Diversity and Inclusion in Teams
I’d like to share my perspective with those of you involved in sponsoring, designing, and managing a DEI initiative at your company.
Diversity refers to the presence of a variety of characteristics, perspectives, and experiences within a group. Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to the active engagement and empowerment of individuals with diverse characteristics, perspectives, and experiences. In other words, diversity is about representation, while inclusion is about creating an environment where diverse individuals feel valued, respected, and supported.
Diversity and inclusion are often discussed together and for good reasons. They are closely related concepts that are both important for creating a fair and equitable society. However, I argue that inclusion is even more important than diversity. Here are a few reasons why:
When a topic of “diversity” comes up in a group, these are some thoughts that go through my head:
- How do you define diversity at your company?
- What is your plan for providing an inclusive environment?
- What rubrics do you use to evaluate candidates to make sure they are a great fit for the same position and level you are hiring for?
Let’s start with some practices I have seen in the past at companies that value diversity:
- Anonymization during resume or code reviews: During resume reviews or grading take-home exams, remove the name or any identifier that might create an unconscious bias for the reviewer.
- Salary and compensation: Companies do their very best to research the market and make sure diverse groups doing comparable work in the same region and position are getting paid as close to market value as possible. I believe more companies should be doing this.
- Support groups: Companies sponsor, or create support groups, meetups, and organizations to promote diversity within the organization. However, in some cases, these meetups are held in a “safe” environment. I will consider these meetups successful if the lessons are put into practice at work as well to make those individuals feel happy and welcomed.
- DEI training program: Companies have effective training programs to educate employees on what constitutes sexism, racism, bullying, etc, and how managers should handle breaches of the code of conduct. Those lessons are powerful when a company creates an environment where people are empowered to stand up for themselves as well.
- Diversity hire program: Companies have a “diversity hire” program where during that week or month they hire people with “diverse” background
Out of the list above I want to bring your attention to the last bullet. Organizing a Diversity Hire month without providing an inclusion is engaging in “diversity theater”. In the past, I have been part of resume reviews and the hiring process where I was asked to look for diverse hires. I have worked at companies that had a women-only recruiting week. In one scenario, a recruiter reached out to me and I accepted her interview offer. When I arrived for my interview I found out it was a women-only recruiting event that included lectures by executives about how the company provides a safe environment for women. Even though I trust that was done with the best of intentions, I still found it odd this had never been communicated prior to my arrival.
For those companies who have exclusive diversity hiring programs, here are a few things to consider:
- If the diverse new hire person is great at their job and they deserve the position, others might perceive it as a diversity hire anyway.
- When he or she gets hired into positions that may not best suit them and later gets criticized for lack of skills but in fact, the position was above their level, to begin with
In this case, please make sure you communicate well with the internal team as well as the candidates about the intention behind the program. Moreover, make sure, the new hire is well supported, especially if they’re hired into a program that allows them to grow and flourish. Most importantly, provide an inclusive environment that makes them feel welcomed and not be reminded every day that they’re part of the diversity program.
Let’s look at the importance of inclusion:
- Diversity is about representation, but inclusion is about empowerment: Diversity is about having a variety of people with different characteristics, perspectives, and experiences in a group. Simply having diverse individuals in a group does not guarantee that they will be fully included and empowered. Inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected and has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed.
- Inclusion leads to greater innovation and creativity: When people with diverse perspectives and experiences are included and empowered, they bring new ideas and ways of thinking to the table. This leads to more innovative solutions and a more creative work environment.
- Inclusion is necessary for diversity to be effective: Even if a group is diverse, if individuals are not included and empowered, the group will not be able to fully benefit from the diversity that is present.
- Inclusion is necessary for a better reputation: Companies with a reputation for inclusion and diversity often attract top talent, and customers and clients are more likely to do business with them.
- Greater representation and fairness: Inclusion ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed, regardless of their background.
- Better understanding and empathy: When people with different backgrounds come together, they learn from one another and develop greater understanding and empathy. This leads to a more harmonious and cohesive society.
- Inclusivity doesn’t mean “information radiator”: Inclusion means being able to celebrate who you are without fear of reprisal or without being reminded of what makes you different when it isn’t relevant.
It is important for organizations to take steps to create an inclusive culture. This can include things like offering training on unconscious bias, creating employee resource groups, and setting diversity and inclusion goals. It also means creating a culture where people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, and where everyone is held accountable for creating an inclusive environment.
Diversity is important; inclusion is essential. Inclusion is not a destination, it is a journey. It requires ongoing effort and commitment, asking for feedback, and refining your process, but the benefits are well worth it. When everyone is included, everyone wins. Inclusion is not only an ethical and moral imperative, but it is also a business imperative. It is not enough to simply have a diverse workforce, it is essential to create an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered. This is the only way to fully leverage the benefits of diversity and create a fair and equitable society. If you start with inclusion and make that the core value of your company, then diversity will follow.
Let’s start there!