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The Reality of Diversity – And Why It Matters

The Reality of Diversity – And Why It Matters

With so many companies claiming to prioritise diversity but failing to deliver, diversity and inclusion initiatives will only be successful if everyone feels a sense of belonging in the workplace.

It's not just a nice gesture; it's also good for business. According to study after study, diversity leads to more creative teams and increases a company's bottom line. According to McKinsey, companies in the top quartile of executive-board diversity were 35% more likely to outperform industry medians financially. According to other research, inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time.

Diversity is an action, inclusivity is a cultural concept, and belonging is a state of mind. Change does not begin with top-down leadership; it occurs at all levels. We can all be leaders if we want to, and we all have a responsibility to put the people we know at ease. When you believe you belong somewhere, your work ethic improves because you believe it is also your company. As a middle manager, you can play an important role in communicating the importance of creating a sense of belonging at work. I gathered advice from leaders who prioritise diversity so that people from all backgrounds can bring their unique strengths to the table as inspiration.

Look for Different Mindsets. Diversity is more than just gender or race; it also includes background and mindset. According to Gina Grillo, President and CEO of the Advertising Club of New York, a major barrier to diversity is that "we tend to promote people who we feel comfortable with, and often that is people who are like us."

According to the data, those in positions of power continue to be similar in terms of race and gender: Around 72% of CEOs in the top Fortune 500 companies are white men, with African American women accounting for less than 1%.

Lauren Wesley Wilson, founder of ColorComm, a business community for women of colour in the communications industry, states, "the [advertising and communications] industry is dominated by white women through middle management and white men at the top." "When it comes to public relations and advertising firms, there are often only a few people of colour in leadership positions, if any at all. Hiring managers frequently hire people who look like them. They are looking for similarity and compatibility rather than diversity or difference."

Be deliberate. Bring diversity into meetings and work opportunities on purpose. If we want diversity, we should all bring people who are not like us to work.

Inclusivity aims to ensure that everyone feels included in everything you do and that everyone feels like they belong—regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. It's not only good for morale, but it's also good for employee performance: According to studies, concealing our true identities has a significant negative impact on our professional performance. To ensure the success of diversity initiatives, we must be open to different points of view and allow employees to express their individuality.

"This isn't autopilot. "The autopilot is to hang out with people who think and look like you," Kristin Hayden, Chief Partnership Officer at IGNITE, said in the Dreamforce Equality Lounge. "It's all about being present... To do things differently, you must be deliberate."

Get Used to Feeling Uncomfortable. Accept that achieving diversity will be difficult. "Somehow there is this perception that managing diverse groups is fun, easy, and everything is going to be 'kumbaya,'" said Antonio Lucio, CMO of HP, Inc., in the Girls' Lounge at Advertising Week, who is helping to make diversity a top priority for HP, Inc. and their partners. "It's incredibly difficult."

In terms of performance, diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams every time, according to an MIT study. "What I found incredibly interesting [about this research] is that homogeneous teams felt great during the process but lost, whereas diverse teams felt miserable until they finished and met their target." Nobody tells us how difficult it is...but you have to accept it because the end result will be better."

As a middle manager, you can serve as a role model by supporting diversity goals and encouraging your team to overcome obstacles. Pinterest discovered that when managers are made aware of the importance of diversity, their employees take more initiative and become more involved in supporting the cause.

Empathy is used to lead. Paying attention to employees' emotions is critical for fostering a sense of belonging and ensuring the success of diverse teams. You'll help retain employees from all walks of life if you make them feel heard because how people feel within their company determines how long they'll stay. According to one study, more than 40% of job turnover occurs within the first month of employment. This could be avoided if new hires had a sense of belonging from the start, such as leaders who checked in on how things were going and mentors to whom they could turn for advice.

Change requires accountability. We must begin to become more conscious of our unconscious and recognise that we can do more and be better at creating inclusive cultures. When we hold ourselves accountable for change, the transformation will occur.

Companies should keep track of their progress toward well-defined objectives. Some companies have made diversity a part of their review process to incentivise and hold themselves accountable to diversity goals. For example, Kaiser Permanente's National Diversity Agenda focuses on creating a racially diverse workforce. So far, their efforts have paid off: Kaiser has no racial majority among its employees, and nearly 60% are people of colour. Consider how you, as a middle manager, can set your own internal diversity goals and then track those metrics.

Finally, treat your employees like family, embrace and respect individual strengths, and foster a collaborative and safe environment. This will foster a sense of belonging and inspire your employees to be their best selves.