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Equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. There has never been a more significant time than right now to be talking about diversity initiatives and fostering a culture of inclusivity. We are living in an era where diverse groups have a voice to be heard and the opportunity to engage people in spaces that were at one time, laden with barriers. As we look towards the future of the workplace, companies all around the country have made a commitment to improve diversity and reframe their company values to champion new voices from diverse backgrounds. A diverse workforce brings numerous strengths to any team, no matter what size. Diversity efforts should always begin with asking the tough questions; by asking these questions, we challenge outdated ideas of what it means to be an inclusive culture, and strengthen our teams with diverse talent that bring unique perspectives, life-experiences, and skills. Well in this blog post, I aim to do just that: ask the hard questions. Key questions help us define problems, brainstorm ideas, re-evaluate inclusion efforts, and bring the conversation about equity and inclusion down to a personal level that develops our own unique beliefs, culture, and challenges.

What is equity? What is inclusion?

What does it mean when we say “create equity within the workplace”? Equity is defined as the concept of fairness and justice in the application or distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges. Fostering equity means to acknowledge that individuals have different backgrounds, circumstances, culture, and provide every team member with the resources they need to achieve success. In the workplace, equity ensures that every member of the team has access to the same opportunities and benefits regardless of socioeconomic background, culture, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. When we seek to create a more equitable environment, that may involve implementing new policies and procedures that address systemic barriers such as unconscious biases, discrimination, and legacy practices that do a disservice to historically marginalized groups. Inclusion is the practice of fostering a workplace that ensures all employees feel valued, respected, and included regardless of any different perspectives or backgrounds. It develops from diversity in the sense that rather than focusing solely on representation, inclusion initiatives seek to recruit, develop, and maintain team members from diverse backgrounds while ensuring active participation and contribution to the workplace culture.

What does it mean to foster an inclusive culture?

Think about what it means to create an inclusive place? What does it look like to you? To some, it may be a space where all ideas are allowed to be heard and respected. To others, it may be a space to openly discuss challenges and gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of others on your team. However it looks to you, an inclusive environment in the workplace involves providing training on inclusion and diversity, creating a space of open communication and mutual respect, asking questions of the team to gain a clear understanding of each member as an individual, and implementing policies that protect from discrimination and harassment based on group identity. Importantly, inclusion initiatives should — rather, they demand — active participation and support from workplace leaders that prioritize the well being of all team members. Inclusive practices must be championed by team leaders.

What are the challenges to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace can come with unique barriers that organizations may not always be aware of. While it is essential for creating a positive and inclusive work environment that value unique perspectives, there are several new challenges that organizations may face, such as:

Unconscious bias:

these are deeply-ingrained beliefs or assumptions about others that influence decision-making, such as biases based on race, gender, or class. They are unconscious because most individuals are not even aware that these beliefs are influencing them, making them difficult to solve.

Lack of awareness:

employees may not be aware of the importance of improving diversity and inclusion, and may not understand how their actions and attitudes lead to long term consequences for a diverse team.

Resistance to change:

some employees may actively resist or express hostility towards diversity and inclusion practices. Providing education and demonstrating the benefits of a company’s diversity is crucial.

Ineffective leaders:

like many things in a company culture, if support is not felt from the higher levels, progress can be stalled on all fronts. Effective diversity and inclusion practices are only as effective as the amount of support given by all team members, especially leaders.

Lack of representation:

when there is a shortage of diverse faces in leadership positions, it can signal to new employees that certain groups do not have equal opportunities for achieving higher status.

Discrimination in the interview process:

a discriminatory hiring process may involve some form of nepotism, favoring candidates from exceptionally high socioeconomic means, favoring candidates of a certain identity, among others. HR professionals are the forefront of re-examining existing hiring practices such that they ensure they are hiring candidates through equitable and inclusive lenses. These challenges vary between company and organization, and there is no perfect one-size-fits-all approach. At the heart of it, the executive team in any company must gather an accurate assessment of the typical employee experience, and how diversity and inclusion practices are being implemented to improve team success and commitment to excellence.

Why is it important to champion diversity and inclusion initiatives?

If there is one key concept I want you to take away from today’s post, it’s that change and directed progress towards a more inclusive environment benefits everyone throughout your organization. The future of the workplace is growth, innovation, and invention, and these are only made more powerful through the addition of employees that offer unique perspectives and skills. Diverse groups in companies are more likely to consider a wider range of solutions and options when faced with decisions, leading to a more well-rounded and effective outcome. Moreover, a more inclusive environment that prioritizes diversity equips organizations with the ability to better understand the global marketplace. Now is a time of rapid expansion that knows no borders, and international business has quickly become the new normal. Having a diverse workplace enables companies to better serve their diverse customer base, understanding them on a more personal level that reflects the changing market. Furthermore, when a company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives work, they attract and retain a broader range of talent while improving morale and engagement among current employees. When employees feel respected, valued, and heard, they are far more likely to stay engaged in their work, and bring their best selves to the team. More enticing, a McKinsey & Company study provided evidence for the claim that diversity translates to greater financial returns — the results showed that companies in the top 25% for racial/ethnic and gender diversity were 25-36% more likely to have better financial returns. The idea that diversity and inclusion efforts waste employees’ time and organizations’ money is simply wrong; diverse companies are, at the heart of it, far more likely to see more financial gains.


All in all, championing diversity and inclusion is not an easy task given the sheer amount of unique individual perspectives every employee and client brings with them. But with an open mind, a commitment to equity, and a willingness to examine our own biases by asking thought provoking questions about diversity and inclusion, we create a more vibrant and successful workplace for all. 

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