To organizational diversity is defined as “the degree

To
address our company’s recent criticisms regarding a lack of diversity, we must
first share a common definition of diversity and inclusion. Secondly, we must
review some of the challenges associated with creating a diverse workplace; and
finally, we need to recognize the benefits of creating and maintaining a
diverse workplace to ensure success at all levels of our company.

According
to Colquitt, Lepine, and Wesson, in their book, Improving Performance and
Commitment in the Workplace, team or organizational diversity is defined as “the degree to which members are
different from one another in terms of any attribute that might be used by
someone as a basis of categorizing people” (Colquitt, 2010).  Diversity occurs at both the surface level,
which refers to observable attributes such as race, ethnicity, sex, and age and
at the deep-level which refers to attributes that are less easy to observe
initially, but that can be inferred after more direct experience such as
education, income, sexual orientation, and religion. Everyone in our company
has traits that make us different from each other. Our challenge is to
recognize these differences and leverage them to achieve company success.

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 To
leverage our differences, we must create an inclusive company environment in
which all individuals of different groups are treated fairly and respectfully,
have equal access to opportunities and resources, are represented at all levels
of the organization, and are truly included so that they can contribute fully
to the organization’s success.  According to a study conducted by
the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), titled, Global Diversity and Inclusion: Perceptions, Practices, and Attitudes:
A Study for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), diversity and
inclusion are closely linked.  The study
goes on to say that inclusion helps to ensure that employees from diverse
backgrounds can contribute, remain with the company, and flourish. (SHRM).  Thus, while diversity focuses on what makes
individuals in a team or organization different, inclusion focuses on
leveraging these differences to the benefit of the individual and the whole
team (Global).

However,
creating a diverse and inclusive workplace does have its challenges. We each
need to examine our own value system and unconscious biases.  One main bias is the “Similarity – Attraction
approach. This approach states that people tend to be more attracted to others
who are perceived as more similar.  Therefore,
when hiring a new employee or selecting a person for our team, we may
subconsciously be drawn to selecting someone that we believe is similar to
us.  We may select someone who likes the
same sports teams or drives a similar car, because we identify with that
person. However, these surface traits do not necessarily mean that the person
is a good fit for the team.  According to
Derek R, Avery, in his article, Why the
Playing Field Remains Unequal: Impediments to Promotions in Organizations,  when we don’t know a person, we may
subconsciously use surface-level diversity to, categorize others so we can
infer unknown information about them.  He
goes on to say that categorizing ourselves and others using these surface
traits “occurs even in young children” which suggests that this is an “innate
or very preliminary part of socialization” ( Avery). In fact, the
intersectionality of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as
they apply to a given individual or group may create overlapping and
interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage to those who don’t fit
into group.

Other types
of biases that prevent us from setting up diverse, yet inclusive work
environments, include: stereotypes which involve assumptions made about others based
on their membership in a social group; prejudice which involves maintaining a preconceived
opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience and is usually derived from stereotypes;
and discrimination which involves unequal treatment of minority groups at work
(Avery).

Avery
discusses various stereotypes and how the associated prejudice and subsequent
discrimination lead some individuals to argue against a diverse workplace. Stereotype
argumenst against diversity include the thinking that: women are riskier to
hire because they face more family conflict and are less committed to the work
place; people with disabilities drive up employment costs; and differences in
culture can lead to conflicts in the workplace such that religious or cultural
beliefs could clash (Avery). Prejudice can be implicit affecting our judgment
and social behavior based on internal and unconscious beliefs or values or, as
expressed in the Role Congruence Theory, it may be role based where we believe
that certain roles are better handled by a particular class, like women are
suited as nurses and men are better suited to be doctors.  Discrimination can be overt or obvious like,
hiring no women into management positions or more subtle, like hiring one woman
into an all-male management team, but not really including her as full member
of the team, treating her as a token to give the appearance of diversity.

Biases,
prejudices, and discriminations affect organizational diversity in that people
may not be promoted or given opportunities because of the managing person’s
conscious or unconscious bias.  People
who don’t feel included may be less productive in the work environment because
they may believe that what they do doesn’t matter since they can’t overcome the
team’s or manager’s bias.  Finally, not
feeling included prevents the team from unifying towards a common work goal.

Experiencing
prejudice, incivility, or discrimination affects the workplace performance and
commitment of minority employees in a negative way to include negatively
affecting the employee’s physical and psychological health.  The employee may attempt to hide a trait that
he perceives might lead to discrimination if known by the team, so this leads
to dishonesty and mistrust.

While
organizations may have good intentions in setting up a diverse, but inclusive,
work environment, they may fail because they unintentionally promote bias
through their mentoring programs, where diverse employees may not be selected;
through the appraisal process where a minority employee may not receive
appropriate feedback; through comments or posts made by other team members on
social networks;  and through their
recruitment and selection process, where minorities may not be selected because
of a bias.

While
creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment may be
challenging, successfully achieving this initiative provides benefits to the company
and will ultimately help the company reach its business goals. According to
Colquitt, the Value in diversity problem- solving approach determines that
diversity is beneficial because it provides for a larger pool of knowledge and
perspectives from which a team can draw as it carries out its work.  Second, Good diversity management brings
fairness, opportunity, and cohesion to a workplace; and diversity initiatives
improve organizational culture, recruitment, client relations, and
productivity.  (Colquitt, 2010)

According
to an article in the Journal of Diversity Management titled, The Effects of Cultural Diversity In The
Workplace, by Gillian Coote Martin, making diversity a priority positively
enables the company to grow and reach its business goals by leveraging the
different thinking processes inherit in people from different cultures which
can be beneficial by providing the organization with a sound and vast knowledge
base.” (Martin).  The company can
leverage the cultural differences to expand into culturally diverse markets (Martin).

Our
company is committed to developing a positive diversity climate where are
policies, processes, and procedures enable an inclusive work environment.  Raising awareness of our biases and lack of
diversity and inclusion is the first step. 
We will be publishing a survey to measure existing attitudes and we will
provide mentors  and additional training to
folks at all levels of our company.