Diversity and inclusion is a very broad topic that covers many types of diversity, it can mean a lot of things. Everyone and even different diversity authorities would define it differently. We always ask: What does Diversity Mean? and we got the full properly “definition of Diversity” type of answer, but we seldom ask “What does Diversity mean to YOU or ME?” as a person, or as a professional yourselves. Similar to topics like happiness or successes, diversity means different things to different people professionally and personally.
In this post, I have asked the simple question of “What does Diversity mean to you?” to business leaders, academics, HR professionals, D&I thought leaders and BIPOC. The post is grouping the responses by their self-claimed roles and not in any particular orders.
What does Diversity mean to Business Leaders?
Mark Condon, CEO, and Founder of Shotkit : Part of cultural intelligence includes recognizing that people from diverse backgrounds have different ways of looking at and solving problems, doing business, and purchasing goods and services. It helps organizations understand their customers, and increases customer and employee engagement much better than any survey or market research could.
William Taylor is the Career Development Manager at VelvetJobs: In my experience most business leaders see diversity as an HR objective. Most leaders, thankfully, are for a more diverse workplace but believe that HR should be advocates and drive this matter in the business. But I see diversity as a business imperative that is one of the key success factors. A diverse company is proven to perform better so why shouldn’t the whole company, especially management, drive diversity? So, for me, diversity equals success and should therefore be considered a priority in any business.
Eduard Klein CEO of eduardklein.com: Why are we in this day and age still debating whether or not diversity is a good thing or not? Whether or not women or people of color should be at the top of the management chain? It completely bewilders me when I get asked about the benefits of diversity because that should be common sense to all of us. If you recruit and hire the same cookie-cutter job applications, you will receive the same results as you always have been getting. But once you dig deep down into the applicant pool and start recruiting a diverse range of applicants, you’ll see an increase in innovation and thought processes.
Jonathan Bass, the Chief Executive Officer and owner of Whomhome.com: Diversity should not only be recognized in race, religion, or upbringing, but also in education, point of view, and life experiences. Creating a diverse company culture gives you a unique advantage in the marketplace to create products that appeal to a diverse community. It increases innovation by having a multitude of different people with different backgrounds lean into a conversation. Brainstorming, idea generation, creativity is always enhanced with diverse input. If everybody in the room only likes gray and white and all your products will be reflective of a gray and white motif. Diversity brings color to product development and innovation. Ultimately the benefit of a diverse workplace is not just doing the right thing but bringing a differentiation of thought. A mistake in leading a diverse workplace is not allowing the true color of diversity to reflect on the outcome and decision process in the boardroom.
Ashwin Sokke, co-founder of WOW Skin Science: To me, diversity is the recognition of different genders, races, ages, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and education and implementing it as a massive advantage in a business structure. At WOW, it is important that each new employee matches the company’s core values but also offers a new set of unique skills, perspectives, and experiences. At my company, the beginning stages of developing a system of hiring are focused on diversity and inclusivity. Furthermore, we offer diversity training that demonstrates to employees how to adopt diversity through inclusion efforts and team exercises. Lastly, we promote the implemented culture of diversity initiatives on social media, career pages, and print content, which attracts more diverse future candidates in part making our business more diverse.
Najeeb Khan from Council.club: As Head of Remote & People at Council.Club, diversity means everyone’s voice is heard and there’s equal opportunity. It can be difficult to change if there’s no way to measure it, but we’ve built an internal remote-team building tool to help make sure that everyone has their fair chance in speaking. We can see how active some speakers are vs others in a meeting and making sure all voices are heard.
Bill Flynn: Diversity, for me, is cognitive in nature primarily, as it relates to building healthy and thriving organizations. Identity diversity is an important contributing factor as it often leads to cognitive diversity but not always. For instance, you can hire a mix of gender, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, etc, but if they are all upper class income going to Ivy league schools, the diversity of thought may be lacking. I have come to believe that the main outcome of diversity is insight, innovation and creativity. We not longer live in the world of Frederick Winslow Taylor and Sir Francis Galton. Routinized work is being swallow up by software, robots and machine learning. I believe that in order to foster an innovative workforce, it must have cognitive diversity. To do that, you must first have inclusion and in order to have inclusion, you must foster a growth mindset within yourself and your teams.
