Insights | 07.15.20
Tackling Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace
At the BISA 2020 Annual Convention that took place in March, attendees gathered for an interactive peer group discussion on an ever-important topic within the workplace: diversity and inclusion (D&I). The session attracted participants for various reasons: Some were looking to combat their unconscious bias, while others wanted to learn how to feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics. Another member solicited advice on setting a diversity and inclusion culture at new a firm.
Instructors Joelle Guymon and Decker Moss of 6stride established several outcomes of the presentation, such as equipping leaders to adopt principles and enabling professionals to recognize themselves as part of the equation. The ultimate goal was to move from “diversity and inclusion” to “belonging and engagement.”
“When I got to a place at a company where I felt I truly belonged, I felt like I fully thrived,” Guymon said.
Why Businesses Need Diversity and Inclusion Principles
Now more than ever, diversity and inclusion is seen as a necessity in the workplace. As younger generations of employees enter the workforce, it’s important for employers to meet their expectations. After all, research shows that millennials and Generation Z folks are the most diverse generations ever.
“Millennials are more comfortable than other generations talking about issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” Guymon said. “They are more likely to value it, and they believe a company is more innovative when it has a diverse and inclusive culture.”
Millennials also seek out companies with these values when searching for jobs, making it important for organizations to adopt clear, genuine principles that will attract this newer generation of employees.
How Our Unconscious Bias Plays a Role
In an activity called “Trusted 5,” Guymon and Moss made one thing clear: People tend to form groups and associations with people who are similar to themselves. Not only do we unconsciously associate with people who are of a similar race, sexuality and socioeconomic status, but we also tend to hire people similar to us as well. This tendency can creep into our unconscious thoughts in many different forms. It even goes as far as having the tendency to select good-looking candidates, simply because our minds associate good looks with talent.
Guymon and Moss emphasized that unconscious bias is inevitable, but there are ways we can challenge that bias in order to create a more diverse and inclusive environment. First, we acknowledge that we have innate unconscious bias. Next, we review what those biases may be and state our intentions to move beyond those stereotypes and assumptions. Finally, we take action. We see people as individuals, rather than groups. We listen to other voices. We challenge ourselves to think non-traditionally.
“It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s what we do with it,” Guymon said.
Privilege and Its Impact on Those Around Us
Privilege — it’s something that’s given to us. Many instantly become uncomfortable when talking about this sensitive topic, solely because it makes them feel guilty. The truth is that people do not choose what privileges they have, Guymon and Moss explained. It’s out of our control, but that doesn’t mean that our duty to acknowledge our privilege is, too. It’s important to realize that not all people come from the same background, and that we all see the world differently based on what privileges we do and do not have. Guymon and Moss provided strategies to acknowledge your privilege and overcome our discomfort with talking about privilege.:
- Become an ally
- Seek out marginalized voices and perspectives
- Be intolerant to intolerance
- Speak up, but not over
Leadership strategies to Enhance Diversity and Inclusion
During their presentation, Guymon and Moss went over what they call the “3 Rs of inclusion.” Examine any unconscious bias you may have, or any D&I prejudice that may need to be addressed in your company culture. If you find there are issues to tackle, but don’t know where to start, consider the following leadership strategies for ways to enhance and improve daily work life:
- Acknowledges those who speak up and offer ideas, even if they are contrary to historic ways of thinking
- Invests time to learn what matters most to others
- Consistently seeks out diverse opinions on critical business decisions
- Regularly explains why final decisions are made, honestly and transparently
- Intentionally builds bridges across geographical, cultural and functional boundaries
- Is aware of how his/her own cultural bias impacts his/her business decisions
- Encourages the sharing of different opinions, views and ideas
- Spends time giving feedback and helping team members perform to the best of their ability
- Motivates everyone to bring their best self to work by empowering ideas whenever possible
While these topics may bring uncomfortable or unfamiliar discussions, it’s important remember that that’s okay. Challenging, changing and growing together in your workplace will ensure an inclusive and accepting environment for those currently employed, and entice applicants that are searching for companies that hold these standards high.