Why Does Having A Diverse and Inclusive Workplace Matter?

Feim Mehmed
May 31, 2022
10
min read
General

Look at this following picture. Do you see anything wrong with it? This picture of a team during a team building posted by Josep Pedrerol, a journalist for a tv show about football, went viral few weeks ago. This is the reality in many companies.

If you want to remain relevant in any business, having a diverse team is something you should definitely consider… no, wait, not just consider. Definitely a must-have. It's 2022. Get into it. Diversity is an essential asset to have in any company. Besides its ethical side, having a diverse and inclusive workforce helps companies stay relevant to their customers and be competitive in the market. Even though diversity and inclusion are just trendy concepts for some, most companies know their importance today.

Women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination, underrepresentation, and inequality in most industries, especially the tech industry. According to a recent survey by the Diversidays association, nearly 50% of employees fear that they will one day be victims of discrimination in their work because of their age, their gender, but also their social or ethnic origin, or even their sexual orientation. Differences still scare some people. A large majority would also like their company to become more involved and active in this cause.

Most companies aim or thrive on having a diverse and inclusive space; however, they also don't have any policies or initiatives to promote diverse ways of thinking and build a diverse workforce.

Some companies do succeed in having a diverse team. The boss goes one day, "okay guys, hear me. I want minorities and underrepresented groups to represent 40% of this company instead of the 20% we have now. Let's do something about it; let's hire some". But focusing on hiring minorities isn't enough. Having a diverse team isn't enough. That's when inclusivity comes. Some minorities don't have enough power in a company. They're not the ones being high in the hierarchy and being key decision-makers. They're not even getting promotions. They don't feel heard or feel like they're in a safe space. Having a diverse team is excellent, but having an inclusive team is where the secret lies.

 

But what does having a diverse team really mean?

Does it mean employing someone just because they're different so we can follow the trend? No, absolutely not. Having a diverse team is much more than that. It's not going against discrimination only during black history month. It's not pinkwashing whenever it's convenient. It's not putting a rainbow flag on your products once a year to show "allyship" when it's only done for marketing purposes.

 

 

Diversity and inclusion have gained a lot of importance and attention these past few years, and phew… But there still seems to be an ongoing problem when it comes to diversity in tech. The changes and progress have been going pretty slow in the tech industry. 

Companies spend billions in today's business committing to diversity and inclusion efforts. The industry demands it. The people demand it. However, there clearly is a lot of effort needed to be made in the tech world to improve diversity and inclusion.

In this article, we'll pinpoint why diversity and inclusion shouldn't be ignored in the tech world and what we can do to make our business a much more diverse and inclusive space.

 

What are diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is surrounding yourself with different people. When we say "different," it's also much more than the age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Diversity is not just about what's visible. Diversity is multidimensional. We can divide diversity into three different categories:

  • Visible diversity: culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, and mental or physical condition.
  • Invisible diversity: thoughts, perspectives, and life experiences, including education, values/beliefs, and socioeconomic status.
  • Other dimensions of diversity that may or may not be visible: include sexual orientation, religion, and language, for example.

 

Diversity is about seeing the variety and mix of people in the street represented in your company. It's a workforce composed of people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, origins, etc. Diversity is mainly about bringing different perspectives into a team. A team is traditionally homogeneous. Everyone seems to have the same background, experiences, skills, values, and looks the same. Most of the time, we think that diversity only concerns minorities. However, that is not always the case. Women are also vastly underrepresented in some industries, especially in tech.

On the other hand, inclusion is making sure that the different people you work with feel included and equal. It's giving the same opportunities to everyone.

 

Why is diversity so important?

If people have the required skills, why should we care about diversity? Well, it's not always like that. Diversity is essential for equality and moral reasons. But it's also crucial for business reasons.

Consumers have higher expectations of products and services today. They want specific products to meet their specific needs. Therefore, a company should promote a diverse workplace and have a diverse workforce. A diverse workforce will help a company better understand its consumers.

On the other hand, employees also have higher expectations of their workplace. They want a workplace composed of diverse people to feel included, see their values represented, feel like they're in a safe space, and be allowed to have different perspectives, skills, and experiences.

 

What happens when businesses create products without input from a diverse team?

It's bad for business. Women have a big consumer spending and feel underserved, for example. That's more than a reason to include them in product teams.

