Diversity is definitely the word of the millennium! But what does diversity actually mean? What does it include? Why are we talking about Diversity and inclusion? This may seem like questioning the obvious, but because we talk a lot about Diversity in our business, I see that people have different perceptions of diversity. So, allow me to brush a broad picture of what diversity encompasses.
Diversity implies diverse cultures. Diverse cultural groups, to be exact, which some may refer to as visible minorities. No matter what word we use to describe cultural cohorts, Diversity typically includes the following:
- Gender diversity which includes women and the LGBTQ+ community;
- Ethnic Diversity which encompasses ethnicities, nationalities, and BIPOC, an acronym coined to regroup Black, Indigenous and People of Color;
- Different generations which include Baby Boomers, people of generations X, Y (millennials), Z, and any other groups organized by age;
- People with physical or mental disabilities; Organizational differences, which refer to roles, professions or even department;
- Social reference groups, which include any gatherings around a common interest such as religion, but also video gamers or other fan groups.
This list is not by any means exhaustive. It demonstrates how diversity encompasses a wide range of diverse cultural groups. The diversity challenge lies in how they relate with one another and beyond.
We’ve just painted the broad strokes of diversity, but it is a continuously evolving concept. Over time, the collective “we” realized that diversity addressed only one side of a multi-sided coin and that we could not consider diversity without considering inclusion.
Diversity and inclusion
Imagine a bunch of multicoloured pieces of a puzzle that need to be assembled to fit perfectly together and create a masterpiece. This is kind of how diversity and inclusion work. In this metaphor, you will likely have guessed that the multicoloured puzzle pieces represent diversity and how inclusion is necessary to turn the pieces into a masterpiece.
Here is another metaphor I find compelling to explain the dual concept: Diversity is about counting the numbers, and inclusion is about making the numbers count. A more cerebral approach but efficient, nonetheless. For those who operate in the human resource space, one could say that Diversity is about hiring while inclusion is about retaining.
Over time, diversity and inclusion became so interconnected that we no longer talk about diversity without inclusion – hence the emergence of its now ubiquitous acronym, D&I.
The D&I concept evolved yet again to include the notion of equity. Some may refer to equality, which in a sense, is not necessarily wrong but to shed a bit of light, let’s look at the difference between equality and equity.
Equality vs Equity
Equality refers to applying equal rights, equal standards, and equal rules for all. We can observe this notion in action in the workplace when we address challenges such as equal pay or equal promotion opportunities.
Equity is about being fair and just according to individual needs. For example, equity in the workplace can materialize as preventive leave for pregnant women, which provides fairness without equality to men, for example, who don’t need such a rule.
So, Diversity became Diversity and inclusion, or D&I, which then became Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI. Recently, “B” for “Belonging” is slowly attempting to carve its rightful space in the multicultural space. A constantly evolving concept indeed!
A quick word on diversity training
Diversity, or D&I or DEI training is like building a skyscraper: it’s a long-term project which requires multiple trades. We can also compare the endeavour to preparing for and running a marathon. Whichever metaphor floats your boat!
A solid DEI training program will include courses, workshops and coaching sessions to address specialties such as cultural intelligence, unconscious bias, gender equity, empathetic leadership, inclusive communications, etc.
However, before jumping onto the training bandwagon, organizations must know where they stand on the matter first. They need to know where they stand on the diversity conversation – is it just beginning or firmly engaged.
Organizations also need to identify and understand what THEIR diversity challenges are. Each organization and perhaps even each division or department within the organization may face different challenges. These may have to do with staff constitution, geographic locations or even business issues such as foreign market development.
Engaging the conversation at all levels, gathering information through surveys, and assessing cultural intelligence levels within are critical steps that will help organizations build a roadmap to develop a SUSTAINABLE discrimination-free organization.
Hopefully, we’ve clarified a few notions to help make sense of diversity, an absolutely unavoidable notion today in any field or industry. One thing to remember: diversity, equity and inclusion is an ever-evolving concept but one that can no longer be relegated to the back seat of priorities.
To further explore DEI training, see our exclusive program Fostering Diversity in the Organization.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash