Diversity & Inclusion - The Wave it Moves

Joana Pinheiro - May 6, 2021
There is a trend emerging very fast in companies' ecosystems - Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programs.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging sound familiar to you? Have you heard about those topics in your company or discussed them with your coworkers?

If not, soon that wave will knock you!

It’s possible to link some social movements around racism and gender inequality to be the driver pushing this topic into companies’ agendas. The 2020 year had intense events that, unfortunately, created an opportunity for social media to highlight discrimination and inequality but, still that might have contributed to boosting the speed of the D&I’s wave.

However, the discussion and programs around those topics are not new. For example, non-profit organizations, already include in their missions the idea of promoting social inclusion through interculturality, gender equality, employability, etc.

In 2010, the European Union created The EU Platform of Diversity Charters - “Diversity Charters encourage organizations (NGOs, public bodies, private companies…) to develop and implement diversity and inclusion policies” - a place to exchange and share good practices.
The Reason Behind
Maybe you are asking yourself, why are companies starting to worry about that? Companies aware of how important their employees are to business success and want to attract and/or retain talent are developing D&I programs and increasing innovation practices. In my perspective, I would say also, there is an increasing awareness of the importance to respect each other, to live a better and happier life, with family, friends and at the workplace with our colleagues.

The purpose of these programs is to create safe and happy workplaces where everyone feels embraced and respected.

This is a serious business! Yes, it is necessary to create a business case, understanding the need (why this company needs a D&I program) and then create a strategy. It also involves renewing the HR practices, cultural issues, recruitment process, developing training programs, creating communication plans and evaluating programs.

Companies are also recruiting for D&I roles, such as managers or specialists. Moreover, it is possible to find an extensive range of industries embracing the cause, such as recruiting, computer software, consumer goods, education, hospitality, cosmetics, law firms, non-profit organizations, utilities, etc.
Goals and Challenges
When a company implements a D&I program, it can have different goals such as: promote gender equality, build a positive culture intergenerational teams or promote employee diversity as a value (diversity comes in many shapes e.g. gender, disability, ethnicity, race, religion, family status, and so on).

Implementing D&I programs comes with many challenges, it is a journey of trial and error. At first sight, it requires building buy-in, leaders and employees must want it; secondly, but not less important, it involves an understanding of what exactly means inclusion and diversity for the different players. Of course, the results will be a melting pot of points of view!

Let’s say we want to avoid bias against LGBTI workers in our companies, should we encourage the creation of an LGBTI forum to promote the inclusion of that specific group, or should we promote diversity and inclusion by prescribing the valuation of individuality instead of group-based initiatives? If we want to promote gender equality at the workplace, should we create programs and prizes specific to women, or should we develop educational programs or campaigns demystifying women’s roles and capabilities? Check the video example bellow:

Mindspace campaign

I believe both options are valid depending on the context and situation. For instance, we can choose group-based initiatives in an initial stage to increase the confidence and self-esteem of a specific excluded group while we develop a comprehensive educational program to promote inclusion. I personally would choose the option in accordance to what inclusion and diversity mean for me and for the ones involved. But, as I said before, there isn’t a fixed rule.

Although challenging to implement a D&I program, there is good news! As a society, we are pushing these changes in our companies, reviewing the values, and the way we work in a direction that encourages people to be authentic, celebrates diverse voices and allows people to be happier!

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