My earlier post on the topic of inclusiveness and diversity called ‘Does It Take Two Hands To Clap’ received interesting viewpoints from readers. Themes that emerged were the need for greater acceptance, the expectations of a ‘holistic’ workplace, uncovering biases and going to the basics – getting it right at ‘home’. Incidentally, some readers preferred writing directly to me sharing how the scenarios I described related to their lives in many ways. I respect their privacy and decision to avoid posting their comments on my blog.
Why being inclusive works for everyone
To gain a deeper understanding of how and why showing up in heart and mind can overcome biases at the workplace and elsewhere we should refer to what research studies unearth. However, before you get there do look up this interesting case study on biases at the workplace.
- Diversity at the workplace makes us more relevant: It helps us become better individually, more productive as a team and better at innovating as an organization. A Kellogg School of Management study reports that diverse groups outperformed more homogeneous groups because diversity triggered more careful information processing that is absent in homogeneous groups.
- We all want to belong to a great place to work: Organizations which demonstrate sensitivity to gender bias are better suited to make it to the top of the heap among best workplaces. The 2012 Great Place to Work study highlights that among great workplaces while women may not feel a bias, stereotyping of roles can lead to ‘perceived lower opportunities’.
- Organizations with men reaching out to women work better: The most gender balanced organizations have men reaching out to the women not women ‘leaning in’. Also companies which had women managing at the helm consistently outperformed in India.
- How hiring is impacted: Losing a good employee because of misunderstanding caused by gender bias results in more time spent in hiring, training and retaining a new person. Joint evaluations for hiring, promotions or providing assignments increase both efficiency and equality and reduce gender bias.
- What you say and do fuels gender biases: In a study conducted in the US, researchers noted that subtle changes in content for tech job postings can lead to gender bias. How women are addressed adds to the perception of gender bias. A casual ‘hey gals’ may be how you addressed your friends in college but has different connotations at the workplace.
So, what can communicators do to promote and support diversity and equality at the workplace? Here are a few recommendations that are simple and easy to get started on.
- Be watchful about the language used: What we say and write officially can influence the culture at the organization. Usage of ‘he/she’ or stating ‘female’ or ‘girls’ instead of ‘women’ may sound like minor issues but are not. These reflect the way people are treated and becomes the ‘culture’.
- Surface stories that reflect inclusive behavior: Identify employees who have stepped up to initiate dialogue on gender balance and inclusivity. Recognize those who built high performing teams with women in the workplace.
- Report inconsistencies: Look for simple stuff that creates barriers to truly becoming inclusive. At one organization, the rest room for women was in a remote corner of the building while the men’s lavatory was built closer to the reception. What message did it send out?
Next time you are invited for an event or a discussion where you have the opportunity to demonstrate inclusiveness or spot deviations from the culture your organization wants to build and sustain – first, show up. Then step up.