Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just another diktat. The three aspects constitute a broad business culture enabling companies to keep teams fulfilled at work while boosting productivity.
According to Jacqueline Woodson, a contemporary American writer, diversity is about “all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.” Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), sometimes the responsibility of a specific department, sometimes that of human resources, encompass any policy or practice aiming to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed, valued, and supported so that they can grow and achieve their potential to the fullest extent in the workplace. The principle of DEI recognizes the value of diversity of perspectives and emphasizes inclusiveness and well-being as vital to both personal and collective success.
Tolerance and multiculturalism
The principle has its roots in the US civil rights movement of the 1960s and has gradually come to encompass the gender, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, and other identities. The emphasis initially was on tolerance, i.e. the acceptance of integration in workplaces, schools, and communities. Later, from the mid-1970s to the 1990s, the emphasis shifted to multiculturalism and the recognition of the contributions of various minorities.
Diversity refers to the presence of different perspectives in a given setting, including in terms of socio-economic background, ethnic origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical abilities, skills, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes.
Equity refers to practices, processes, and policies that level the playing field. It alleviates systemic barriers to individuals, especially in hiring.
Inclusion is the way in which an organization provides a sense of belonging at work by creating an environment in which varying backgrounds and demographic characteristics are welcomed and valued.
Effects on the workplace
Companies with cultures underpinned by these three aspects boast a multi-faceted competitive advantage, which translates into better results. Here are some examples:
- Financial performance: a study by McKinsey in 2019 found that companies with a diverse ethnic composition are 35% more likely to achieve financial returns above their respective national medians.
- Employer brand and talent retention: according to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers see team diversity as a key factor when assessing companies and reviewing job offers.
- Growth and innovation: Harvard Business Review found that diversified companies are 70% more likely to capture a new market and 45% more likely to experience a year-on-year increase in market share.
- Increased productivity: 83% of millennials say they are fully engaged when they think their organization promotes an inclusive corporate culture, compared with 60% when their organization does not.
- Team performance: diverse teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, according to a study by Forbes.