Building Diversity By the Way


Okay, we are different it's true.

And I don't like to do all the things that you do.

But here's one thing to think through,

you are a lot like me and I'm a lot like you!

-- Robert Alan Silverstein

“We are an Equal Opportunity employer! We encourage, educated women to apply! We are a strong Diversity policy company and we encourage multi cultural background people. We don’t discriminate on the basis of colour, religion, ethnicity etc”!!!

The word diversity is increasingly finding its place in almost all job portals, all job advertisements, and all medium to large scale company policies and is almost a hot selling training module in every L & D team. The big question is that whose job is it anyway?

Building and bringing Diversity and inclusion @ workplace is not a HR driven phenomena. Neither the responsibility rests in the hands of learning and development function. Rarely one can learn about the importance of diversity through a training program!

Diversity is a slow dividend. The current business expectation is too transactional in nature. It demands benefits quarter by quarter and measures the return on investments year on year. A section of workforce which is not offered the equal opportunity of learning and exposure will take time to fully convert them into incentives based performance. The thought of business has to be realigned to fully assimilate the diverse workforce.

Take the situation of gender diversity. For example, the first step is to recruit, the second is to include in all key decision making processes. In most of the organizations women are handful from 2% in heavy industrial and engineering sector to 10% in pharmaceutical. IT / ITES, sector has seen the maximum absorption at 25% to 35%. However, the percentage of this representation is skewed at the top of pyramid. Which means major key decisions of exploring new geographies, formulating policies, changing compensation and benefits etc. are still in the hands of just one gender.

Gender diversity would mean, including whatever percentage of women we have in active decision making, creating confidence in them, to table contents related to current issues and also encourage participations by actively allowing them to voice their thoughts.

In my opinion, there is interplay of belief one possesses and the results achieved. Belief cycle, can help us to closely look and relate to organization culture and hence condition our thought patterns towards any change.

Since, our belief largely influences our actions and future initiatives that we undertake. So, let’s picture this: -

An organization is building gender diversity and the diverse committee comprises of all males taking crucial decisions. Any input from the junior most level where maximum women are employed is either overlooked or undermined.

What do you think, what is the kind of belief message that is getting circulated?

What can Diversity Build?

Diversity can act as a key driver of innovation!

On a global scale, senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. Demographics, religion, race, all contribute in a completely unique way in the way we look at a problem and address them. By bringing in variety we are also bringing in new insights in decision making!

Inclusive workforce lasts longer!

An inclusive workforce is crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent. Inclusive workforce can assimilate change much faster and work in volatile situations in much composed manner than the exclusive workforce.

There is an infinite list of possibilities that comes with the word – Diversity. It is thought provoking to imagine the cost of having a company which is limited with their innovative punch. What’s the price we end up paying for a non-diverse workforce in rather tough economic and political times?

Nonetheless, the journey to arrive at Diversity is a bold blocked road. For teams which are relentlessly working towards building it, it’s an eye opener.

Barriers on the way of building Diversity

It is important to register that though the word Diversity, has certainly gained the latest attention and focus from every industry, the only catch is that it is currently practised as a checklist activity. Statistics show some surprising realities on the way of achieving an inclusive policy on diversity. The following graph from Forbes Insights only strengthens the dichotomy in the management circuit on practicing and prophesising diversity and inclusion.

Let’s take a look at the question towards building diversity and the respondents view on this:-

“What barriers do you see to continuing to develop or implement a strategy for workplace diversity and inclusion?” (Source – Forbes Insights)

It is rather sad to see the lack of accountability towards building a diverse workforce and offer some oxygen and fire to sustain this momentum. Most of the large organizations have a standard strategic policy in place; however diversity is never achieved through process manual handbooks.

On the contrary, Inclusion is build slowly, by watching everyday action and behaviour of the senior leadership team.

The only fear is in the way it is currently practised in most of the medium to large scale organizations. May be in the wake of stressing too much on inclusion we are actually bringing too much of exclusion amongst the workforce.

Hence diversity and inclusion can happen only if our senior business leaders are committed to act in a profound manner that reduces the already injected fear in the people who are different on the basis of gender, race or religion.

The wider concern is that, if it not addressed with the right belief and the long term commitment, we are on a fragile and short journey to success. A company can only be as successful as the ecosystem it builds around to foster inclusiveness and collaboration.

As it is said, music is when all instruments play together. So if you are thinking diversity, exposure is the best tonic!


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