The Importance of Inclusiveness in Workplace Leadership
When thinking of inclusiveness in the workplace, which images immediately come to mind? Does it look like your workplace? Does a company that values inclusivity reflect the place you currently work or the business you would one day like to lead? Does your business leadership team assume a posture of inclusivity? Inclusiveness, in the simplest terms, means that every person, especially persons of differing religious backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations, possesses valuable insight and leadership potential through their diverse experience and that experience is celebrated and valued.
Furthermore, inclusiveness, according to one Gallup article, “can be assessed as the extent to which employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.” The workplace benefits in both tangible and intangible ways from a variety of perspectives. So why is there not more inclusivity and diversity in workplace leadership?
The Current State of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Workplace Management
It is important to understand the distinction between diversity and inclusiveness. Diversity refers to the variety of demographics that comprise the workforce. Gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and religion are all examples of demographics that create diversity in a workplace setting, among other potential criteria. Inclusiveness and inclusivity ensure that these qualities are respected and that individuals of all demographics are invited to participate fully in every level of workplace business and activity.
Here is a snapshot of the state of diversity in the workplace according to BuiltIn.
- Men are 30 percent more likely to be promoted to an entry-level managerial position over women.
- 41 percent of managers state they are “too busy” to make diversity a priority.
- 45 percent of employees believe that managers have the greatest opportunity to increase diversity in the workforce due to their role in hiring and mentoring employees.
- 70 percent of executives when polled say that diversity and inclusion are important to them.
The verdict on inclusivity and diversity at work? It’s a mixed bag. While 70 percent of executives believe in the importance of diversity and inclusivity in their teams, this belief is not making its way down to the managerial level, since 41 percent of these managers are “too busy” to act on this idea. Improvements must be made on all levels of leadership for diversity and inclusivity to become the norm in the workplace.
At an executive level, diversity has not yet found its footing either. Statistics cited by ArchPoint note that only 4.1 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. This is a smaller percentage than Fortune 500 CEOs named David or John, which are 4.5 percent and 5.3 percent respectively. In addition, only a mere five of the Fortune 500 CEOs are African American. These statistics highlight the great need to create an inclusive workplace culture that fosters diversity and inclusivity not only at the lower levels of a company but at the managerial and executive levels as well.
Inclusiveness and Diversity Conducted Right
Despite these statistics, there are some companies that are deliberately practicing inclusivity and diversity and seeing success for their efforts. Emplify.com noted four companies as case studies in inclusiveness and diversity.
1. Alibaba Group - The Alibaba Group is the world’s largest e-commerce company, processing $248 billion of transactions in 2017. Chairman Jack Ma notes that women are the “secret sauce,” to his business’s success, as one-third of its founders are women, and a similar percentage hold executive positions within the company. Ma claims that “women’s perseverance and attention to details will outperform men in the age of robotics and machine learning.”
2. Accenture - Accenture offers global consulting and professional services, partnering with a staggering three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500 companies. This success has been achieved while also creating a diverse company workforce. Accenture shares its workforce demographics publicly, which holds executive leadership and management accountable to its commitment to maintaining a workforce that values inclusiveness and diversity. Because of these efforts, Accenture is currently in the top ten of DiversityInc’s Top Companies for Diversity.
3. L’Oréal - L’Oréal is a Forbes Top Multinational Performer, due to its presence in 130 countries on five continents. Multicultural inclusivity and diversity are not just a lofty goal, it is imperative for L’Oréal to succeed and thrive. L’Oréal does many things to foster inclusiveness in its business practices, such as its disability awareness program in India, and its employment of women. Women comprise 69 percent of L’Oréal’s workforce and 53 percent of its key positions are held by women. L’Oréal is a beacon for gender equality and multiculturalism in the workplace.
4. Lenovo - Lenovo is the world’s largest PC vendor, with 57,000 employees across 60 countries. Lenovo is literally built on the idea of inclusiveness and diversity. The company’s tagline is “Different is better.” Perhaps the company’s perspective on inclusivity and diversity is best summarized by its chief diversity officer, Yolanda Conyers. Conyers says their customer base necessitates, “more than out-of-the-box thinking, because it’s not just one box. It’s a hundred different boxes. A million different boxes. It takes every dimension of our diversity. All our diverse mindsets, skills, and cultural backgrounds, to deliver such a wide array of technology.”
