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What diversity in the workforce really means

There’s no doubt that greater diversity in the workplace is beneficial. Multiple studies have shown that workforce diversity benefits the economy, helps companies avoid high employee turnover, and fosters a more creative and innovative workforce.

But what does diversity in the workplace really look like? A quick Google search will lead you down a path of articles focusing on definitions such as the “recognition of a variety of differences between people in the workplace” or “diverse workplaces are composed of employees with varying characteristics.”

While these definitions are not entirely inaccurate--workplace diversity does begin with the recognition and inclusion of difference--it’s not the full picture. Workplace diversity and inclusion mean more than simply just recognizing and ensuring workplaces include individuals from different backgrounds.

Just because a workplace acknowledges and includes difference within its wall does not mean a company or organization is actually practicing diversity and inclusion.

So, this begs the question, what can organizations and companies do to actually achieve inclusion and diversity in their workplace?

1. Don’t tokenize individuals:

Merriam-Webster defines tokenism as “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.” Commonly, organizations and companies think that if one person from a certain group is represented than that individual can speak for or function as a “rep” for that entire group. This type of thinking is problematic because it is reliant on vast assumptions that all people from a certain race, religion, ethnic group, etc. are all the same. Each person’s identity is far more complex than just one factor, and by tokenizing a person you erase their individual identity and all its complexities.

2. Include a variety of perspectives in decision making:

As explained earlier, tokenism of individuals from diverse backgrounds can occur frequently in companies or organizations as an attempt to be inclusive; but what really helps a company or organization be truly diverse and inclusive?

Decision-making opportunities. By offering decision making opportunities to a variety of different voices within your company or organization, your giving individuals a chance to offer their perspective and enact change. This can happen through delegating decision making tasks, and taking the time to listen to others opinions.

3. Acknowledge your own bias and power:

We all experience our own culture and others cultures differently. Every person has their own experiences and background; it’s what shapes us to be the person we are today. Whether we may realize it or not, this contributes to how we make decisions and have relationships with others. This is otherwise known as our personal bias.

Through practicing self-reflection, we can actively consider how our personal bias affects our decision-making in the professional world and how our position (the power we hold within our companies and organizations) contribute to these decisions.


Did you know MCS Chicago offers a variety of diversity training opportunities for companies and organizations? Learn more here:

Contributing Writer: Brittany A. Hamilton

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