Michelle Devani, Founder of lovedevan: As the founder and relationship adviser of my company where I can meet a lot of different people and be able to learn from all walks of life, diversity means a lot. I believe we are all diverse in the way we think as we have different thoughts, beliefs, and values that are shaped by the difference in culture, religion, and background. And I often hear that diversity and inclusion in the workplace are hot topics everywhere as it is a critical part of a growing organizational culture. But we must learn new ways to promote diversity and inclusion to shape a workplace culture that grows even in the most unpredictable company situations as they influence factors that impact our company culture.
Samantha Moss, Editor & Content Ambassador at Romantific: We all have our own definitions of what diversity is and we all have our own understanding of what a diverse and inclusive workplace is. But, I am certain that we all want to work in a company where there are diversity and inclusion. I am currently working with a team in a company and I can say that our company really cares about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
For me (Samantha Moss), a workplace truly is diverse and inclusive when everyone respects each other’s differences and is given equal opportunities. Every employee should be given the chance to voice out their thoughts and every employee should be provided an opportunity to achieve their career goals. A leader’s effort in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace should not end with hiring diverse employees. A leader should also continuously ensure that everyone in their diverse workforce receives respect and feels comfortable.
Scot J Chrisman, founder and CEO at THE MEDIA HOUSE (http://themediahouse.co):As the owner of a business that has already scaled and is continuously scaling, being remote gave me the opportunity to hire people from all across the globe, from all races and places. And so when I hear diversity, what I hear is that I should not confine my hiring standards into a box that’s limited. I should go far and beyond to find the best talent, no matter where they are or what color their skin is. I hear that I am doing a great job and that I shouldn’t stop.
Michelle Enjoli Beato, Founder of Connect: When I think about diversity, I think about a group of individuals diverse in their background, thoughts, experiences and talent that can collectively bring forth new ideas and solve problems. Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace always brings up images of business resource groups that have different missions and are comprised of different groups based on ethnicity, sexual orientation or specific interests. The members of each group get opportunities to connect with each other due to the common interests or background but don’t really provide the opportunity for other professionals who are different to genuinely connect with them. I believe there is an opportunity for change in how diversity and inclusion is approached in the workplace. When I created a business resource group at Mercedes-Benz USA, my goal was to create an all-inclusive environment where our differences could be acknowledged while fostering spaces for connection, professional development and collaboration with each other. The goal of diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be to foster connections between diverse professionals in order to move the business forward. In this arrangement both the employees and business have opportunities for growth.
Andrew Jezic, Founding Partner, Law Offices of Jezic & Moyse: Diversityand inclusion means making invisible members of our society visible from a business-centricstandpoint. D&I means seeking out and welcoming candidates and customerbases that will build company culture with a wide array of influences andpoints of view and who challenge the conscious or unconscious biases that mayexist in a given industry.
Jenna Carson, HR Manager at Music Grotto, https://www.musicgrotto.com: When I read about or discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I often get the feeling that business leaders and organizations see it as a set of criteria that they need to fill to be appealing as a business, a kind of tick-box exercise that causes them more work. I think they’re missing the point completely, and I wish they would see this shift for what it is – an opportunity to do things better and to get all the benefits that a diverse workforce brings. Including everyone in the conversation, and making sure the same opportunities are provided to everyone, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic background, sexuality etc, is the only way to gain the benefits that come from being truly diverse and inclusive. To me, the mindset of seeing diversity and inclusion as something that ‘has’ to be done, needs to change to something that companies simply do because they recognize the value in doing so and it just makes sense.
Crystal Huang ,CEO ProSky:Diversity and Inclusion are both super important to us at ProSky. When a company supports diversity and inclusion, they are actively trying to fight against bias, discrimination, and prejudices. At ProSky, we believe Diversity in the workplace starts from the very beginning with your company’s hiring process. Many recruiting processes fall prey to unconscious bias and stereotypes based on candidate age, gender, race, appearance, etc. even though these have no impact on performance. This is something that absolutely needs to change.
Employees shouldn’t be hired or not hired based on factors beyond their control, but should be hired for their abilities and what they can do for the company. Increase diversity by mitigating bias during the hiring process using techniques like performance-based hiring.
Simon Lyon, Editor of The Sound Junky:In general, diversity refers to understanding a person for the differences that they might have from you. These differences can be based on race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or ideologies. When talking about diversity and inclusion at a workplace, a lot of topics come into one’s mind—starting from equal opportunity for everyone whenever the company is hiring. I have seen instances where people are rejected because their gender didn’t seem to be the right fit for the job. Instead of committing such acts, workplaces should instead focus on promoting diversity and inclusion. The only way to change mindsets is to bring people from different backgrounds together and work with each other every day. This opens up one’s mind, and they start looking at things from a broader perspective. People tend to hate each other based on their beliefs and race and never look past it and try to know the person. Workplaces could ensure they hire people from different backgrounds and bring them together. They would be doing society a huge favor as people will start learning about the importance of diversity and inclusion and how badly it is needed.