While these companies are a small sample of what inclusiveness and diversity can look like in the marketplace, they are a great starting point when considering the benefits and strategies a company may employ to pursue inclusivity and diversity in their own workplace.
A Current Look at Diversity and Inclusivity in General at All Levels of Employment in the Workplace
Diversity and inclusiveness at every level of the workplace provide value. Aside from the inherent value found in a variety of perspectives, statistically speaking, companies that prioritize diversity and inclusiveness tend to perform better financially than those that do not. According to the blog, What to Become:
- Approximately 70 percent of inclusive companies are more likely to leverage themselves into new markets than those that are less diverse and inclusive.
- Diverse teams with a broad range of ages, genders, races and even geographical locations are 87 percent better at decision making than those that are not as diverse.
- When companies foster inclusiveness, their chance of hitting their target financial goals increases by 120 percent.
- When men and women are employed in equal numbers, companies can produce up to 41 percent more revenue.
With these numbers, companies that seek diversity and prioritize inclusiveness are the companies that are also succeeding in the marketplace. Companies that desire this kind of growth must seriously consider the benefits of inclusiveness and diverse company culture, as well as the detriments inherent in deprioritizing inclusiveness and diversity. For a workplace to succeed in all aspects of diversity and inclusiveness, serious policy changes must be made and enforced from the highest levels to the lowest levels of company structure.
The Workforce Is Growing Increasingly More Diverse
Inclusiveness is not only a way to foster positive company culture and maintain a diverse workforce, but those who are already seeking to create a culture of inclusivity in their workplaces will be ahead of the curve. The workforce grows increasingly diverse daily.
According to an article on diversity and inclusion statistics, between 1980 and 2020 the white working-age population decreased from 83 percent to 63 percent. Simultaneously, the number of minority workers has doubled. This is due in part to the retiring baby boomer generation and that younger workers of minority descent are growing in population.
What does this mean for the workforce? Workplaces that are creating an established environment of inclusivity and diversity now will be better positioned to succeed in these areas in the future, as they are already equipped to welcome and employ the rising generation of workers composed largely of diverse people. They will be ahead of the curve compared with organizations that are not currently making inclusiveness a priority.
What Is the Definition of Workplace Bias and Who Are the Victims?
One challenge that faces businesses who are seeking to create diverse, inclusive workforces is workplace bias. Workplace bias, while often unintentional, does continue to occur on the job. Workplace bias can be defined as presumptions of a person’s character, mannerisms, culture, or ethical stance based on that person’s race, gender, religious background, political affiliation, age, socioeconomic status, body type, sexual orientation, appearance or other characteristics that have nothing to do with actual job performance or a person’s qualifications.
The victims of workplace bias can truly be anyone, as everyone has the potential for bias based on their preferences and experience. No one is exempt from their subtle, preconceived notions. However, based on the statistics previously referenced in this article, workplace bias seems to have the greatest potential to occur more frequently against women and minorities, considering their lower representation in managerial and executive positions.
Five Recommendations to Mitigate Workplace Bias
While no one may truly be able to fully escape their own bias, there are some ways to mitigate and reduce the potential for workplace bias in establishing guidelines for inclusivity on the job. This article from HireVue lists five steps to lower the risk of workplace bias.
1. Set expectations and gather feedback - This allows a company to convey to its employees that inclusiveness and diversity are a priority in the workplace. Gathering feedback as to how well employees feel the company is doing in these areas provides valuable information about where to improve.
2. Voluntary Diversity Training for Managers - This may seem counterintuitive, but when studies compared voluntary versus mandatory diversity training, mandatory diversity training either saw no improvement or worsened workplace bias post-training. Unfortunately, mandating diversity training seems to build an “us vs. them” atmosphere, creating animosity between those required to take the training and those to whom the training was intended to help.
3. Build Bias Awareness - When someone is aware of their own biases, it can be easier to recognize when those biases are coming into play in hiring, firing, and other workplace interactions and to reconsider how the bias may be influencing the decision-making process. There are tests and outside sources that can help teams recognize their own blind spots, but it is important that when utilizing outside resources that realistic and quantifiable goals are set for the process in order to measure results.
