May 21, 2020

Workplace Diversity: How progressive is your workplace?

Anshika Awasthi

If you’re asked to describe a usual CEO, what words would you use?

Dynamic? Decisive? Charismatic? Innovative? …MAN!

I bet you pictured a middle-aged man with grey hair.

This lack of diversity is probably the reason which has made workplace diversity as one of the most trending topic of discussion in today’s scenario.

What is Workplace diversity?

Workplace diversity is a dynamic workforce which includes different elements of leadership styles, physical characteristics, cognitive patterns in addition to demographic differences in age, gender, race, ethnicity and religion.

At its core, the concept of workplace diversity is all about differences and inclusion of a few selected groups at the workplace.

These groups can be identified as historically disadvantaged groups which mainly include women, religious and ethnic minorities, individuals with physical disabilities, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people.

It is important to note that in workplace diversity, certain kind of differences is likely to have greater prominence in some places at certain times than at different times at different places.

Employees in some western countries are open towards gays and lesbians, while significantly unfavourable in hiring Asians and African immigrants. Whereas, in some countries accommodating women in the workplace have made gender discrimination less of a concern than in countries like Saudi Arabia, where rampant gender discrimination is practised.

What is ‘diversity’ in the Workplace?

Diversity in the workplace refers to differences among people in terms of dimensions such as age, ethnicity, gender, race or physical abilities.

It is important to note that diversity includes everyone and not just racial or ethnic minorities. For example, generational diversity, which is a key concern for an upcoming virtual workplace with four generations working together with differences in mindset, expectations and goals.

Diversity is an umbrella term which we can further simplify into two important dimensions:

Primary dimensions of diversity

Primary dimensions include inborn differences or differences you’re born with and have to live throughout your life. These are the core elements through which people shape their self-image and worldview. These dimensions are:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Mental & physical abilities
  • Sexual orientation

Secondary dimensions of diversity

Secondary dimensions are acquired throughout a lifetime. These dimensions have less impact than primary but change the person’s self-definition, how he/she is viewed by others.

For example, a women employee with children are perceived differently than those without children, or a veteran of the Syrian war may have affected by their military experience and may be perceived differently from other people etc. These dimensions include:

  • Workstyle
  • Skill level
  • Communication style
  • Educational level etc.

A workplace organisation who understands & recognises that each employee can bring value to the workplace based on their combination of diversity characteristics are the ones successful in today’s time especially being able to surpass challenges of handling remote work and remote teams.

Why build a diverse Workplace?

Many organisations build a diverse workplace to:

  1. Provide equal opportunities to workers
  2. Forced by antidiscrimination laws (in some countries)

Besides, companies identified that diversity in the workplace gives them a competitive advantage in talent recruitment, employee commitment, productivity, and innovation.

When an organisation starts valuing and appreciating differences are 35% more likely to surpass peers. And when employees use their differences to identify business opportunities and generate new ideas, they more fully express and values themselves at a workplace. This leads to higher commitment.

Examples of Workplace diversity?

Hyatt Hotels

According to Forbes, Hyatt hotels were ranked best employers for diversity (America) in 2020.

  1. Minorities make up 65% of the general workforce and 10% executive positions.
  2. Women comprise 50% of the employment positions and 24% of leadership roles.

Stryker Corporation

According to fortune, stryker corporation was a great place to work in terms of workplace diversity. In 2019, it is chosen at 1st spot with 18,000 employees.

  1. 35% of the workforce are women with 34% women positioned at front line managers and 27% at the executive position.
  2. Minorities make up 18% of frontline managers.

Cisco Systems

With over 40,000 employees, the company ranked second in fortune’s 2020 great place to work annual list. Game changer for Cisco is their Diverse Representation Framework (DRF), which is a system to help managers find talents in the markets where they can business.

  1. 28% of the total workforce are women employees.
  2. Minorities make up 40% of the total workforce with 38% bring posted at front line managerial positions.

Accenture PLC

According to fortune, Accenture is one of the most diversified workplaces of 2020 led by Julie Sweet as its CEO with over 50,000 employees.

  1. Minorities make up 50% of the workplace with over 40% positioned as executives.
  2. Women make up 37% of the total workforce with 31% positioned as executives.

Challenges

Unequal expectations

One significant challenge of workplace diversity is that many workplaces do not accept differences. A survey by Korn Ferry international found that 59% of minority managers had observed double standard in the delegation of assignments. They have to prove over and over again with each new assignment to get achieve the same status as that of white colleagues. Minority employees typically feel they work an extra hour, extra effort to achieve rights as that of other employees.

Other minority groups struggle biculturalism. They find themselves adopting behaviours and attitudes that’ll help them to be successful in the white-dominated corporate world while at the same time maintaining their cultural values, ties to ethnicity and community. For examples, Indian community working & living in America.

Gender equality

Another most faced challenge of workplace diversity is gender equality. Most corporate cultures have evolved around heterosexual, white males who tend to hire and promote people who look, think, talk like them. Many workplaces were created by and for men, the prevailing work practises, patterns, culture was built for the convenience of men, disadvantaging women in subtle ways.

Generation gap

In today’s time, the economy is playing havoc with the generational mix in virtually every workplace. The Boomers and even some members of the generation before them are not retiring as they should. As a result, generation x is stuck in middle management without many promotions. And some millennials will spend their early working years as unemployed as the workplace system is clogged with Boomers and Xers. This will be one of the biggest challenges as by 2024, millennials will be 75% of the global workforce.

Benefits

Wide talent pool

A diverse workplace brings enormous individual talent capabilities, experiences in suggesting ideas, various points of view resulting in larger pools of ideas and experiments. Moreover, business with wide diverse employees affects businesses profitability. Such a diverse workplace sees 33% and above-average profits.

Adaptability & Resilience

A diverse workplace carries employees who are capable of providing solutions to problems in service, sourcing and allocation. These employees are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer elements. They have greater experience with different sects of customers and hence, knows how to adapt to their needs.

In a workplace diversity, there are larger sects of the employee who have experienced migration to a new country and thus, they demonstrate resilient ability to grow and learn from challenges.

Innovation & Market growth

Studies have proved that employees of the diverse workplace are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share and 70% likelier to capture a new market. It makes sense if you have a team of people with a diverse background, the experience you’ll have a greater range of innovative solutions offered.

Bottom line

We are living in 2020 and still talking about diversity! Workplace diversity is not 100% applicable around the globe yet. Companies, however, are trying to structure diverse teams which comes with its perks and benefits. Some companies are not even considering workplace diversity as they want to play safe with their old workplace culture. But with remote work and virtual workplace as future, it’ll be hard run for all those traditional workplaces. The researchers are constantly indicating that initiatives that come from the CEO’s vision coupled with equality, accepting differences, modern solutions, a culture of openness will help companies create a diverse and well-rounded workplace environment.

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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