Aqsa Tabassam, Brand & SEO Manager at Simpl Fulfillment :Diversity at the workplace means developing an environment where you accept each other’s differences of opinion and appreciates individual contributions anyone makes because of this difference. These contributions are rewarding not only for the employee but for the company as well. From my perspective, diversity is an essential factor in the workplace; it gives an opportunity to bring new concepts, new perspectives, and solve problems in the best possible way. If you work in a diverse culture, you get more creative ideas and a platform to learn something new. Such diversity opens up the door of discussions. I believe my response is comprehensive. Please reach out to me, if you need to ask something else.
Matias Nunez at USA Wholesale: Diversity to us means developing the best possible team with the main focus being to find individuals that are highly SELF-motivated to do their best in life whether that be with their work or with their personal life. By focusing on that and always keeping a large pool of candidates to interview, we have organically created diversity in our company.
Tom Winter, co-founder of DevSkiller: Diversity, to me, encompasses all avenues – age, socioeconomic background, race, gender, sexuality, and identities. Diversity is so important to every team – it should be treated as an HR’s dream. Not because it’s “expected” or “acceptable” but because it creates better functioning teams and happier employees. A lack of diversity can actually create a high staff turnover and actually deter international customers to your company.
Rishav Khanal, CEO of inPerson. www.inpersonco.com: inclusion. One can’t exist without the other. What’s another word for this? Curiosity and allowing the space to be wrong. Right now we have millions of people who have been activated either personally or as an ally by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other victims of racial injustice. The worst thing that can happen is that we don’t let people express how they’re feeling right now. We may never personally know or be able to feel the injustices that many marginalized groups experience but what we can do is humanize them. It’s not their job to teach the rest of us how to be a good ally. So what we can do is take the time to educate ourselves through materials like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. From there we can treat everyone with the same sense of curiosity we had in preschool. Hi, my name is x, how are you today? What holidays do you celebrate? What’s your journey been like to get to where you are? There’s no need to assume that you know someone’s story, just ask. Include people in the conversation instead of assuming you understand their diversity.
Laura Fuentes, Operator of Infinity Dish: Diversity, to me, means variation. When I look at company sites with photo profiles, I sometimes see one demographic repeatedly occurring, which tells me they are not interested in diversifying. Diversity means not judging someone by their appearance, name on an application, sexual orientation, or preconceived notions you may have about a particular demographic. At varying levels, I believe all of us need to educate ourselves about those different from us to erase as many of those stigmas as possible. I know people have held preconceived beliefs about me, so it is my job as a leader to lead by example and not make the same mistakes. While you shouldn’t hire someone simply because they fill a hole in a lacking demographic, we need to be conscious that we are not creating homogenous workplaces by responding more favorably to the people “like us.”
What does Diversity mean to Researchers?
Dr. Nita Evans, who is the Chair of the Masters of Arts in Social Impact program at Claremont Lincoln University: As a systems change leader and social justice activist, she has spent her career advancing an equity agenda by working to close the opportunity gap for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society.As part of our commitment to diversity, we can work towards creating an equity culture by using a racial-equity lens to change processes and systems. It’s critically vital to understand how changing policy, changes practices. When fair policies are put in place that are not built on bias and don’t serve to discriminate and oppress, we will see the rise of a more just and equitable landscape in the workplace. The same holds true for the educational system, healthcare system and criminal justice system.
We must each ask ourselves, what part do I play in creating a future where institutional barriers are removed and diversity is engendered? Imagine a world where we don’t need an equity agenda because these are the standards, instead of hopeful aspirations. It is a world where everyone has access to job opportunities and fair treatment. Now is the time to say, I will do my part, I will lead with empathy and compassion and commit to being the change I wish to see. Together, we can build a diverse world where all people feel safe, protected, respected and valued in the workplace.
My advice is to employees and employers alike is to be proactive. Seek opportunities for education, learning and growth. Many institutions are offering diversity training for companies, organizations and individuals to learn how to become better equipped at building a diverse culture.
