If you’re sitting in your office, getting ready to read this article, stop. Look around. Are you surrounded by variety, or does most everyone look the same? If it’s the former, give yourself a pat on the back for making your workplace more diverse, and continue what you’re doing. That’s right. Even if you already have what you think is a diverse workplace, keep going. There’s always more to do. The sooner you start, the more profound an impact you can make on the workforce. Before we go on, I think it’s essential to establish why diversity is so important.
There are many reasons why there should be diversity in the workplace. The most important, of course, is that you are allowing people of all groups an equal opportunity to work at your company. Say you decide to hire many candidates from the X group but none from the Y group, even though everyone has the same exact skill level and experience. This clearly means you aren’t willing to give Y people the chance to work for you! Why deprive one group of this position they worked so hard to get? It’s not fair for any of them, nor would it be fair for future Y candidates that applied, interviewed, and got rejected purely because they were Y.
From a more logical perspective, you are helping your company thrive by bringing in people with different mindsets. This leads to having a plethora of creative ideas during team meetings and discovering new, more efficient ways of doing things, which all employees can then apply to their everyday responsibilities. In fact, statistics prove that companies are 35% more likely to perform better when they have significantly more racial and ethnic diversity. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to experience higher performance. While you can’t combine the two percentages due to potential overlap, it’s clear that having a diverse workspace in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender can boost the company’s productivity as a whole.
Lastly, by maintaining a diverse workforce, potential candidates from some groups will be more eager to apply to your company when they see that “There’s someone here who looks like me.” They will know that they do have a chance of making it and, if they are hired, that their voices will matter. Thus, they will be more inclined to send in an application, and as more and more people from these groups flow in, the workplace will become more and more diverse.
Now that you understand why diversity is so important, it’s time to start planning and implementing. We briefly touched on it in the last section, but below is a list of ways you can encourage diversity in the workplace. Note that they’re not in chronological order.
Spend time writing and checking job descriptions, so they’re as inclusive as possible. For instance, don’t make any education levels a prerequisite. Some people may have the skills and experience necessary to do the job but never had the opportunity to obtain a higher education degree, due to financial, familial, or other reasons. Don’t make requirements that have gender-oriented phrases. For males, this could include words like “strong” and “assertive,” while, for females, this would be words like “polite” and “nurturing.” Reword them to sound more gender-neutral. Add a clause at the end of every job posting, ensuring candidates that you are an equal opportunity employer, even if it’s already clearly stated on your website. Some people won’t look at those pages before applying.
When interviewing candidates, keep a neutral mindset. If biases or stereotypes pop up in your mind, push them aside in favor of hearing the candidate’s actual qualifications and asking yourself if they fit the essentials. Can they do the job? Are they a good, reliable person? Will they mesh well with the team? Will they get along with me? If you said yes to all of these questions, then there’s really nothing stopping you from considering them as a potential hire.
During the onboarding process, have a few seminars and activities devoted to diversity in the workplace. A very impactful event I remember seeing was the privilege walk. Basically, everyone lined up at one end of the room. The announcer would then read statements like “If English is your first language, take one step forward.” By the time all the statements were made, you could see where everyone stood. Those who had privilege would be all the way up front. Those who did not have the same opportunities would be far behind. This exercise demonstrates how privilege gives you a leg up in life. Those without this leg up struggle even more to obtain things like jobs and education. Other activities can educate employees on how they can help encourage diversity so that when new hires join, they will be treated fairly by everyone on the team.
Promote employees from a variety of backgrounds. It’s not enough to have the new hires be diverse. Every level of a company should be diverse, especially upper management. When the time comes to vote and decide on company-wide changes, some of these higher-ups can advocate for their people. This is done by using their high positions as platforms to represent those that don’t have the power to voice their thoughts and opinions.
Make diversity the new normal. Normalizing the hiring and promotion process for diverse employees will make it easier for everyone to accept diversity in the workplace. Also, normalize the act of calling out discriminatory statements and actions. Often, when a joke is made about a particular group, people will be too afraid to speak up. This is because they think it’ll be awkward, or others will poke fun at them for being “too sensitive.” More people will be calling attention to these issues, and those who started it will be in the minority.