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Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace

September 29, 2023
Group of diverse employees in team collaboration or communication in conference at the workplace.

Employees increasingly want to work for companies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). According to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey, 78% of surveyed employees report that it’s important for them to work for organizations that prioritize these values. However, 24% of workers believe that their employers haven’t adequately addressed workplace diversity and inclusion issues.1

Managers can boost employees' job satisfaction, and more importantly, promote equity and social justice, by creating initiatives and policies that advance DEI.1 For example, programs that promote cultural competence, gender equality, and other principles can contribute to a more positive and welcoming work environment. This article explores best practices and strategies for fostering an inclusive culture that values diversity.

Building company guidelines that promote diversity

A more inclusive company culture starts at the foundation. It's important that diversity efforts are built into the heart of an organization and integrated into company values instead of tacked on like an optional activity. It also will help to encourage the rest of the company to follow suit with diversity initiatives of their own.

Institutionalize equity

Equity is a pivotal component of DEI programs, but organizations often don’t take adequate steps to address systemic inequalities in the workplace. According to the National Study of Workplace Inequity Report, 28% of employees report that they’ve experienced gender bias in the workplace in the last two years. In addition, 27% of workers experienced racial bias, and 26% encountered ageism.2

Managers can ensure that employees receive equal treatment by creating policies and initiatives promoting equity. For instance, leaders can:3

  • Develop professional mentorship programs for women and people of color
  • Implement flexible leave policies for caregivers, people with disabilities, and others
  • Require leadership to consider candidates from diverse backgrounds for promotions
  • Omit gendered language from job advertisements

Uphold anti-discrimination laws

It may seem obvious but it's critical that an organization has a solid understanding of the national and state regulations around discrimination. Discrimination occurs when employees get unfairly treated or harassed based on their gender identity, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected traits. For instance, a discriminatory organization may pay white employees more than employees of color or only delegate dangerous tasks to women.4

Employers can help create safe and inclusive workspaces by enforcing anti-discrimination laws and policies. Examples of relevant regulations for any organization include:5

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII of this act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their race, skin color, religion, sex, or nationality
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963: Men and women who perform the same work must receive equal pay and compensation
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: People aged 40 and older can’t get discriminated against for their age in the workplace

Promote accessibility

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21 percent of people who report having a disability have a job compared to 65 percent of people who report not having a disability.6 Managers can create disability-inclusive workplaces for these employees (and to encourage higher participation in the workforce by other people with disabilities), by taking steps such as:7

  • Installing accessible elevators and wheelchair ramps
  • Creating a system for employees to request accommodations
  • Using captions during video meetings
  • Providing staff training to disrupt negative perceptions about disability
  • Equipping company devices with assistive technologies

Prioritize gender equality and inclusiveness

Business leaders can ensure that their workplaces are gender-inclusive by creating policies and objectives that promote equality. The U.S. Agency for International Development recommends many methods for institutionalizing gender equality, such as:8

  • Developing clear organizational goals for achieving gender equality and diversity in the workplace
  • Using inclusive language in job descriptions and company policies
  • Actively recruiting diverse job candidates
  • Ensuring that men and women receive equal compensation for equal work

Consider affirmative action policies

Affirmative action refers to procedures that aim to identify and eliminate barriers that may prevent people of color, women, people with disabilities, and other minority groups from receiving equal employment opportunities.9

Human resources professionals and managers can practice affirmative action by hiring candidates based on skills instead of requiring formal education. Additionally, companies can collaborate with historically Black colleges and universities and community partners to recruit diverse job candidates.9

Fostering an inclusive company culture

On top of the foundation of DEI principles of an organization, it's important to follow through with everyday cultural diversity efforts.