Dr. Luz Claudio, Chief of the Division of International HealthMount Sinai School of Medicine : I believe that diversity and inclusion means actively leveling the playing field for underrepresented minorities who have historically been marginalized in the workplace. It means removing barriers that limit the professional development of people of color and it means accepting them in leadership roles by seeing the value and contribution we make to the overall success of the organization. What has to change is the vision that current leadership are “allowing” or “including” people of color as if we have to continue to ask permission to be in leadership roles. We don’t need any favors and we are not begging for inclusion. What we need is the acknowledgement that we have been excluded and devalued, and the rectification of these situations by actively and intentionally promoting our equal participation in leadership roles.
Rashaad Bajwa sits on the Diversity and Inclusion Council for New Jersey Business and Industry Association. So for us, becoming intentional about inclusion was about making people feel comfortable. Making people feel like they had a career with us, that they could start a career with us and continue a career with us. Inclusion is about creating an environment where people see that they belong. So, start with your job ads, start with the people that you are bringing in, find opportunities to go out of your comfort zone. Get involved.
Robin Rosenberg. Robin is a clinical psychologist, author, executive coach, and CEO of Live in Their World: Ultimately, Diversity and inclusion, and Equity, is about respect. Equity and fairness is a fundamental component of respect, which is why many people are talking about the importance of equity reviews, and how hiring, firing, layoff and promotion decisions are made. To treat people disadvantageously at work because they belong to a given demographic group is inherently unfair and disrespectful. Another component of respect in the workplace is inclusion: conveying that each employee is valued and appreciated for their unique self, creating a sense of belonging. In turn, these two components create a sense of psychological safety and curiosity, and an openness to different perspectives (i.e., diversity) and learning from each other, furthering inclusion.
Shannon Walker, President at WhistleBlower Security: Diversity means the inclusion of everyone regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, age, physical ability. It’s about creating a place where everyone feels valued while also acknowledging their differences. It’s really about making it a company’s mission to create a workplace that includes and supports the diversity of its employees and leverages this to achieve competitive business success. When creating a diverse work environment, it’s important to attract various talents and expertise while showcasing adaptability in the workplace. For this to work, it’s essential to develop guidelines that include best practices, strategies, and effective methods of measuring it effectively.
What does Diversity mean to HR and EDI Professionals?
Rebecca Dioso, Vice President of Human Resources Consulting: Diversity and Inclusion are the hot topics in 2020. As HR leaders and professionals, we know that successful organizations are ones that emphasize diversity at all levels in the organization. Diversity should be addressed in all aspects of the employee life cycle from recruiting, retention, training and employee development and eventually offboarding. The concept of diversity is much broader than race and has been evolving for the last 10 years. It includes everything from socio-economic differences and their long-term impact on climbing and succeeding in business, religious ideology and how that influences decision making, veteran status and the ability to lead at a very young age in high stress environments, gender equality issues at work including pay and work/life balance.
Annette Hines, a mother, founding partner of Special Needs Law firm: diversity and inclusion in the workplace means inclusion for the special needs community, specifically for adults with special needs who are part of community and home services. These adults are no longer eligible to be students after age 22, and many of them are interested in joining the workforce. However, these individuals are often excluded from this space. Annette is passionate about advocating for solutions to this issue and would love to discuss this topic more. Here is a little more information about her experience and background.
Deborah Levine, Diversity Futurist, CEO of Deborah Levine Enterprises, Editor-in-Chief of the American Diversity Report: Diversity and Inclusion efforts in the workplace usually focus on attempts to build ERGs for current employees, along with recruitment efforts, and supplier diversity. D&I efforts have changed in recent years to deal with the unconscious bias that often led to policies that were not inclusive and to workplace interactions that kept diverse teams from sharing knowledge and working at their maximal potential. However, with the upheaval of COVID-19 and the increased visibility of racial inequities, companies are seeing the need to go beyond a few unconscious bias training sessions. They understand that it’s vital to rethink their mission, goals, objectives, and benchmarks. Only by restructuring the entirety of their approach, using a combination of decision-making strategies, emotional intelligence metrics, cross-cultural storytelling methods, and a planning blue print, will they move forward effectively with DEI programs.
Sacil Armstrong, Equity Coach & Social Justice Facilitator: When I hear Diversity and Inclusion, I think the organization does not, yet, comprehend the concepts of equity or antiracism. Diversity and Inclusion are too often performative and aim to give a boost to the company’s image without creating real opportunities for marginalized employees. What I would love to see in organizations is a move away from Diversity and Inclusion and towards Antiracism and Equity. Instead of focusing the number or percentage of employees who are Black, female, disabled, etc., leadership would focus on making sure those employees:
- Can show up as themselves instead of conforming to what they would call “industry standards”. (Black people being able to wear our hair as it naturally grows out of our head is an example.)
