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Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Costly Diversity Mistakes Your Company is Making

When implementing D&I-friendly policies, companies tend to overlook several important areas and measures. These mistakes usually fall into two categories: either overlooking certain diverse groups and populations or failing to focus on more than just increasing minority representation. The first mistake is generally a product of not understanding the different types of diversity and how they intersect. In contrast, the second tends to stem from the lack of a holistic approach when creating and implementing policies. Both issues can also arise when diversity and inclusion are viewed as just a box to check, rather than a vital and beneficial aspect of a successful business.

Overlooking less-prominent minority groups stems not from ill will, but from a lack of education about what precisely diversity entails. Diversity is not just race, ethnicity, or gender, but instead, a broad concept, including those who are veterans, belong to a non-dominant religion, have disabilities, are neuro-atypical, or are closeted LGBTQ+ individuals, for example. Recognizing and supporting all kinds of diversity is essential. The following are some steps your organization can take:

  • Focus on relevant minority groups: in the U.S., a company might focus on racial diversity, while in India, diversity of caste and religion could be prioritized.

  • Create space for everyone to share their experiences: we all have different life experiences and challenges. Respecting other's differences and ensuring that all employees receive targeted support is essential.

  • Increase the representation of minority groups that are often left unrecognized. At conferences and in meetings, ensure that everyone is given space to be heard, not just those with visible diversity. Representation should not be limited to race and gender only.

Understanding what diversity encompasses is essential, but knowing how to create and maintain an inclusive work environment is just as crucial. Hiring people from all backgrounds is critical, but it's only a first step. For all employees to have equity and equality of opportunity, they must be supported. For example, the attrition rate of minority and female employees is much higher than that of those belonging to majority groups. This indicates that minority employees face discrimination, prejudice, and other additional challenges to success that more privileged employees don't have. Thankfully, by focusing on easing pressure points for minority employees, you can remove barriers and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Some possible steps include:

  • Sharing diversity data with shareholders and the public. Having outside pressure can ensure your company stays accountable to its D&I goals.

  • Ensuring technology and algorithms aren't discriminatory. Bias is often unintentionally embedded in code or filtering tools, so pre-deployment testing and regular audits are necessary to ensure your tech is helping your D&I efforts, not hindering them.

  • Avoiding tokenism. Resist the pressure to spotlight small and existing pockets of diversity, and instead, focus on providing visibility for all groups and individuals.

  • Safeguarding against unconscious bias in the hiring process by removing gender and race from job applications.

  • Getting managers involved with D&I planning and implementation. Their knowledge is a valuable resource when tailoring policies to the specific needs of your company.

The take away: when implementing strategies for improving diversity and inclusion in your organization, look beyond the basic categories of “diversity” and take a holistic, intersectional approach that goes beyond recruiting and hinges on positive cultural change.

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