The Value of Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

August 19, 2021
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Author: Mike Scherpenberg

Diversity Factors with a Focus on Gender Identity

Both inclusion and diversity are vital to a successful workplace in the 21st century. Inclusion is defined as an environment that values its workers’ individualism and differences and no one feels left out or isolated. An inclusive work environment is one where all workers feel safe and valued regardless of factors such as their beliefs, values, gender, sexual orientation, age or race and everyone has equal access to opportunities.

Perhaps one of the greatest diversity issues to emerge in recent years is the changing views of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In such an environment, employees are more likely to contribute and collaborate. Business outcomes include more innovation, new ideas and creative problem solving, which result in higher individual commitment to success for the organization, better team morale, improved individual physical and mental health and reduced employee turnover. Ultimately, the organization thrives by producing better quality products and services and nets higher profits and improved customer satisfaction.

When examining individual diversity, there are several factors to consider, such as race and national origin, age, physical and mental ability, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Race and Ethnicity Diversity

Race and ethnicity (or national origin) are often the first things that come to mind when discussing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. There are many things that an organization can do to not only address racism within the organization but proactively work to prevent it, which strengthens the diversity of your talent and fosters an inclusive work environment.

Leveraging diverse job boards that focus on hiring minorities provides a fair chance at job opportunities for candidates that might be otherwise overlooked.

Many organizations represent Hispanic and African Americans in the workforce. Partnering with such groups helps provide insight and sources for a well-represented staff.

Offer focused internships and mentorships with the same diversity goals.

Set up a diversity council and celebrate cultural differences in your office as well as rewarding referrals that help strengthen your workplace’s diversity.

Clearly state diversity objectives in your mission statement and career pages on your website as well as provide ongoing diversity training.

Implement strong anti-discrimination policies.

Age Diversity

Ageism is the act of discriminating in the workplace against someone based on their age. This could include actions such as refusing to hire, promote or provide training or benefits based on the age of an employee. Likewise, deciding which staff members to lay off or firing an employee based on their age is also an example of ageism.

Anyone over the age of 40 is protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Besides complying with the law, as an employer, you can help fight ageism in your organization by addressing it in diversity training alongside other issues.

Help older employees feel part of the team by including them in projects, encouraging them to participate in mentoring programs, selecting them for committees, and seeking their unique insights during discussions and collaborations.

Ability Diversity

Many organizations are making a point to reach out to those who are differently abled, whether physically or mentally, to expand their diversity efforts. This includes not only meeting ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance but exceeding these standards. Employers can be proactive by modifying job descriptions and accommodating disabilities with customized solutions specific to individual needs.

Gender Diversity

Gender is a significant trending issue in the workplace. This encompasses the ongoing effort to uplift women to equal standing with men in the workplace and the more recent acknowledgment of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Women in the Workplace

Equal pay and closing the gender pay gap to ensure that all employees are paid fairly and equally is an area that has received ongoing attention for many years. Having set salaries for positions and providing some level of pay transparency can offer consistency and eliminate unfairness.

Hiring more women for jobs outside of traditional female occupations, providing mentorships and promotional opportunities for women can also help build a diverse and inclusive staff. Working with organizations that promote women in the workplace can also foster a diverse and level playing field.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Workplace

Perhaps one of the greatest diversity issues to emerge in recent years is the changing views of sexual orientation and gender identity.

While not new, the idea of gender identity is one of growing importance to younger people who are increasingly taking the view that gender and sexual orientation are synonymous and that there are more than two categories. As younger people are joining the workforce, their views are also integrating into mainstream society and becoming a growing segment in the consumer market.

The LGBTQ segment is also growing as its own demographic. It is vital for companies to not only understand how to engage this group from a marketing perspective but to include them in the diversity of their organizations and recognize their value along with other groups. By providing an inclusive environment internally, companies will also gain the benefits of understanding and meeting the needs of those who identify beyond traditional gender roles in the marketplace.

One of the reasons understanding and including this new segment of the workforce is so crucial is the long-term impact it will have on all facets of our society. Everything from sports to consumer products and clothing, dating, the military, correctional institutions, and restrooms have traditionally been defined by two genders.

Inclusiveness will be key for organizations to gain insights into the societal and marketplace changes occurring now and, in the future, and to retain access to this portion of the talent pool. There is no better way to understand them than through employees who identify and belong to these groups who use an alternate identity from their gender assigned at birth.

There are several crucial points to understanding the LGBTQ culture. The first is to recognize the use of pronouns. Many people now identify as ‘non-binary’ or see themselves as neither male nor female. Some social media platforms such as Facebook have been proactive in inclusiveness by providing dozens of gender identities beyond the traditional male and female. For many people, providing an option of “other” isn’t enough.

Thus, recognizing and understanding the use of preferred pronouns is another vital element to inclusiveness for your organization. There is a push from supporters to make preferred pronouns and gender identity a standard part of introductions that go beyond providing a name when meeting new people. Likewise, including pronouns on job applications, medical records, school and company directories, and other profiles is standard for many organizations with this cultural shift.

Another important view is the idea that sexual orientation and gender identity are fluid and can change with time. This means individuals may alter their preferred pronouns and how they view themselves and how they wish to be perceived by others. The crucial takeaway is that those who identify as a different gender may take offense to someone assuming their pronouns or identity. It is vital to enable employees and customers to be able to update which pronouns they prefer.

As gender identity continues to evolve, it is critical that diversity training remains up to date with the latest trends. Like other groups, the LGBTQ community, diverse in itself, has a unique perspective and can bring inclusiveness and value to your organization.

Getting Diversity and Inclusion Right

Not only does organizational diversity help a company to succeed and meet regulations, but in today’s environment, its employees and the world will assess the company based on how it manages its diversity and inclusion. It is crucial to stay current and maintain an inclusive environment to ensure that your organization meets the needs of its employees and embraces a rich diversity.

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