Diversity Is Not Just About Gender and Race

In today’s world, we hear “diversity” everywhere. It’s a buzzword. But when we think about what diversity means and the initiatives that have come to bolster it, we often define it in terms of race and gender. This is an incredibly narrow view of diversity. Let’s take a deep dive into different types of diversity and how it impacts your organization.

Acknowledging all forms of diversity will enable any organization to foster a more collaborative workplace positioned to grow to its fullest potential. Encouraging all employees to embrace and be inclusive of their colleagues’ differences, will position your organization on the right path toward greater success.

Sexual orientation — If you think there is no one in your office who considers themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community, chances are you’re wrong. Many folks in the corporate world choose to keep their sexual orientation hidden out of fear of harassment, bias, or being overlooked for job opportunities. The best thing an HR professional can do is provide and foster a safe and welcoming environment. If and when employees decide to disclose their sexual orientation, they should feel empowered, embraced and welcomed.

Disabilities —Did you know one in five Americans lives with a disability? Some disabilities are easily identifiable, also known as visible disabilities (i.e. require the use of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers), while others are considered invisible disabilities (i.e. mental health, debilitating pain, and hearing/vision loss). Chances are there’s someone you work with who has one and you didn’t even know it.

While a starting point, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is not enough to be inclusive of people with disabilities. For example, when renovating your office, think about the acoustics of the layouts chosen for the main floor, offices, as well as the conference rooms so that they can be optimal listening environments for everyone (not just for those with hearing loss). Ensure there is enough space for someone who uses a wheelchair to get around the office as well as use the restroom comfortably. Thinking about how accommodations can be used to help everyone, not just as a compliance check-off, goes a long way to show your employees that you care about their in-office experience and work environment.

Religion and ethnicity — This is especially relevant during the major traditional holiday season. There are ways to make sure you’re not favoring one over the other, or leaving anyone out of the holiday cheer. But this can also come into play during the hiring process; have you ensured your hiring process is devoid of any unconscious bias based on religion on ethnic background? Do your employees feel comfortable showing pride in their religion?

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Age — With a changing and aging workforce — millennials now make up the majority of working adults — human resources managers need to ensure that older workers aren’t discriminated against. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, companies are choosing younger candidates, digital natives, to fill roles. But more seasoned employees have valuable life experience that shouldn’t be disregarded. Are you doing everything you can to capitalize on their value and how it can help shape younger workers’ professional development? Are you providing them with professional development opportunities to expand their already diverse skill sets?

Veteran status — Sometimes overlooked when talking about diversity is a person’s veteran status. The challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life are drastically understated, and veterans sometimes require support and mentorship to ensure that it is smooth and successful

As noted in my recent post, military spouses face high levels of unemployment and barriers to meaningful job opportunities. Not only are they overlooked and underappreciated (and deserve a thank you for their support of our country), but they certainly count when we think of diversity in the workplace.

This article was originally published on wforce.org.

Dr. Arthur Langer is director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University and chairman and founder of Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit with a mission of developing the skills of untapped talent from underserved and veteran communities through partnerships with organizations dedicated to diversifying their workforce. Since its inception in 2005, WOS has served 5,300+ individuals through partnerships with more than 65 corporations in 60+ locations worldwide. For more information, please visit www.wforce.org.ᐧ

 

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