I started on my path to speaking and consulting about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion earlier this year.
By 2065, the US will not have any single ethnic or racial majority. Projected growth from Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial groups will turn traditionally underrepresented populations into majority groups by 2044.
It’s obvious that we’ve reached a point in time where the call for systemic change in society is getting louder and must be heard. We need to demand that organizations and communities step forward to be transparent about how they’re addressing discrimination, inequity, and exclusion.
So, how can leaders and organizations handle this change in the coming years?
Let’s change Discrimination, Exclusion and Inequity to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity
An inclusive culture results in an organization where respect, equity, and positive recognition of differences are cultivated, diverse voices are heard, and everyone feels valued.
This, in turn, creates business opportunities, growth and return on investment. Talents from overseas, different cultures, sectors and backgrounds can bring fresh perspectives, insights, a wider range of skills, ideas and innovation that a current workforce may be lacking.
What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a movement long overdue that pays attention to unique contributions individuals provide in the workforce and not only is important from an ethical and moral standpoint but has shown to vastly enhance the bottom line!
What is Diversity?
Diversity is not just about black and white or male and female, gender and race, for example. Diversity has many dimensions that we often don’t think about.
The Diversity dimension includes but isn’t limited to:
- Gender and gender identity
- Sexual orientation and expression
- Ethnicity, race, and origin
- Age, generation, and relationship status
- Religious and spiritual beliefs
- Values and cultures
- Physical and mental disabilities or challenges
- … and more!
Many organizations believe that if they include individuals from different categories, they have achieved diversity. Unfortunately though, this is where most DEI initiatives tend to fall apart.
When an organization can identify gaps in diversity across the board, it’s a relatively easy fix. It can instruct and incentivize HR, recruiters and managers to hire more diverse candidates.
But the big question is: Do these new diverse hires feel included, respected and heard?
What is Equity?
Next is equity, which is achieved through treating people differently depending on need, circumstance and consideration of historical and systemic inequities.
The difference between equality and equity is important to understand.
Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same, regardless of need and circumstances, whereas equity is about taking deliberate actions to remove systemic, group, and individual barriers and obstacles that hinder opportunities and disrupt well-being.
Equity is achieved through the identification and elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that create and reinforce unfair outcomes.
What is Inclusion?
Finally, inclusion is the dynamic state of feeling, belonging and operating in which diversity is leveraged and valued to create a fair, healthy and high-performing organization or community.
An inclusive culture and environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also empowers individuals and groups to feel safe physically and psychologically, respected, heard, engaged, motivated, and valued for who they are.
“Conversations can be uncomfortable and sometimes they should be uncomfortable. Inclusion is about meeting people where they are with no judgement and solving conflict with curiosity and empathy.“
How to Be an Inclusive Leader
Inclusive leaders are people-oriented, typically excellent listeners, and can tap into the talents and motivations of others. They are patient, understanding and genuinely interested in others.
An article in the Harvard Business Review states: Teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to make high-quality decisions, and 29% are more collaborative across their team and organization.
On the flip side though, nothing can kill an inclusive change effort more than a well-intentioned leader who says the right things but is unaware of how their behavior does or doesn’t match their words.
This can be a challenge for any leader in any change initiative. But with inclusion, the effects are amplified since it’s the foundation of how welcome employees feel.
A feeling of not being fully included from an employee perspective will negatively affect productivity, morale, team collaboration, innovation and of course a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.
Then, how can we ensure this doesn’t happen?
1. Develop Empathy
Empathetic individuals are able to put themselves in the shoes of others to understand what others are going through. Moreover, they are willing to help others to improve the situation.
Empathy is at the core of successful leadership in diverse groups. This is a crucial skill to help deal with differences and to build stronger relationships.
Side note: Remember, empathy isn’t sympathy. Empathy is investing the time to truly grasp how someone is coping and to develop genuine compassion for their experience.
2. Practice Self-Management (ie: get in tune with your unconscious biases)
The benefits of unconscious bias are that it can help us to make decisions quickly.
While not all unconscious biases are negative, they can be and have the ability to bring negativity into complex social situations.
However, our knowledge of unconscious biases alone is not enough to reduce workplace bias. Understanding our everyday influences and types of bias can help us mitigate the impact of these unconscious biases in culturally-diverse situations.
3. Build Relationships With People Who are Different From yYou
You can work on building and fostering mutually satisfying relationships by thinking deeply about another culture and anticipating what needs to be done in advance of the interaction. You can become more aware of different cultural thinking as well as more cognizant of your own cultural habits in real-time.
It is also important to do a self-check on any deep-seated assumptions you may have and adjust them based on new information and perspectives. Compare any expectations with actual occurrences during intercultural interactions.
4. Create a Culture of Ownership
Cultural constructive thinking is particularly important for leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. It helps to create win-win solutions, to generate creative ideas, to settle disagreements, influence cooperation and build trust. Emotional and culturally intelligent people have a higher awareness of ownership of their speech, as well as nonverbal communication.
5. Create and Envision Positive Change
A diverse workforce can create positive or negative social situations. Emotions are organized responses to internal or external events, which can result in negative or positive meanings for individuals.
Understanding your own and your colleagues’ cultural values is vital to determining your response to various social situations and will help you to create and envision positive change within your organization.
So, leadership is not about being the most knowledgeable, it’s about being the most curious about ourselves and others, specifically from a diversity perspective.
How to Lead with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Mind
Inclusive leaders accept that they don’t know everything and are genuinely interested in the views of others to solve problems and innovate. Our drive for continuous learning and self-awareness helps drive attributes associated with curiosity—open-mindedness, inquiry, and empathy.
When we apply these concepts and frameworks, we are ultimately contributing to the greater good of society. We’re helping to create a world that is fair, just, respectful, innovative and equitable and we help to eliminate injustice and oppression by creating a world where everyone can enjoy peace and prosperity.
Ready to start implanting the latest DEI principles at your workplace? Click here to sign up and earn 7 CE credits!