As society takes an increasingly open-minded approach towards race, sexuality, gender, disability, age and religion, it is also becoming increasingly essential to understand the difference between true inclusion and true diversity.
Individuals and organisations that attempt to be diverse and inclusive without adequate training/knowledge, may cause a reverse effect. Unintended harm to unprotected groups may result.
True inclusion means ensuring that diverse and under-represented groups or minorities are included in communities, decision-making processes in a company, in government and in general. Being inclusive means that minorities also have decision-making authority.
But what really is INCLUSION and DIVERSITY?
A definition of Inclusion: the act of including someone or something as part of a group, a list, etc., and ensuring everyone has equal access to resources.
When discussing minority or discriminated groups, inclusion means having practical methods in place to ensure these groups are included in every level of employment, government, education and in the wider society. This can be in the form of recruitment drives, policy changes or changes to company culture.
A definition of Diversity: many different types of things or people/a variety of different things or people being included in something.
To embrace diversity, one must include people from different social and ethnic backgrounds, different sexual orientations, gender and also people with disabilities.
The goal of organizations should be to build diverse teams. There have been many studies conducted to understand the benefits of having a diverse team, the results of which have shown improved productivity, progressive brand identity and decreased employee turnover when this is done.
Diversity and Inclusion should be an ongoing conversation for the betterment of underrepresented groups in society.
All of the themes and issues that undermine minority groups in society cannot be solved with a few recruitment drives, or by holding an awareness month here and there.
It can be solved by addressing systemic blockades and removing them, starting with government policy change, employment restructuring from the top down and introducing effective educational tools in educational institutes.
1. Education & Training
Training provides safe environments for discussion, collaboration and education for all when done effectively. However, having a lack of these three elements can hinder minorities from integrating into groups, primarily those that include the white, able bodied, middle to upper class.
2. Achieving Diversity But Not Inclusion
Diversity can be achieved by hiring minority individuals to authoritative positions in employment, thus diversifying a workforce. However, companies must do this sensitively, so as not to make these hires appear as “diversity hires” or feel like tokens.
Some companies make a huge effort to show how diverse or inclusive they are, but to minority groups it can feel like this effort is to meant to fill quotas or to improve public relations. When inclusion reports are released, they can often be numerically-focused rather than human-focused which is often seen as a hollow attempt at chasing cultural trends and not being truly diverse.
Leadership or upper management roles must also reflect the company’s ideals about diversity and inclusion. Minority groups must hold these positions once qualified, and should not be overlooked. The same also applies for government. Minority groups will feel inspired and empowered by seeing people who look like them in positions of authority and power.
5. Being Heard As Well As Being Seen
When underrepresented groups have reached leadership and management positions, if those individuals still feel that their voice doesn’t count, does this mean their company does not value the voice of minority groups and merely use them to falsely claim their company is inclusive?
6. Have Human Indicators
As much as we like to avoid talking about Diversity & Inclusion in terms of key performance indicators, there should at least be some indicator of how diverse or inclusive a company is. Not by ticking boxes on a form, but by actively speaking to employees on how policy changes and diversity drives are changing the company’s identity. A human approach is the best approach, not numbers.