With the passage of time, the world has moved from the closed economic system to one whose foundation precariously rests on the roots of internationality and globalisation. Multicultural work environments and the ever diversifying labour force have created a stage for stark intersectionality amongst people of an organisation, from top leaders to the frontline workers.
Such dynamism has made diversity in workforce and inclusion of the same not only crucial for social causes but indispensable for the success and growth of a business. Despite its importance D&I practices have been either neglected or sustained at the bare minimum cost by several.
To begin with, diversity is as variedly defined in a social context as it is in a workplace. It encompasses diversity that ranges from simple demographical differences to those in race, ethnicity and sometimes, though contested, neurologically (Affected by contrasting brain functions). Non observable attributes such as socio economic status and literacy level also influences the idea of diversity. Unfortunately, diversity for long has only been seen as a hindrance, a disturbing element, rupturing the perfect homogeneity maintained by the likeminded groups at work. This, despite enough empirical evidence verifying the advantages a diverse working environment in terms of the improvement in organizational performance
The benefits which stand to be accrued should any organisation, no matter how big or small, in the public or private sector, bring together the differences of a diverse crowd, moulding it to emphasis the strengths of creativity and cognitive expansion while reducing the weakness faced due to internal conflicts, are far greater than the risk undertaken. Corroborating with facts, studies such as one conducted of Fortune 500 companies, find that “the top 25% of the firms in terms of women in senior management, actually yielded returns to their stockholders that were more than 30% higher than those of their peers.” Another report by Deloitte observed that if just 10% more employees feel included, the company will increase work attendance by almost one day per year per employee. The report also found that “when employees think their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity and they feel included, they account for better business performance in terms of their ability to innovate, responsiveness to changing customer needs and team collaboration.”
Today, when economies are no more bound by geographical boundaries, organisations have spread their wings and have moved from the domestic markets to the world of international trade and thus have set up offices across nations, employing people with stark contrasts in culture, lifestyle, religion, gender, sexuality etc. To not take any initiative to ensure smooth operations in an environment so created is to ask for trouble, for humans are inclined to various biases and such biases unless proven wrong or corrected shall only come to stand in the way of an organisation’s growth and development.
It has also been proven previously that differences make an organisation more capable and flexible to change. It gives them a competitive advantage when it comes to understanding the local markets, consumer choices and needs and the appropriate way of doing business, and therefore it becomes all the more imperative to push for diversity and inclusion by those wielding the power of change in the workplace. This ranges from top leaders to the everyday employee.
Leaders are in the frontline of duty as they are seen as the change makers, a lack of diversity in leadership positions themselves can set one back in the endeavour for a well-balanced diverse organisation. When there is negligible diversity at the top of the hierarchical structure, it is not impossible to forget the problems of under-representation of minorities in terms of gender, race and otherwise, as with a dominant class in place, the power play can become overbearing, not to mention that for the privileged class it can be difficult to show empathy and sympathy. For example, white managers and CEO’s who are usually men, may not be able to grasp at the discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices hurled at a member from a minority group, intentionally or unintentionally. The lack of women and ethnic minorities in leadership roles factors into various issues such as that of an uncontrolled wage gap. The apathy shown by such leaders is, more often than not, not due to deliberate malice but rather the ignorance they face when it comes to putting themselves in shoes of someone they don’t believe to be discriminated against. Hence it is an important necessity for leaders and managers to be aware and conscious of their own shortcomings and lack of depth, in doing so they can predict and separate the cases for unintentional and intentional exclusion of their diverse employees.
Simultaneously, it is required to differentiate between the superficial and real efforts of any organisations to promote diversity especially by surveying smaller firms which may not see commercial benefit in so much as even slightly contributing to diversity. To elucidate, women, often, are kept within the companies with no real plan for forwarding their career, just as poster girls for a good reputation of the organisation. This is far more harmful than complete absence of diversity and thus must be rooted out of the contemporary scene of workplaces, which is only possible though the proactive participation of employees who can compel the top leaders of an organisation to play their hand at D&I fairly with concrete policies and regulations.
D&I needs to be allocated a proper budget wholly supporting an informed and proper strategy as the case for managing diversity and ensuring inclusion is far more complex than it seems at a first glance. In all, should organizations wish to become thought leaders in their industries or in the business sector as a whole it is imperative that they start shouldering the responsibility of a diverse workforce, managing it, maintaining it and finally, assimilating it with the organization, its employees and its core structure by building proper diversity programs and diversity management systems.