Diversity and Inclusion is beyond ONE GENDER

Diversity and Inclusion is beyond ONE GENDER
Dr. Aparna Sethi
Corporate Trainer and Author

Today many progressive organisations are taking initiatives for Diversity and Inclusion (D & I). It is observed that as a part of D & I companies are trying to work on gender-balance targets and initiatives. Moreover, many companies are recruiting more women employees and are trying to create a culture of respecting women. Companies are also coming up with special reward and recognition programs where women are rewarded. Every year the celebration of women’s day has become the biggest event of the year whereas no noise on men’s day. Now the question is will it help us to achieve equality or gender-balance in true ways? Unfortunately, the diversity term is getting limited to only women employees at the workplace.

Recent limited gender focus has started creating awareness but also fear in the minds of employees. During training sessions, participants are expressing their concerns on hiring and promotions on the basis of gender rather than competence. The objective of the initiatives should be aimed at developing a workforce that is a diverse workforce and inclusive culture and not only women focus.

 Diversity includes many more factors besides gender, it includes ethnicity, language, socio-economic status, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientation and even physical disabilities.

The focus of the diversity-related initiatives requires more on mindset change and individual accountability than compulsion. The problem is that we can’t motivate employees by forcing them.  Many diversity programs in western countries focus on controlling the behaviour of managers and studies show that approach tends to activate bias rather than quash it. People rebel against the rules that threaten their autonomy.  (Thomas, D. A., & Ely, R. J. (1996). Making differences matter. Harvard Business Review, 1-12.) By creating social accountability, employees feel responsible to work for the cause.

The best tool for getting employees on board and making them accountable is to make work for the cause is to involve them in the solution. Many companies have got consistently positive results with such tactics.

  1.     Have an equal representation of all sexes in the diversity committee: It is often observed that the D & I committee always headed by women which is absolutely fine but the representation of all sex is vital.
  2.     Expose employees to different groups and encourage social accountability for change: Let employees work with physically challenged or diverse groups. One company took initiative to train supervisors to learn sign language for its blind team.
  3.     Engage managers: The belief and mindset shifts when the human begins to experience. In India still, people do not come out and disclose their real sexuality with the fear of discrimination, women do not raise their voice due to cultural bindings. When managers work in various diversity programs like hiring, mentoring, etc. the chances of awareness and acknowledgment increase.

 Progressive companies have started going beyond gender and are working towards true equality. The gender pay gap still exists in India. Job opportunities also need to be available for all human beings. Achieving equality is in the hands of organisation. They have started using tools Implicit Association Test (IAT) which not only evaluate gender biases but also other biases like ethnicity etc.   Involve manager in hiring, have open grievances procedures, added bias-related aspects in 360-degree appraisals.

Employee benefit programs that provide real balance for all the employees. The equal approach will discard the one-size-fits-all approach to allow employees to design their own benefits package. This will also offer coverage for LGBT couples, choice of additional child care or parent care coverage and more options for single employees . By creating policies and procedures for all organisations can successfully onboard a diverse workforce. The biggest challenge is how your workforce is ready to stand next to gay or how are they ready to hire LGBTQ candidates. In this area, companies need to work on psychological preparedness as well as creating a dignified work environment.

 In conclusion call for action is:

 Focus on diversity as a whole rather than only on one gender

The shift from compulsive initiatives to social accountability  

Top leadership accountability plays a critical role

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