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Don’t just check the box! Diversity is only part of the equation…

October 14, 2022

“Don’t just check the box, Diversity is only part of the equation…” is the first in a series from Give and Take Inc. exploring the importance of DEI in the workplace and what measures you can take to improve Equity and Inclusion and have a positive impact on your employees and the performance of your organization. 

This blog is an introduction to the basics of DEI and discusses why the D without the E & I is only part of the equation. Stay tuned for the next pieces of the puzzle, as we discuss the best methods for developing a truly Inclusive workplace, how to improve the benefits of your ERG programs, and how our software can help!

Defining Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

There are many variations of the definitions for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Vernā Myers, Author of Moving Diversity Forward, Founder of The Vernā Myers Company, and Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, used an interesting metaphor to bring some definition to DEI, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”,

Others have expanded the quote to include equity, saying that “equity is everyone has the opportunity to dance”, or “equity is ensuring everyone has appropriate transport to the dance”. Other examples include, “equity is allowing you to choose the music”, or “equity is how much space you have on the dance floor.”

Technical Definitions

Diversity is the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective – groups that have been and remain underrepresented are marginalized in the broader society.  

Equity is about overcoming the disparities that currently exist so that we have a fair playing field. Equity is also about creating fair access, opportunity, and advancement for all.  

Inclusion is having a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment for everyone that increases the participation and contribution of all employees. Inclusion is also about people feeling welcomed and having a sense of belonging.

As it pertains to the workplace, we believe that the ultimate goal of DEI efforts is not only to cultivate a diverse workforce, but also to ensure that everyone feels included and has an equal opportunity to participate. Over the last two years, companies have poured an immense amount of resources into DEI work, spending tons of money (upwards of $8 billion a year according to Fortune) to change structures and even hire new people to manage the growth of their new diverse workforce. 

Companies are making progress on becoming more diverse, however there is still much more to be done. The good news is that companies know what they need to do to be diverse. The evolution to a more flexible work environment can make it easier for organizations to become more diverse. And most importantly, organizations know how to measure their success.

The Trap: A Hyper-Focus on “Diversity”

However, we believe that many of the current DEI practices still have a lot of work to do when it comes to equity and inclusion. Many companies are hyper-focused on creating a diverse workforce and in the meantime, have not yet put enough effort into  the “E and the I” part of the equation. Achieving diversity in the workforce is a great first step, but without inclusion/equity it does not accomplish enough.  

Diversity without equity and inclusion is just checking a box… We believe that companies are missing the rich benefits of diversity if they are not also working to ensure that everyone feels included!  Becoming more equitable and inclusive can be more challenging than becoming more diverse. Organizations seem to be struggling on ways to increase inclusion and equity within organizations. In addition, the measurement approaches are not as clear cut.  

To prove this to yourself, Google a few large companies along with the keyword, “DEI”.  You will almost always find a dedicated part of their website explaining their efforts and success in creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. However, after closer inspection, you will likely find that upwards of 80% of the reporting is all about diversity with minimal mention about what they are doing to be more inclusive and equitable. Moreover, you’re very unlikely to find any reports about how they are measuring those outcomes.   

Female employees engaged in conversation

The Benefits of Diversity in your workplace

Let’s start with Diversity and why it is a “win-win” situation – good for employees and good for the organization. When organizations embrace creating a diverse workforce, it creates more opportunities for under represented groups.  Diversity will broaden the pool of potential employees.  Having a diverse workforce will lead to more diverse ideas, opinions and perspectives, which can help improve innovation.  

When you create a work environment where employees see a representation of a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, they are more likely to feel more comfortable expressing their own opinions. This can lead to happier and more productive employees, which leads to higher employee engagement and reduced turnover - in all, this means a more productive workforce. (SOURCE).  

In fact, research has found that a non-diverse, strongly homogeneous culture will stifle natural cognitive diversity due to the pressure to conform.

Harness the power of Diversity

However, to fully gain the value and benefits of a diverse workforce, you must also create an inclusive and equitable workplace.  In fact, some of the benefits mentioned above will be reduced or negated without inclusion and equity.  

  • A diverse workforce can bring diverse opinions and ideas, but if no one is listening to them, it will not help with innovation.   
  • A diverse workforce can lead to higher engagement, but if people do not feel like they belong, (i.e. are not supported, don’t have access to the right mentors, don’t have opportunities for career development, etc.) it will not improve employee engagement and can lead to higher turnover. 

Diversity without inclusion and equity has some benefits, but the true value of diversity is not realized until there is inclusion and equity. According to an HBR article, “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion”, the authors Laura Sherbin and Ripa Rashid point out that “It’s easy to measure diversity: It’s a simple matter of headcount. But quantifying feelings of inclusion can be dicey.”  

Organizations know what they need to do to be diverse, and they know how to measure it. But inclusion and equity are much more difficult to accomplish and more difficult to measure. (We will talk more about measurement in a future blog post.) 

How do you create Inclusion?

Using the school dance metaphor from above, simply “inviting” someone to the party does not mean they will be allowed to dance, or that they have the means to get themselves to the dance, or be able to help choose the music.  When we hire a diverse workforce, in order to realize the true value they can bring to the organization, we need to create an environment where they feel supported, respected, and that they belong. But beware, inclusion and equity do not happen by themselves (more on this topic in future blog posts). 

All employees need to be able to participate and contribute as others are able to. They need to have fair and equal access to opportunities, mentors, career development, and assignments.  And they need to be helped to overcome the disparities that currently exist that are preventing them from participating.

Successful DEI programs offer a strategic advantage!

The true value of a diverse workforce is realized for both the individuals and the organization when there is equity and inclusion. As we mentioned previously, this win-win situation benefits underrepresented groups and the organization at large. A successful DEI program will produce positive ROI for the organization. Ultimately, it has been shown that a diverse workforce, where there is inclusion and equity, has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. 

Here are a few examples from Bloomberg, in which they report McKinsey’s findings that diverse companies have real competitive and strategic advantages. Bloomberg reports that a diverse workforce can “enhance the problem-solving necessary to…reimagine industries in the face of unprecedented disruption”. In other words, a diverse workforce with unique life experiences and backgrounds is more likely to come up with a winning solution to real world problems. 

Additionally, Bloomberg also reports that diverse teams are “better at anticipating changes in consumer needs and buying patterns”. In other words, when you have a workforce that truly represents the population, you won’t have to look too far to determine what trends are emerging - they will naturally be happening within your company, too!

Mckinsey reports that “It’s difficult to move the needle on diversity and representation in a sustainable way without inclusion—the degree to which employees are embraced, supported, and enabled to make meaningful contributions. Even if an organization has a diverse population of employees, it will likely struggle to achieve long-term performance outcomes without an inclusive environment.”

Check on your inclusion…

As our CEO, Larry Freed,  always says, “focusing on diversity alone is simply checking a box - we need to turn our focus to inclusion and equity as well if companies want to harness the power and benefits of their diverse workforce.”

Do you feel included in your workplace? Do you think others’ feel included? Let us know! And check out our E-Book on how to improve Diversity and Inclusion in your workplace!

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