- Have the opportunity to share their ideas and get full credit for them. (Being conscious of talking over and dismissing the ideas of people who aren’t typically in leadership roles.)
- Have an equal opportunity to lead. (Too many companies boast about their diversity without admitting that their diversity is all along the lower rungs of the company.)
- Are not just included, but welcomed, to networking, mentorship, and other formal and informal programs designed to groom employees for promotion. (Often, there’s an informal network that women and people of color don’t have access to. If you can’t get a mentor because white men aren’t comfortable having you as a mentee, you miss out on informal training and opportunities that aren’t announced through the formal system. You also don’t receive the same advocacy.)
Claudia Schabel, President & CEO, Schabel Solutions Inc: “Diversity is about all of us, and inclusion requires all of us working together to sustain it. There is a turn over cost, a business cost and a human cost to this. We don’t want employees and organizations to simply survive, we want them to thrive.”
Sonya Schwartz, the founder of Her Norm (https://hernorm.com): Over the years, we have always heard about diversity and what it does to any organization. It became a marketing factor for some companies and businesses to attract job hunters and to make them apply because of it. As a business owner myself, having diversity within the organization is a very crucial factor because as for me, being diverse is the key to great innovation because of the different qualities and perspectives that you can have. Being diverse also means that you have a variety of employee characteristics that you can use to generate more powerful and effective problem-solving. Plus, this improves an organization’s culture too.
Chris Norris, Managing Editor at SleepStandards.com (https://sleepstandards.com): the condition of having or being composed of differing elements”. When we hear this in the workplace, as much as possible we would like it to refer to the absolute diversity of employees, i.e. skills, experiences, talents, opinions, personalities, etc. But more often than not, it refers to the ethnic composition and can result in discrimination. To combat this, “diversity” is often coupled with “inclusion” to ensure that the effects of discrimination and bias are void from businesses as much as possible. As a mental health professional, it’s important to create an environment that is welcoming and gives equal opportunities to all.. This is crucial in the current situation, with more workplaces transitioning into a remote environment. One of the effects has been a globally-spanning recruitment pool of talent. It’s therefore important that a business revises its onboarding procedures and company culture to improve their inclusion policies. The strategy should start at the top, have training and information dissemination to all, and hold leaders accountable for creating and upholding behavioral standards.
Talisa “Tali” Lavarry, founder of Yum Yum Morale LLC,a workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion firm that helps business leaders create and foster equitable and sustainable work environments for marginalized people: Adopting a new idea and intention to support people of color will not be easy or something that can be managed as a result of attending, training or workshop; companies have to prepare for a long game, and commit to creating more inclusive work cultures despite the investment of time and money needed to do so.
Adil Ashraf, MotionCue: Diversity and inclusion are very important for a company to showcase that they are open for anyone and everyone when it comes to job opportunities in a workplace,listening to ideas in a town hall meeting and adapting to different cultures.We must change our job descriptions and proudly flaunt that we are an equal opportunity provider for everyone. Also, our workplaces must be able to accommodate people from every culture and background. Also, our workplace environment must be supportive towards people with disabilities. Nobody must be left behind
Randall Tucker, Chief Inclusion Officer: “Valuing and respecting colleagues who look, act and, importantly, think differently—makes us stronger as teams, as a company, and as members of society. When it comes to diversity, Mastercard understands that all the things that make us different and similar are assets. None of us are a carbon copy of the other. Therefore, we are all diverse. When you surround yourself with diverse people, from diverse backgrounds, that’s when new ideas are sparked and innovation happens.”
What does Diversity mean to BIPOC professionals?
Jasmin A. Robinson, Esq. : Diversity means young black future lawyers will see themselves when they look to our judges, law firm partners,etc.. As a result, they know that they, too, can become an attorney. As such, diversity creates an opportunity for the marginalized. As a black female attorney (with natural hair) and law school coach working to increase the 5% of black lawyers, I talk with future lawyers that did not know they can wear their natural hair as an attorney. As such, my diverse presence makes a difference and lets future lawyers know they can be themselves AND achieve their goals. As a leader, when I hear diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I question motives because everyone’s intentions aren’t pure.