When the Diversity & Inclusion Hits Different
I work out (almost) every morning before heading to the office. As I'm sure many of you do, I find it very stress-relieving and an extremely productive way to start my day. At the end of every workout, I try to make my way to the sauna for a nice stretch and typically some light networking and conversation.
This morning, I told a few folks about the blog post I was writing and the topic. (This is something I am very passionate about!) As I explained my piece, a guy I've never had the chance to speak with chimed in rather quickly.
"I don't mean to eavesdrop, but you must work at Nationwide?"
I replied, "No, I don't… Why do you ask?" * Wondering to myself, is this about to be another, "You look like this guy…?"*
He replied, "Well, I heard you say, "Diversity and Inclusion"... That is a big initiative there!"
"Diversity and Inclusion" is a buzz phrase you will hear almost anywhere you turn in any setting, especially a professional one. Essentially, "Diversity and Inclusion" (or D&I) is an effort to empower all people regardless of race, national origin, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or even their educational background. It is an attempt to make everyone feel included, as they are.
As you can imagine, I was slightly taken back by the gentleman's assumption because surely, he has heard the term somewhere other than work? He had to have? But then again, maybe he hadn't? Which could be one of the many reasons it is so necessary in the corporate world?
As most may think it's a given, one would think D&I isn't something we must try hard to do. Unfortunately, it is not. It is quite the opposite. Without going down a rabbit hole, know: The Racial Wealth Gap is real. Overall, women only make 83 cents to every dollar that a man makes-. Many people within the LGTBQ community still hide their identity within the workplace. Everfi notes that over 53% of people aren't comfortable with their colleagues knowing they're gay or queer. African American men and women STILL have issues within the workplace wearing their hair naturally and don't even let me get started on what is deemed "acceptable" or "professional" hairstyles. So, in short, neither diversity nor inclusion are anywhere near "givens" within the workplace. Both are something we as a society must continue to make an effort to improve on!
One thing I think is crucial is how D&I should look. Many efforts fall short in this space by primarily offering women and people of color (among others) entry-level positions to meet a quota or check a box. In the industry of Information Technology, this is almost always the play. Although it is imperative to find under-represented talent within the IT community, we can't stop there!
There must be women in managerial positions and overall positions of leadership. There must be more architect level and above people of color. We need more LGTBQ leaders leading the way! Then, and only then, can D&I be considered a success.
Too often, board rooms and decision-makers all look the same. If you are a leader, CEO, or President, and you are in a leadership meeting, and you look around and see the majority of the people in the room are white, straight men… your company (you're likely very proud of) isn't diverse!
If men, on average, make more money than women in your organization for doing the same or similar job… Yep, you guessed it… Your company is not diverse. You know what comes next if you can think of "the exception" to these hypothetical scenarios. Your company is not that diverse! It doesn't mean the efforts aren't there; it simply means there is room for necessary improvement.
D&I is not just the right thing to do; it makes organizations more productive and will make more people want to work for them and stay! A pain point every industry is currently experiencing, especially in IT. Buy-in typically happens only after positive results are shown or delivered. Studies show many benefits to having a diverse and inclusive workplace. Great Places to Work says the benefits of D&I include:
Higher revenue growth
Greater readiness to innovate
Increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool
5.4 times higher employee retention
They also note that inclusion alone is the single most important key to retaining top-tier professional talent. When people feel included or feel their voice is heard, they stay put! It is that simple.
Great Places to Work goes on to say that when employees trust that they, and their colleagues, are treated fairly, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, they look forward to going to work and have more pride in their output.
When I was looking for my next opportunity about a year ago, I promised myself that my next workplace wouldn't only be one that would help me further my career professionally but one where I'd feel comfortable being my true self. I enjoy being who I am, and I was no longer interested in having to hide the things I was most passionate about and the things I truly enjoyed! I wanted to feel comfortable in my Air Jordan "Banned" 1's, and I wanted to speak freely about anything from social injustices to EDM music festivals; without feeling judged. I wanted to see women in leadership positions and work with a diverse group of folks from all different backgrounds, with common goals to help one another achieve success!
If you've followed me on any social network, you know I never hesitate to give the highest praise to the company I am currently building with, Agility Partners! We are diverse, and we include everyone, and in return, our successes directly feed off it! I couldn't be prouder of our group, and I look forward to us continuing to lead the way and set the example of how D&I should look! Simply put, Diverse, and Inclusive!
D&I will continue to be a hot topic in the workforce and a key indicator for retaining talent and an organization's overall success! So, how does your organization measure up when not just talking the talk but also walking the walk? Are there things your company does that you feel good about? Are there other areas for improvement? How can your organization foster an inclusive work environment if we know what we know about what D&I does for overall success?