Understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion is imperative to creating an environment of inclusion. Let’s look at the difference between diversity and inclusion, how they are connected, how leaders can assess their company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and some ways to build an inclusive work culture.
Diversity: Who Makes Up Your Workforce?
Between diversity and inclusion, diversity may be the easiest of the two concepts to address. Simply put, diversity answers the “who” question: who makes up your workforce?
On the surface, this might be easy to determine: ethnicity; religion; gender identity; sexual orientation; race; and age are all considerations. A diverse work environment is one that can claim a healthy mixture of people with a wide variety of backgrounds. For many companies, “diversity and inclusion” efforts begin and end with measuring these demographics within their workforces, and possibly taking steps to recruit a more diverse workforce if it is determined that their diversity is lacking. “We used to have a diversity problem,” a CEO might say, “but we reached our desired number of Black / Latinx / Asian / women candidates. We’re now a diverse organization. Problem solved!”
Of course, it’s not that simple, for a few reasons. The first: diversity is not about numbers. It is about having diversity of thought, experiences, and perspective. Second, most of us define ourselves in multiple ways, and so the concept of intersectionality comes into play. An Asian woman in her mid-60’s, for example, brings her race, gender identity, and age to the workplace as integral parts of herself based on her life experiences. These different aspects of her identity form her perspective and she brings all of this to her professional and her personal life. These layers and nuances to diversity and identity are not taken into account when you simply use demographics. The last reason has everything to do with our definition of inclusivity.
Inclusion: Providing a Welcoming and Respectful Environment
Is a diverse company by definition an inclusive one? Think about the concept of curb appeal. A house might look lovely and welcoming on the outside – a manicured lawn, nice paint, and lots of windows will certainly make a buyer more likely to step in and have a look. But we do not live in the front yard; we live inside the home. And if the fixtures are broken, the bedrooms are too small, or the heating does not work, it is really not going to be much of a home.
Inclusion is, in a sense, how a company makes a home for its diverse workforce once they’ve walked through the door. An inclusive environment is one where all employees feel safe, respected and included. It’s one that actively works to make every employee feel that their identity matters, is valued, and belongs.
An inclusive company does not just provide lip service to its team members; it takes actions to ensure that inclusion is a measurable part of the work culture. Pay equity is baked into its compensation structure. Individualized support is given to employees. Flexibility is offered to working parents and others who need it.
Diversity efforts start and often end with recruitment efforts; it is by looking at turnover data with diversity in mind that we can see how effective inclusion efforts are. Are a disproportionate number of women or minorities leaving the company? And what are their reasons for doing so? Understanding these reasons and crafting policies to address them while at the same time giving employees the opportunity to have a dialogue with leadership about their own inclusion challenges is where the move towards a more inclusive culture begins.
How Do Leaders Build An Inclusive Work Culture? Start With This Question.
A key aspect of inclusion is the ability to say “yes” to the following question: Do employees here feel comfortable bringing their full selves to the workplace?
That’s where I believe leaders can make an immediate impact–simply by doing this themselves. In 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook became the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay. This was a watershed moment, one whose impact Cook himself has recognized and used to encourage other business leaders to work towards providing an inclusive environment for their employees. When leaders embrace their own identities in the workplace, it sets a tone that will inspire others to follow suit.
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I’m Dr. Sangeeta Gupta, and I founded Gupta Consulting Group to help CDOs and HR leaders create and implement DEI programs that meet their organization’s unique needs.
Schedule a conversation with me today to learn more about our DEI solutions.