Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have become buzzwords. But what exactly are their meanings?
Most workers agree that an increased focus on diversity and equality (DEI) is beneficial, yet many companies struggle with how best to implement such initiatives effectively. Begin by outlining exactly what DEI means to your team. Once defined, make it clear how everyone can help support these goals.
Diversity is the presence of differences.
Diversity encompasses all of the characteristics that make individuals distinctive, including demographic factors like race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin and social class. Diversity can also include differences in ideas, perspectives and values between people – in an inclusive workplace all these differences are celebrated and all employees can bring themselves fully to work each day.
While many companies recognize the significance of having a diverse workforce, they often struggle to put this recognition into concrete action. One common misperception is that having diverse teams automatically means inclusive teams; this couldn’t be further from reality; in order to truly be diverse and inclusive teams must prioritize equity alongside recruitment or representation efforts.
Assuring the fair treatment of all members of a group requires ensuring they are all represented equally and have access to opportunities regardless of demographics, background or other attributes. Whether in terms of hiring, promotions or resources; all groups must be treated fairly. This means identifying and addressing systemic biases such as unconscious bias – stereotypes which arise without our awareness – or microaggressions (negative behaviors directed against individuals because of biased beliefs) as well as microaggressions which occur due to these beliefs.
As such, an effective diversity and inclusion strategy requires organizations to commit to a cultural shift that begins with empathy. There must be ongoing efforts made by employees and management alike in their workplace to recognize and celebrate all forms of diversity – this will not only foster more productive, innovative and successful workplace environments, but will ensure all employees feel welcome and secure at their place of employment.
An organization may boast an inclusive workforce, yet still fall short if these differences aren’t respected and supported. For example, even if 50% of its workforce consists of female employees but 50% is male, does it matter that women are well represented if advancement opportunities or pay are limited?
Focusing on equity as well as diversity allows a company to foster an inclusive culture in which everyone feels welcome and supported for who they are – creating an increased sense of belonging among employees as well as improved business results like increased employee engagement, greater innovation levels and financial gains.
Equity is fair access.
Equity within workplace diversity refers to initiatives which ensure equal access and opportunities for underrepresented groups of people – such as age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, gender or sexual orientation. Equity also encompasses diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise that might come into play during such efforts.
Equity differs from diversity by emphasizing its values of inclusiveness in the workplace and offering training on implicit biases and cultural competency as means to achieve this end. It also involves creating environments which encourage employees’ wellbeing despite any differences they might bring into it.
While some organizations emphasize diversity over equity, when creating and implementing DEI initiatives it’s crucial that both are addressed simultaneously. For instance, simply recruiting women into leadership roles without providing fair treatment once there could lead to disenfranchisement which counteracts any efforts toward workplace diversity.
Equity and inclusion are often mistakenly confused; however, the two concepts should not be confused. Inclusion refers to creating an inclusive workplace while equity involves changing structures and systems which contribute to inequality among individuals and communities.
In a business setting, this may mean providing opportunities for professional development, ensuring all employees receive equal pay rates, and offering work from home options to all employees. Furthermore, this also involves addressing systemic barriers that prevent certain groups of people from accessing equal education and employment opportunities.
Most workers believe focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion at work is beneficial; however, views vary significantly by demographic and political affiliation.
However, while most women and men view focusing on DEI as beneficial, more than half of black workers reported it was either fair or bad idea. The good news is that most key challenges facing DEI efforts can be effectively tackled by embedding its principles into organizational design and culture – in other words ensuring equitable processes and socially aware HR departments become part of daily workplace operations.
Inclusion is fostering a sense of belonging.
People who feel included are more likely to see themselves as equal members and experience a sense of well-being and belonging – something many companies now prioritize inclusion efforts for employee engagement purposes.
Diversity and equity initiatives aim to ensure equal access to opportunities within an environment, but inclusion goes further by making sure everyone appreciates and takes full advantage of those opportunities. It requires adopting a mindset which promotes welcoming, supporting and respecting differences as it’s the cornerstone of an innovative, profitable, engaging workplace that makes for diversity & equity success.
One common misunderstanding about diversity and equity initiatives is that simply making them a priority will result in inclusion. Instead, effective diversity and equity initiatives need to be built into every aspect of an organization – its policies, processes and practices- in order to create an environment which truly feels tailored for all individuals.
All employees must understand and communicate that their unique qualities are fully valued by their employer, that their perspectives are valuable and welcome, and that they should contribute equally towards team success. Furthermore, employees should understand how their actions and behaviors have an impact on fellow colleagues’ ability to feel a sense of belonging as well as any larger ramifications on society as a whole.
Create an inclusive culture takes time and effort, but its results speak for themselves. When employees feel welcome in their workplaces, this translates to improved on-the-job performance, greater job fulfillment, retention of talent and customer relations as well as employee recruitment and retention efforts. Studies have also demonstrated how being made to feel included increases charitable giving, willingness to assist after mishaps occur more readily and easier handling unpleasant experiences and challenges in life.
Diversity is good for business.
But true equity requires more than simply jumping on board; true equality calls for long-term investment that’s deeply embedded into an organization’s fabric. That means embedding diversity and equity into everything from policies, talent screening processes, hiring practices and workplace standards all the way down to employee relations practices so they feel welcome, included and valued despite any differences they might possess.
Companies that prioritize DEI gain an edge over their competitors who do not. According to studies, organizations with more diverse workforces tend to outperform those without one; that’s because when different people join forces they learn from one another and generate more ideas together. A more diverse team may help overcome “groupthink,” where members feel uncomfortable voicing disagreement or raising doubt because they belong to an insular collective which believes all they think the same.
Workers tend to value companies that foster racial and ethnic diversity more highly; 53% of Black workers, for instance, believe it is either extremely or very important that their employers employ employees from various racial and ethnic groups – this sentiment holds true across other minority groups as well.
Attracting and retaining top talent are both the goals of Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI). According to research by Glassdoor, companies without an effective commitment to diversity won’t appeal to 76% of job seekers – especially younger workers seeking organizations that prioritize equality and acceptance. Furthermore, when employees feel valued for who they are as individuals they tend to remain at their jobs longer which reduces turnover rates significantly.
Businesses that ignore diversity and equity run the risk of forgoing access to talent; failing to represent customers’ specific needs and values effectively; as well as alienating potential new markets by not reflecting customer interests accurately. Companies that prioritize diversity and equity as an essential ingredient of future success – companies making DEI a priority can reach an entirely new market and become more likely to survive disruption-ridden environments; diversity inclusion has thus become such a focus among today’s businesses.