Diversity and inclusion play a massive role in making a workplace a safe and welcoming environment for people with various backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, genders, and disabilities. Despite its paramount importance in humanizing a workplace, it is a matter that often tends to get overlooked. It is about time that we get out of our comfort zone, start having difficult conversations, and voice our concern to make DEI* a significant factor in workplace decisions. (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)
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In this episode of Vivian Acquah’s live broadcast Let’s Humanize The Workplace, the workplace wellness advocate brought on an amazing panel of experts to discuss to length the significance of Diversity and Inclusion at a workplace. This episode’s guests include Etienne Forbes, who has a strong passion for people, learning, and new challenges. His experiences lead him to his desire to create inclusive work environments for all. Rishita Jones builds human-centered HR practices by using Agile HR, design thinking, and digital transformation to create the best employee experience. Garry Turner, creator and host of Value through Vulnerability Podcast. Raisa Ghazi, an entrepreneur who founded Diversity Boutique, an organization that promotes D&I in business and non-profit organizations. Garry Turner, Rishita Jones and Raisa Ghazi also joined Amplify DEI as a speaker.
While conscious and unconscious biases exist everywhere around us, these biases act as a major flaw in the recruitment process when it comes to workplaces. People tend to lean towards other people who look like them. This phenomenon gives birth to a huge problem. It leads to people failing to acquire employment regardless of their professional prowess. As Etienne Forbes puts it, “There are a lot of people that are not able to get a job because of things that have nothing to do with their actual skills.”
The Mistakes Companies Often Make
The problem with diversity being hindered by biases is that it is a deep-rooted systematic issue. Most organizations fail even to acknowledge the fact that a problem exists, and the ones that do tend not to understand the extent of the problem. We need to invest our time, effort, and resources to eliminate these biases and ingrain diversity into the modern workplace. “Companies underestimate the amount of conflict and distrust there might be in the beginning when you add diversity to a company,” says Raisa Ghazi talking about the mistakes companies often make when instilling diversity into their corporate culture.
Businesses are run on the concept of profits and losses. While making a profit is an integral aspect of a business, it leads to a culture of treating employees as merely numbers and figures. Rather than considering them humans who add value to their organizations. This basic concept needs a little alteration.
The P&L Of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
As Garry Turner phrases it: “Human beings are still seen as a cost on a balance sheet rather than an asset to be invested in.”
With the increase in the general awareness about diversity and inclusion, organizations have made D&I a policy that should be enforced with great effort. However, D&I is something that should come along naturally in a manner that raises the human factor of a workplace. As Rishita Jones says: “When we are coerced into something, what we get is window dressing, and statistics rather than something coming from a real desire to change.”
White Male Boardrooms
In a corporate environment where boardrooms are usually filled with white males and lack gender and racial representation, it is time to speak up and engage in awkward conversations to achieve a higher diversity and inclusion level. In the words of Rishita Jones: “We need to restore trust, we need to reconnect with ourselves with our humanity, and we need to be compassionate, and we need to speak up we can’t just hope that by not talking about it and brush it under the carpet it will go away.”
The world around us is changing. The only way to survive and succeed is to adapt to welcome these changes. The ongoing pandemic has resulted in a wave of making the impossible possible. Employees whose presence was crucial to the day-to-day operations of a company are now successfully working from homes. “Eight weeks ago, it was impossible for HR or Finance to work from home. Now they all are working from home. It is the same as racism, equality, and D&I. We can shift our beliefs if we want to; it is a choice.”
Invite DEI Discussions
Diversity and Inclusion is a sensitive and sometimes uncomfortable topic. Nobody wants to have this conversation out of fear of being too much or too less sensitive or saying the wrong thing. Nevertheless, it is an important conversation that is necessary to increase our education and amend our unconscious biases. Rishita Jones puts it exceedingly eloquently: “When we don’t invite discussion, we don’t invite growth and understanding and awareness.”
The Fixed DEI Mindset
The debate on Diversity and Inclusion has been going on for decades. It makes one wonder why are we still not able to bring about any substantial change? It is because employees are still seen as emotionless robots who are there to work and nothing else. “Senior leaders and CEOs do not believe in the value of humans. They do not believe in a diverse workforce if they don’t believe nothing changes.”
Stop Window Dressing!
Companies often exaggerate the extent of their diversity with their social media platforms and other ad campaigns. It can be a marketing tactic to appease the audience or build a stronger brand image. This window dressing becomes harmful when companies begin profiting by portraying themselves as inclusive when the reality is different. We do not need companies to overstate their diversity. We do not need to hear their beliefs. We need them to put their ideas into action. “say less and do more. Turn the press releases into policies, turn the press releases into practices, and see what happens,” says Etienne Forbes.
Diversity Is Profitable
Diversity and Inclusion is a valuable concept. It does more good than just raise the level of humanity in the workplace. It enables companies to profit from the diverse perspective of a diverse workforce, yet we still see a lack of diversity in most workplaces. As Etienne Forbes talks about the reason why there is a lack of inclusivity, “The data that’s been out there, that’s proving how diversity earns more money still companies aren’t able to do that. That speaks of how deep-seated this issue is.”
Everybody Is Responsible For Diversity
Diversity is not a phenomenon one can force onto someone. It is an ideology that everyone needs to adapt with the help of education. We need to share our knowledge and experience regarding diversity. In the words of Vivian Acquah: “sharing diversity is a responsibility of everybody in the company. But it has to start with training, and it doesn’t end with just doing a one-year training, it is a continuous process.”
With the recent trend of viral social media publications, accountability has become a strong tool to eliminate racism and bias. When the fear of being held accountable for racism and discrimination exists in a society, it can have a positive result. As Etienne Forbes says: “Accountability is a big thing that I think will lead to progress and change.”
Every Person Must Be Seen
People are usually resistant to change. It is because changing requires making an effort. It is about time that we get up and make an effort together as a community to end the evil of racism and discrimination and open our doors and hearts towards a diverse and inclusive culture. Ending this invigorating and educating conversation on a hopeful note, Garry Turner expressed his wishes: “I hope In 2025, we will have systems and structures in place that allow every person to truly be seen.”
Amplify DEI Summit Attendee 2020: “Sincere thanks for Amplify DEI! I learned a lot (including some things about myself that I did not realise before) and thoroughly enjoyed it.“
Attendee 2020: “It was great – a really classy event, very interesting and informative whilst still being chatty and personal.“
Host: Vivian Acquah
As a Workplace Wellness Advocate, Vivian advises managers on how to keep their team members healthy, happy, and safe by using a holistic approach called workplace wellness. She is also the digital strategist for this live stream production.
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