DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together

-Jacqueline Woodson

Human beings are the most gifted creatures on earth yet suffer from an unconscious bias of preferring sameness. However, today’s world demands inclusive leaders. One of the most significant indicators of an inclusive leader is humility, the ability to admit mistakes, learn from criticism and different points of view. Ironically, humility is the functional opposite of what business world builds on. Despite the difficulty to run business with humility, leaders must normalize displays of humility alongside other behaviors like fearlessness.

Certain identities or backgrounds are preferred most often in companies, as they don’t depict change. On the contrary, data on under respected people in the workplace tells that the pressure to hide from stigma or stereotypes is greater for certain types of people than it is for others. There is hence an identity crisis for individuals initializing change, leading to payoffs in terms of engagement in the workplace. Making the courageous choice to lead authentically can encourage employees to bring their full selves to work. Leaders must pay attention to this crisis, at an organizational level, because of the power it could unlock in someone else.

Leaders must go beyond persons and personalities to community organizations, faith-based groups and trade associations that pull people from all walks of life under one banner. Experience with diversity and cultural integrity is greatly affected by the content, leaders read and other media they are exposed to. Snapping out of comfort zone helps leaders achieve people by embracing differences. Leaders outside their comfort zone shoulder discomfort with others, enabling change and growth of their leadership traits.

There is Progress

Through education and greater grasp of cultural competence, many corporations are evolving into multinational melting pots. Today, there is diversity in boardrooms. Nearly 95% of directors agree that inclusion of more women and minorities in the board room brings unique perspectives and 84% believe that diversity enhances board performance. An increase in innovation and creativity from a culturally diverse group can create an esprit de corps (a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty shared by members of a group) and a positive progress for the benefit of the organization.

For example, San Francisco Bay Area’s population is culturally diverse with roughly half the region housing Hispanic, Asian, African American or Pacific Islander populations, all of whom have a significant presence throughout the region. The cultural diversity at this place propels innovation and entrepreneurialism and makes it one of the most attractive places to invest. The Bay Area has by far the highest number of patents than any other American city, after surpassing New York City in 1995. San Francisco’s strong start-up ecosystem, emphasis on technology, inclusion of diverse people and cultures and willingness to take risks are the key contributing factors to the city’s transformation to becoming a Silicon Valley.

Bringing female role models into picture is critical in inspiring and encouraging the women leaders of tomorrow. Female business executives like Indira Nooyi, for instance, change the way we look at business and running an organization of different mindsets. She believes in running a company for the duration of the company and not the duration of the CEO. Nooyi’s success in building a sustainable organization can be gauged with her transformations like Performance with Purpose, support for young mothers and cultural diversity and inclusion in Pepsi Co. Michelle Obama on the other hand, is a great movement in herself. She shared her personal story, that has resonated with women across the country and empowered African American women to knock down stereotypes.

Enabling a culturally diverse organization may be time consuming in its inception. But, it can be as easy as the Human Resources department conducting a few diversity and inclusivity training sessions. The most vital lock to embracing cultural drift in an organization is unlocked by the employees understanding the sources of cultural differences through a range of behavioral responses. Employees must be exposed to cultural informants and professional interpreters to improve their adaptability to change. The Human Resources department must figure key barriers to employee communication. Regular meetings with the Human Resources personnel ensure that leaders know and eliminate the least important factors and focus on the most important factors leading to internal communication barriers.

Diversity needs to be evident at every level in the organization. Employees at every level must respect the organization’s commitment to zero tolerance regarding discrimination and harassment. Having worked with culturally different people across Latin America, Europe, USA and India, I as a leader foster cultural diversity in my organization with divergent perspectives my people bring to the table. Leaders must take time to communicate the diversity goals of their organizations and hold questions & answers sessions to ensure that every employee is on the same page, so the entire organization can effectively foster human-hood, diversity and inclusion.

Forbes has been the source for some of the key concepts and statistical figures.