Languages – In many cases languages have words that appear to be interchangeable and sometimes they are. But often they have a fine distinction which afford them different shades of meaning. That’s the beauty of it.
Diversity and inclusion are two such words. Little attention has been paid to the nuances between them and a hasty conflation of “diversity” and “inclusion” has disallowed many from realizing the true purpose of the collective use of the two.
Some organizations are pushed to hire more females in order to achieve the ambitious and respectable targets of gender diversity*. While, these affirmative (not necessarily diverse) actions meet the desired headcount but they fail to meet the purpose in spirit. Do the newly recruited women feel more welcomed in a “diverse” workplace? Possibly. Do the men feel unfairly treated? – merit compromised to achieve a gender target. Probably.
This is the “diversity backlash” which is something I observed firsthand and heard a few accounts from others. And yes, it happens. Even in 2019.
The diversity backlash occurs when the organization’s planning fails to consider the majority population in their strategies. Instead of realizing and actualizing individual differences, including those of the majority males, emphasis is placed on assimilation of more females. Result – a diverse, non-inclusive workplace.
The far-reaching repercussions of inclusion (or the lack thereof in this case) also reveal the importance of making inclusion not only a core element of an organization’s work culture, but also a crucial integer of the HR strategy. Inclusive culture and workplace policies not only benefit the “minority” but the entire organization. Inclusivity, if done correctly can and will eventually promotes decision-making skills and communication skills which fosters trust and inspires loyalty, promotes teambuilding, encourages leadership skills which collectively lead to a healthier, more successful work environment.
Focusing on diversity categorizes employees into buckets, which fosters division while fostering inclusivity does the exact opposite. When the two terms – diversity & inclusion are collated with a clear objective – it provides each employee with an opportunity to succeed and deliver their individual best.
* I have used gender for the purpose of this blogpost but the same line of reasoning applies to any personal trait: religion, race, sexual orientation, political views, nationality, medical conditions, and a plethora of other factors, many of which are ignored when discussing diversity, but nonetheless have a significant impact.