People’s perceptions about diversity, equity, and inclusion are often centered on race, gender, and sexual orientation, and for good reason: These are critical dimensions of identity, and they often get the most attention when people advocate for equality and inclusion.
But there are other elements of diversity that are important to consider, especially in the workplace.
In employee recruitment, for example, “there’s been a lot said over the years about interviewing individuals to see if they’re a cultural fit,” said Trevor Mitchell, CAE, executive director of American Mensa Ltd. and the Mensa Foundation and chair of ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group. “But what does that mean? Are we bringing some of our biases—unconscious or not—into saying, ‘We just need someone who fits in with us?’”
Bringing in employees that challenge preconceived notions about who fits in expands the conversation. When organizations include people with distinctive perspectives, these new voices broaden opportunities for innovation and contribute to organizational success. For example, a 2020 McKinsey study found that ethnically and gender diverse companies tend to be more profitable.
Looking at the wide-ranging dimensions of diversity will help organizations be more proactive in solving problems, said Heba Mahmoud, senior manager of diversity at Collective Consulting. Tools like the Diversity Wheel, which examines different levels and elements of diversity, is a good place to start, she said.
But she cautions against overreliance on checklists and a “check the box” mentality. “The key to creating authentic inclusion programs and initiatives is to be as inclusive as possible, and that includes listening to viewpoints that might be against [inclusive practices] and helping them see how they fit into the equation,” said Mahmoud.
A New Balance at Work
The late-pandemic world has introduced a new challenge with DEI implications: the hybrid workplace. As employers bring workers back to their offices—or allow a continuation of remote work—they need to promote equity by making sure people in different job roles have the tools they need to succeed, no matter where they work.