4. Structure Limits the Potential for Bias - By creating structure within a company for systems such as self-evaluations, mentorship, expanding areas for recruitment, intergroup connections, and accountability at the personnel decisions level, a company is much more likely to be unbiased because they are functioning within a structure, rather than indwelt bias.
5. Measurement and Experimentation - While following these steps may prove useful, it is difficult to understand how well a process is working in actuality without quantifying the results. It is imperative that any new policy changes have results that are measurable and evaluated in order to assess the company’s health in terms of workplace bias.
What are the Benefits of Workplace Diversity and Inclusiveness?
As mentioned previously, there are many financial boons in hiring and maintaining a diverse staff and creating a company culture of inclusiveness. However, there are additional benefits to fostering a culture of inclusivity in the workplace. Forbes notes:
“Diverse employees can bring together their different talents, experiences and various skill sets to come up with creative and inventive solutions, whereas another group made up of people with similar backgrounds and skill sets may decide to solve a dilemma in the same way they always have. An increase in innovation and creativity among a culturally diverse group can create an esprit de corps and the feeling of positive progress for the benefit of the group and the organization. Such success promotes a feeling of camaraderie among team members and encourages successful cooperation in the next company venture.”
Creating a culture of inclusiveness is valuable not only for a company’s financial prospects, but it also creates an environment for solid team building, fresh ideas, and innovation. Not only do companies benefit tangibly from policies that promote inclusivity and diversity, but employees do as well. A positive work environment creates happy workers, who tend to stay where they are happy and appreciated, performing at a higher level than those who are dissatisfied in their workplace.
How Can Companies Attract More Diverse Candidates to High-Level Positions?
There are several things a company can do to attract more diverse candidates to high-level positions and to promote a company culture of inclusiveness. The Harvard Business Review cites a case-study that the Professional Golf Association of America implemented to learn why they were not attracting more diverse candidates and measures they put into place to counteract this trend. PGA of America partnered with Jopwell, a community of Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, to survey Jopwell’s members based on their interest in marketing, sports, and finance.
- When learning that accessibility was an issue, the PGA of America centralized its job postings and promoted its fellowship, scholarship, and internship opportunities on digital and social media platforms.
- The PGA of America also increased its presence in communities and platforms that traditionally have a presence in unengaged golf communities, such as Black Enterprise and Sports Business Journal.
- Finally, PGA of America created a system of accountability within their organization to ensure that these applicants are processed quickly and that the goals of championing diversity in their organization are implemented at every level of the hiring process.
Using this data-based methodology is a great way for businesses to learn ways to improve their particular brand. Data-based research demonstrates tangible ways for businesses to recognize their gaps, maximizing their reach to diverse communities. These steps towards diversity are positive but must also be maintained by a culture of inclusivity.
What Should You Look for in a College that Values Diversity and Inclusiveness and Helps You Reach Management Positions?
Knowing that a college truly values inclusivity and diversity carries over into all aspects of the college experience. St. Bonaventure University strives to create a university experience where inclusiveness and diversity are valued in the classroom, encouraging our students to carry those values into the workplace.
The Value of an Online Education through St. Bonaventure University
SBU’s online Master’s in Leadership program equips our students to achieve management positions with the leadership skills required to succeed in the workplace. Knowing and understanding the importance of inclusiveness and diversity in company culture is one of the topics of study in our leadership master’s program.
ML 610: Leadership and Diversity is part of the online Master’s in Leadership program curriculum. The course description summarizes well the ideas and values of inclusiveness and diversity.
“People have intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions in the workplace and the community. Understanding the unique contributions of diverse individuals makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. This course investigates the increasingly prominent issues surrounding diversity, dignity and worth. Theories on gender and minorities in the workforce are reviewed so that students gain an understanding and appreciation of the special circumstances they face in modern society. Special emphasis will be placed on the role of the leader in the organizations that are addressing the needs of a diverse workforce.”
Focusing on these ideas of understanding a person’s dignity and humanity through the lens of diversity is key to successful, inclusive leadership in today’s business world.
An online master’s degree in leadership can provide you with the broader framework to lead humanly, deeply and well in the world, with an understanding of how to effectively promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. St. Bonaventure University’s online Master of Arts in Leadership gives you the flexibility to work toward your degree from anywhere in the world, while continuing to work full time.
Take the first step toward an online MA in Leadership at St. Bonaventure University today.
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