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Why is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Such a Hot Button Issue?

There are many sensitive issues facing employers today. These issues include unequal pay, workplace harassment, generational inclusion, and flexible or remote freelance work.

One of the most pressing hot button topics is addressing diversity and inclusion, sometimes referred to as D&I. There are myths and misconceptions surrounding D&I which continue to perpetuate the complexity of the issue.

The Pipeline Problem

Employers point to a “pipeline problem” when explaining the lack of diversity in their hiring practices. Laura Gee, assistant professor of economics at Tufts University, characterizes the pipeline problem as, “the belief that there aren’t enough women, people of color, or other individuals from underrepresented groups with the right experience applying for jobs.”

Employer's Guide to Diversity and Inclusion

There are studies that indicate this is not the case. A 2014 report in USA Today found that top universities were producing black and Latin computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading tech companies were hiring them. The pipeline problem is more of a way for companies with non-diverse hiring practices to deflect responsibility and point to external factors.

Gee continues, “A more effective way for a company to tackle the issue is to hire differently. Learn what worked for others and ask whether it’ll work for your company. The changes don’t have to be huge.”

Unconscious Bias is Widespread

People are programmed unconsciously to have a bias toward the similar or familiar. Even the most well-intentioned companies with strong programs in place for diversity and inclusion still have interview and hiring processes, promotion tracks, and employee recognition programs that are run by people. These processes are more subjective than most people realize.

Candice Morgan, head of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest says, “At any company, managers can miss the things that fall outside of process,” such as promotions and recognitions, or continually assigning high profile projects to star performers. “All are reasons we see only incremental changes in the profiles and background of recruits and just modest improvements among underrepresented groups in leadership.”

In order to address diversity and inclusion a company needs to espouse the values of equity every single day and bring about a change to the culture of the business.

The Leadership Mindset

One additional myth that exists with diversity and inclusion is that a hiring manager or recruiter’s ability to be consciously inclusive is a “have” or “have not” scenario.

Jolen Anderson, chief diversity officer and chief counsel, employment and corporate social responsibility at Visa, says, “Inclusion is a competence. It can be learned. You can break it down into a set of teachable behaviors, and you can get better at it with time and practice. It’s a mindset and an intentionality that people should bring to their everyday interaction.”

No All-in-one Solution

Systemic barriers to inclusion are the result of legacies of exclusion that have existed in company cultures. There is no quick solution that exists to change the culture of a company. Businesses must be willing to change the systems, processes and policies they have in place to tackle D&I in the workplace. Those in leadership positions need to set the tone.

Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO of Paradigm suggests that decision-makers must evaluate how people-related decisions are made across the employee lifecycle, from hiring new employees to retaining current ones. “They should revisit assumptions about what talent looks like or where it might exist, and make changes to formal policies, practices, and subtle organizational norms that benefit some people to the detriment of others,” says Emerson.

When looking to add to your workforce, it is helpful to work with a company that understands the hot button issue of diversity and inclusion. If you’re ready to grow your company in a positive and inclusive way, we are ready to help!

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