and inclusion means dedicating time and space to exploring the differences of all people and how those differences may impact organizational structures and systems. When we think about promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we often think of our required yearly diversity trainings, or our commitment to celebrating diversity for a whole month, or even upping the number of diversity hires.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good things to do, but the key to sustaining a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion is making it more than an extracurricular activity. These values are embedded in our leaders, in the people we hire, in the systems we use, and in the partners and suppliers we choose to work beside. It’s our culture, and culture is established at the top of an organization.
Leadership is responsible for defining its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within their organization, whether that be big or small. They are responsible for communicating what diversity and inclusion means to them and what it means to the organization they serve. They engage employees and explore what a culture of inclusion looks like and its impact on their daily work experience. They are curious about their employees and they know promoting diversity and inclusion is not only intrinsically valuable, but that it leads to better collaboration, higher productivity, and retention of talent. Leaders invest in diversity and inclusion because they believe it is just as important as any other business function. They bring clarity - and clarity is power.
If you’re working for an organization that has yet to make a commitment to promoting diversity and supporting others, don’t worry.
They have YOU. The most valuable thing I’ve learned in my experience of leading grassroots diversity and inclusion programs, is that you mustn't wait to convene. Be the organizer. Be the person who brings people together to talk about how we can promote and support diversity. Best advice I could give you, the convener, is to keep the momentum of the conversation about diversity and inclusion- the energy surrounding it - alive and flowing; whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly space carved out for genuine engagement...in curiosity.
People often feel uncomfortable talking about being different and why that matters, and the only way to get comfortable is to step outside our comfort zone. The single biggest problem in communication on diversity and inclusion is the illusion that it is taking place. Be the change.
DICE doesn't have a magic workshop that will change the world as we know it.
Our workshop is only as effective as the commitment the participants make to see the lessons through. This is a team effort and we can’t afford to have anyone sitting on the bench.
Everyone must do a part, no matter how small to help us get to where we’re going. And we will get there because our existence depends on it.
What steps will you take to promote diversity and support others in your workplace?