Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
Understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion
While most people know what diversity means, the concept of inclusion requires a different level of understanding. An article in Harvard Business Review, “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion,” explains the difference this way: “In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.
If diversity is a mix of people with different characteristics, backgrounds, abilities, experiences, and perspectives, an inclusive workplace takes diversity to the next level by involving marginalized or underrepresented people in the organization’s operations and leadership. Managers who act inclusively invite and listen to underrepresented voices and encourage interactions between different groups, departments, job titles, and management levels.
Raising awareness of unconscious bias
Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias or hidden bias, poses a serious roadblock to DE&I. Either favorable or unfavorable, unconscious bias occurs when people—usually without realizing it—make judgments and take mental shortcuts based on stereotypes about someone’s race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, or other factors. A recent survey by the American Management Association (AMA) on diversity, inclusion, and belonging found that nearly 80 percent of the more than 700 participants admitted to unconscious bias, and nearly 83 percent said they have witnessed unconscious bias by others in the workplace.
Unconscious bias training for all employees, including resume screeners and hiring managers, can raise awareness of different types of unconscious bias and minimize its influence on workplace practices, policies and processes.
Recognizing and addressing micro-aggressions
The concept of microaggressions, which has been familiar in psychology for decades, has become part of the larger conversation around DE&I. Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University and a microaggressions pioneer, describes them as everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to individuals of a marginalized group.
Common examples of microaggressions are telling a person of color they are so articulate, or always interrupting women in meetings or assuming someone’s sexual orientation by their appearance. Often stemming from unconscious bias, these seemingly harmless comments have been compared to death by a thousand cuts and can cause health problems, workplace burnout, and other negative effects. Training helps employees recognize what microaggressions are and how to respond, whether they are on the receiving end, a witness, or have been called out for a microaggression.
Encouraging allyship and bystander intervention
The #MeToo movement brought bystander intervention training to the forefront as one of the most effective ways to stop inappropriate behavior before it crosses the line into illegal harassment. A former commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) called bystander intervention training a potential game changer in the workplace and a positive influence in creating a sense of collective responsibility among employees. Being an active bystander helps diversity and inclusion efforts, too. By teaching different ways to be advocates and allies of co-workers who are targets of bias, microaggressions, and other non-inclusive behavior, employees learn how to show support and empathy for their marginalized or underrepresented co-workers.
Understanding the link between diversity and preventing workplace harassment
Diversity training is also an opportunity for organizations to reinforce anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures and encourage individuals to speak up and report misconduct. A lack of diversity is one of the risk factors for workplace harassment, according to the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. The task force report notes that sexual harassment of women is more likely to occur in organizations where the workforce is primarily male, and racial/ethnic harassment is more likely to occur where one race or ethnicity is predominant.