People from all over the world are joining hands to extend support and express their feelings for Black Lives Matter movement. As more and more protesters crowd the streets of the United states, it is our responsibility to call out systemic racism prevalent across the globe. In these times of distress, Diversity, and Inclusion (D&I) must dominate the dialogue to gauge where we currently stand. But before we even begin to evaluate our current situation, let us understand what diversity actually means…
Diversity is all around us. If you look at our natural surroundings, you will start noticing how each component, each atom, each particle that forms this universe, no matter big or small, plays a critical function to maintain ecological balance. But can we safely assume that only one species can perform all the vital functions in our ecosystem?
“Not only is the world more complex than we think it is, the world is more complex than we are able to think it is.” – David Ehrenfeld
Just like our biodiversity, no two individuals you meet will have the same role in your life. Similarly, organizations in today’s world need to start valuing the uniqueness each employee brings to their workplace. However, most of the organizations misunderstand promoting diversity with achieving gender balance in their workforce.
We, at Serein, believe that diversity goes way beyond gender. It signifies embracing differences and enabling people from diverse backgrounds by giving them access to opportunities to contribute their part and make their voices heard without any fear of stigmatization.
Creating a diverse workforce is only one part of the equation, organizations need to build an inclusive workplace to make sure that the diverse employees work well together . Crossing the bridge from diversity to inclusion requires acknowledging that structural and systemic biases exist, and that these factors will not vanish just by recruiting employees from diverse backgrounds. An inclusive workplace values an individual’s identity and encourages the relationship between cultural identity and work (Puritty et. al, 2017). Closer employees are to their authentic selves, the more productive and committed they are at work.
We all are driven by our culture while taking decisions, likewise, people around us evaluate our actions based on their cultures. This may give birth to unintentional misunderstandings. This is especially significant to address in today’s virtual work set-up and primarily in an Indian work setting where diversity is not just limited to inheritance or class/caste divisions, but it also encompasses a diversity of languages, cultures, choice of livelihoods, careers, knowledge systems, values, beliefs, and practices. Another challenge we face is social exclusion of our rich diversity in almost every industry. This is further widened owing to limited access to education and skills and consequently few opportunities for employment to some marginalized communities. To resolve this, our higher education must reflect the richness of this diversity by being socially inclusive (UNESCO, 2018). Institutional strategies should focus on arresting this loss of our young talented individuals which could lead to other deprivations by limiting their access to the good life or the means to acquire it (Sen, 2000).
Even with an intrinsically motivated effort to build inclusive workplaces, organizations in India fall short at the execution level. For instance, there are policies such as flexible working hours and remote work, but such policies are associated with implicit biases observed when employees who use these options are bracketed in stereotypes. To demonstrate true inclusion, companies need to sensitize supervisors, leaders and every other entity in the organization to the point where every work policy created to accommodate and integrate unique identities employees bring to work is seen as an imperative for inclusive culture rather than as a favour to a section of employees belonging to marginalized communities.
It is time to create space for uncomfortable conversations to develop inclusive leaders and teams. However, it should be noted that D & I is not achieved by giving ‘freedom of speech’ to all, its understanding goes much deeper than that. It means making everyone welcome to express their opinion but discouraging expression that promotes exclusion at the same time.
Although, there is no single antidote that all kinds of industries can use to achieve an inclusive work environment. Below are some general insights and best practices for inclusive workplaces.
- Close the gap between theory and practice: make inclusion a fabric intricately woven within your organizations culture
- Have an unified definition of ‘inclusion’ and be vocal about it
- Before taking any people related decision answer: Who does not feel like they belong?
- Create a safe space for having uncomfortable conversations to resolve conflicts
- Be compassionate while listening to your employee’s issues
- Do not underestimate the importance of demographic diversity by justifying ‘diversity of thought’ amongst your board members or Internal Committee
- Following ‘freedom of speech’ for all may encourage bullying and promote exclusion. Keep these biases in check.
For Educational Institutions:
- The recruitment policy for elementary teachers should promote an increased intake of teachers from historically excluded groups such as women, Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes, religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities, etc. (UNESCO, 2018):
- Maintaining diversity in the teacher workforce is considered crucial to create inclusive schools.
- Diverse teachers can serve as powerful role models for diverse students, potentially motivating them to strive further in their achievements.
- Diversity is not just about achieving gender balance at workplace
- Diversity is incomplete without adding Inclusion to the equation
- Aim to integrate multiple identities individuals bring to work such as: racial, cultural, ethnic, gender, socio-economic class, generational, race, sexual orientation, education, disability, mental health, citizenship status
- Everyone must feel valued, listened to, and respected in the organization without stigma or stereotypes
- Focused approach to create educational opportunities for individuals belonging to marginalized communities
- Higher education must reflect the diversity of Indian society by being socially inclusive
Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of gender awareness, diversity, inclusion and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build an inclusive and safer work cultures and diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias trainings face-to-face or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH )training (in India, South East Asia and the US) reach out to email@example.com