Strengthen cultural competence

Cultural competence is the ability to engage in respectful interactions with people with varied backgrounds, beliefs, and priorities. The term comes from the healthcare industry but has been increasingly adopted by businesses prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion.10

Managers working to further diversity in any industry can use strategies to facilitate positive cross-cultural interactions in the workplace. For example, organizations can encourage an awareness of one's thought processes and personal bias by asking employees to complete self-assessments about their cultural competence. Additionally, organizations can offer workshops to teach strategies for engaging in effective multicultural interactions.11

Increase bias awareness

Business leaders who embrace DEI initiatives may still harbor implicit bias. This term refers to unconscious attitudes or beliefs predisposing an individual to treat another person unfairly due to personal traits. For example, human resources professionals may unconsciously favor attractive job candidates or men during the hiring process.12

Managers can reduce the risk of unfair or discriminatory treatment by educating employees about implicit bias. Additionally, human resource professionals can implement strategies to ensure equitable hiring practices, such as opting for phone interviews over video calls and removing names before reviewing resumes.12

Managers can also promote DEI in the workplace by offering sensitivity or diversity training for all employees. This training aims to eliminate discrimination and foster more harmonious work environments. Examples of topics often covered in diversity training include:13

  • Microaggressions
  • Implicit bias
  • Company DEI metrics and objectives
  • Shared values

Embrace multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is an essential aspect of diversity and inclusion. A multicultural workplace includes employees from various cultures, nationalities, races, and religions. However, fostering multiculturalism goes beyond simply hiring people from diverse backgrounds. It also requires that businesses actively embrace diverse viewpoints and create inclusive workplace environments in which people from any cultural background feels appreciated and respected.14

Strategies that managers can use to promote multiculturalism include:14

  • Developing inclusive hiring and promotion procedures
  • Acknowledging and celebrating differences between ethnic and national groups
  • Encouraging cross-cultural collaboration between employees
  • Allowing for creation of employee resource groups dedicated to different identities

Why should you promote diversity equity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace?

It's simple: a diverse workforce has been shown to improve financial performance, attract top talent, and enhance the company's culture and employee experience at an organization. In our "Diversity management in the workplace" blog, we dig further into the stats, including:15

  • Increased creativity has often been attributed to diverse teams because of the range of perspectives and experiences that lend to more out-of-the-box thinking. To backup this thinking, in 2017 Boston Consulting Group found that diversity was a key driver of innovation. They discovered that companies with above average total diversity were able to develop products that better adapted to customer needs, generating 19% more innovation revenue.
  • Drilling down into specifics: gender diversity and racially and ethnically-diverse groups are found to improve financial performance with studies finding them to be between 20 and 35% more profitable.
  • A diverse workforce can help increase engagement, especially for those workers who cite diversity as a top value such as millennials. Half of U.S. employees say they want their company to invest more toward diversity and inclusion efforts.

While those stats make a good logical argument, it's also important to take note that encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion is ethically-sound. An inclusive culture can lead not only to a thriving business but makes employees feel happier and can help forge a better world.

Empower change in the workplace

As the demand for diverse talent and inclusive workspaces grows, managers who can champion organizational change will be crucial to improving employee engagement, building a better company culture, and guiding the leadership team through contemporary social challenges. Marquette University’s online Master in Management (MiM) will help you develop the skills to lead people from all backgrounds and foster a positive work environment.

You’ll enhance your leadership and management skills by taking courses like Diversity and Inclusion in Global Organizations, Leading People and Change, and Managing Human Capital. You’ll also get access to numerous professional development and mentorship opportunities that will help you make meaningful connections and advance your career.

Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor to learn more.

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  3. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from asaecenter.org/resources/articles/an_plus/2023/3-march/six-strategies-for-embracing-equity-in-the-workplace
  4. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ofccp/regs/compliance/factsheets/FACT_Workplace_Aug2016_ENGESQA508c.pdf
  5. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from ftc.gov/policy-notices/no-fear-act/protections-against-discrimination
  6. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from bls.gov/news.release/pdf/disabl.pdf
  7. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from askearn.org/page/creating-an-accessible-and-welcoming-workplace
  8. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from usaid.gov/sites/default/files/2022-11/2022-USAID-Engendering-Industries-Guide-Workplace-Policies.pdf
  9. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/pages/what-happened-when-states-banned-affirmative-action.aspx
  10. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from apta.org/patient-care/public-health-population-care/cultural-competence/achieve-cultural-competence
  11. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/diversity-equity-inclusion-training-workplace.aspx
  12. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/irabedzow/2022/09/02/what-dei-training-can-learn-from-cultural-competency-in-medical-education/
  13. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from afponline.org/career-hub/management-resources/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-resources/implicit-bias-in-the-workplace
  14. Retrieved on August 23, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659758/
  15. Retrieved on September 2023, from builtin.com/diversity-inclusion/diversity-in-the-workplace-statistics