Before you can discuss diversity and inclusion and why there needs to be intentional emphasis in this area, let’s clarify the difference. In the broadest sense, diversity is anything that is used to differentiate one group from another – age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, military service, size, etc. Because classifying groups allows us to segment the groups, it could also be utilized to exclude one group from another. Inclusion, then, is an act to include one group with another. It is an action – whether intentional or accidental, to combine groups. Diversity is something you can quantify, count, number. Inclusion is often not measurable and is more behavioral. Thus, it is easy to talk about diversity – you either have it or you don’t. It is harder to talk about inclusion because diversity numbers alone do not define or ensure inclusion.
In the case of an organization’s workforce, one can identify the amount of diversity that exists by simply counting and summing the totals. However, it is much more difficult to examine whether that workforce is truly inclusive. High levels of diversity within the workforce might suggest inclusivity. But often, the only true measure is to survey and interview those who have previously been excluded. Large numbers of women, for example, in management positions might indicate diversity. But, are these women in positions of power? Do they have decision-making responsibilities? Can they hire and fire the personnel in their organization? Do they feel like they belong?
Why Does Diversity and Inclusion Matter?
The simple answer is it matters because organizations that are more diverse in their makeup outperform those that are less diverse. The McKinsey Global Institute, a global management consulting firm, conducted a research study in 2015 which found that organizations with gender diversity financially outperformed the industry median by 15% and organizations with ethnic diversity outperformed by 35%.
The Harvard Business Journal (HBJ) took the study further. They interviewed top CEOs around the globe and asked them what they thought about diversity and inclusion. The HBJ found several common threads:
In some cases, studies have found not all lack of inclusivity is intentional. Some of it is just human nature. People are often most comfortable in talking and being with people like themselves. Organizations have to do a better job of encouraging and exposing team members to different cultures and ways of thinking in order to unseat the traditional business cliques.
So, how does inclusion happen in great organizations? Not easily. It is a journey that requires intentional thought and action. Recognized best practices in achieving an inclusive corporate culture include:
Diversity and inclusion create better organizations – with strong financials, talent, customer service, innovation, market share and more. It takes leaders committed to creating a diverse organization who require others to follow their lead. It may be a challenge, but diversity and inclusion do matter.