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Does Diversity Plateau Inclusion?

    Diversity & Inclusion has become a catch phrase for an ongoing quest to achieve equitable balance in the workplace.  While the word Diversity seems to lead the charge, it does not always fulfill the mission of providing equitable consideration for all. Diversity can be misleading. It suggests equal consideration for all populations and communities. However, true diversity cannot exist without Inclusion. A closet full of various colored shoes is diverse. Nevertheless, if all of the shoes are high heel pumps the collection will be useless to a construction worker. A lot full of various brands of foreign cars is diverse. If the lot is filled with two-seater sports cars it will be of no use to a family of six. A room full of executives from various levels of leadership and age ranges is a diverse group. However, if all the executives are male it will not reap the benefit of a women’s intuition and the survival tactics of individuals with disabilities. If there are no transgender individuals in the room, leaders will miss vital cues of how to market and attract that population of individuals.

    Many people use Diversity as a standalone concept and treat Inclusion as a silent partner or sidekick. Batman, perhaps one of the most notable superheroes of modern times was quite often rescued by the quick wit of his sidekick Robin who not only fought side by side, but time and time again saved Batman from the perils of his archenemies. So, one might say that without Robin, at least at some point, there might not have been a Batman. But just like Batman & Robin, the phrase Diversity & Inclusion seems to minimalize the importance of the sidekick’s contribution.

    In a 2016 article in Forbes, Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace, and the Will to Change explains that, “Diversity is the who and the what: who’s sitting around that table, who's being recruited, who's being promoted, who we’re tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability—inherent diversity characteristics that we're born with. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. Inclusion is the behaviors that welcome and embrace diversity. If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanize diversity of voices and identities. If I could have my wish, every leader would say, “Where is the diversity in this conversation?”

    Does your organization treat Inclusion as the sidekick to Diversity thus managing symptoms but never really addressing a lack of inclusion? Can your organization not benefit from the invaluable range and wealth of knowledge that employing a fully inclusive workforce brings? Strategy is a key survival tool for individuals in marginalized populations. Many people who have survived traumatic events or life experiences have exceptional strategic perspectives that can fuel a company’s success. Individuals with long-term and severe disabilities and those who have risen out of at-risk and poor neighborhoods are most certainly experts on finding ways to achieve results. 

    Some may argue that Diversity has actually contributed to the issues of inequality in work environments by presenting itself as the acceptable subculture. However, Diversity in and of itself requires only an assortment of select elements. This may be why there are still many work environments that do not hire qualified but older, disabled or transgender employees.

    “Part of the problem is that “diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. But that’s just not the case. In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen. As noted diversity advocate Vernā Myers puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

    While your organization may be thriving and experiencing success, have you invited Inclusion into the dance or is it still seated at a table waiting for Diversity to offer it a chance on the dance floor?

    Blog Post written and submitted by NASHRM Member and Board Member: Renee' Scruggs.