Why Do We Continue to Harp About Diversity at Workplace?

Often when are in a meeting talking about ‘hey let’s try this new thing’, sometimes (rightly) the product manager hits back and says, ‘let’s see how this will move the needle’. Therefore, before getting into the details of everything in the world that is crashing down, let’s then start with the bottom line. Why do we continue to harp about diversity at workplace? It’s simple. Research shows diversity drives innovation.

Employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market. (source: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall and Laura Sherbin, HBR.org)

And now that we have research backing us up and clearly moving the proverbial needle, we can go ahead. Previously we have described the existing diversity gap in the gender domain. Diversity also encompasses ethnicity, age, color, national origin, sexual preferences and other such important factors. Here are some interesting statistics to showcase how this plays in reality.

The gap widens significantly when looking at pay for women of color. In the same high-skilled positions, Asians make $8,146 less than whites and blacks $3,656 less than whites, according to a report from the Institute for Economic Research. And in fact, the gender pay gap increases with higher education for black and Hispanic women. (source: Forbes)

These statistics and issues are present in some of the largest technology companies in the world including Google & Microsoft. The issues are not limited to any one country or sector but across the board. As a company or a CEO creating the workplace of the future, what considerations are important?

How do we improve the ratios around diversity at workplace?

1. Think through your own biases and stereotypes

At the time that I went to study ‘Engineering’, plenty people said, ‘isn’t medicine a better option?’. Many more said, ‘she is better suited for a desk job. She likes planning’. I also heard, ‘you’re the first girl in the family going for an engineering degree’. Everyone sighed with relief that at-least I was not going for ‘mechanical’ engineering. Electronics and telecom still kept options opened for a ‘desk job’.

During my work-life, I have often seen people casually say things like, ‘oh that is such a gay stream‘ to guys who wanted to do something like say, CEO of a child care center or hospitality. From a diversity standpoint, even cultural training experts are sometimes great in dishing out advice and making generalizations.

Asians are a low-context culture, German managers are too direct, managers from South Europe spend far too much time talking about food, consumers from South Germany spend less. When a girl gets pregnant or married, people often casually push her off the ambitious path, of course this is priority they say. Simplifying complex human diversities by putting them into stereotypical boxes rarely creates a culture for openness.

2. Think about the definition of a future workplace

There are a few terms to think through when designing a future workplace: inclusion, equal access, empathyCreating these is not inspirational fluff meant for a keynote address at some fancy conference. It is hard work. Most stereotypical notions are simplifications representing the tip of the iceberg.

3. Create options/ think technology

Is remote work and flexibility something that can help employees and teams bring in more productivity? And clearly this does not refer to just women but to anyone who can benefit from higher flexibility. Are there any technology options (think Asana, Yammer, Toggle) and tools that can enable creating a new sort of connected workplace? How can you use the technology opportunity to break down any barriers of 9 to 5 and in a single location restrictive work desks?

Often when you demand that people must work from a specific location, their salary expectation goes up. Why? Because you fundamentally take something away from the liberty and empowerment they feel when working from where they feel their best and most comfortable. I can totally relate to this: the location shouldn’t matter. (Toby Ruckert, CEO, Unified Inbox)

4. Create mentorship opportunities

Having a clear process for mentorship seems to be something that many managers are missing. Often there are mentorship forums or even mentors within the company that allow people of different backgrounds and mindsets see the opportunities that they may have going forward or how to reach there. Empathy is a physical thing. It needs to be felt.

5. Develop a strong communication culture

Ask yourself- how easy is it to for people to share uncomfortable situations if they face any specific to their diversity portfolio. Is there a neutral place for them to discuss openly? Do you organize open discussions addressing topics such a these? Is there any training or cultural learning that new hires are exposed to? It is also important to review and share the information openly. Diversity at workplace is a topic that needs to be addressed. Publish and ascertain where you stand. It’s like fitness. You need to know your initial position and then set up aggressive goals.

We need to develop the skills of listening, empathizing, flexibility, tolerance, patience, compromise, communication, and genuine caring (source: Huffington post)

I hope you are able to use these ideas in creating a future inclusive culture in your own firms. Create diversity at the workplace and see the impact on innovation! If it’s not already happening, what a great time to start, don’t you think?

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