Are you asking yourself… So should only women create products for women? Do LGBTQ+ people create products for the LGBTQ+? Only black people make products for black people? Not really, no. But inevitably, more representation from women will lead to better products for women, for example.

 

What does having a diverse workforce lead to?

Okay, let's say you have a diverse team. So what now? What happens? What kind of results should you expect?

The benefits to the business of a diverse workplace are multiple. A diverse team leads to diverse opinions. People coming from different backgrounds and experiences will lay out different perspectives to the table. A team composed of diverse people will bring more creativity to the table, larger skills, more ideas coming from different backgrounds, and solve problems from different perspectives. This will inevitably help your business grow. And employees will feel better in the company, thus, becoming more productive.

 

Let's talk numbers

 

The new International Labour Organisation report, "Transforming Enterprises through Diversity and Inclusion," published in April this year, gives insights on companies of all sizes and shares data and information from a diverse mix of staff, managers, and senior executives.

The report reflects data from people of a variety of ages, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic/racial/religious groups, persons with disabilities, and those with HIV. You can have a deeper read of the report here.

The International Labour Organisation reports that 25% of employees feel undervalued. And those who feel valued usually have jobs at the higher level of the hierarchy.

People under 30 are said to be very attached to the value of diversity and inclusion and expect companies to make an extra effort in the matter. However, half of the employees also feel that D&I efforts aren't identified, and not much effort is made to put a strategy in place. It's also important to note that only ⅓ of companies measure inclusion in their workforce. However, if we want to progress in the matter, it's essential to measure the demographics and inclusivity and take initiatives from this data.

According to data, things seem to be getting better in Belgium. When it comes to neutral recruitment, only 6 out of 10 companies are assuring an equal, diverse, and inclusive recruitment policy, according to a study by SD Worx. Belgian companies, next to Irish and British, occupy the top ranking in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Most Belgian companies are committed to diversity in recruitment, equal pay, and working conditions, regardless of gender, age, or religion.

 

Why do businesses want to implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

According to a study of diversity in the workplace (OECD, 2018, 2020), the reasons pushing companies to undertake the shift to diversity are to :

  • enrich the company's human capital (67%)
  • stimulate creativity and innovation (46%)
  • respond to ethical considerations (43%)
  • address labour and skills shortages (37%)
  • meet legal obligations (37%) 

Having a diverse workforce has numerous benefits. For example, it allows improved decision-making, helps the company's financial performance, creates innovative solutions and products, helps with risk management, and increases the employees' sense of belonging to the company.

 

The gender gap in the tech industry

There's a major gender gap in tech. And it has been the case for years. Women in tech have a difficult time. It's known that women are not very present in the tech industry. They are also unpaid and underrepresented. According to the Pew Research Centre, women represent only 25% of the tech industry.

Bringing gender diversity in tech has a lot of benefits; however, there's a lot more work to do to get women into tech and make the male-dominated industry attractive to them. Discrimination against women of colour also seems to be an issue that needs some solving. Women also struggle to receive promotions. This leads to less happy employees in the long run.

 

Racial diversity in the tech industry

The gender gap in tech is worrying. But racial diversity is also lacking. People of colour seem to lack representation in the tech workforce. People of colour also have expressed discrimination at work. Some say they have been underpaid compared to other colleagues doing the same job, not getting enough opportunities within the company, and not getting promotion offers. Tech jobs are therefore less appealing to people of colour.

 

How do you improve diversity in the workplace?

It's not going to happen overnight, that is for sure. However, many companies have committed themselves to creating a more diverse workforce. Some of the commitments and initiatives seem to work. Some don't. Some companies completely ignore it as well.

 

The different ways to improve diversity in the tech world

The conversation about diversity and inclusion has been going around for a long time. However, it takes true commitment and action to follow the conversation up. Here are a few initiatives you can take to make a real impact on your business and the world.

 

Review your recruitment policy

You can change how you advertise your recruitments and target future employees by making your recruitment more inclusive and neutral.

How? Write gender-neutral job ads. You should also look into displaying your ads on targeted networks. Request and recruit through anonymous resumes. You should also display photos of diverse employees in promotional campaigns or on company websites. That way, you'll attract more people who will see themselves in your company.

  

Think about a diversity recruiting strategy

Is your recruiting strategy obsolete? Do you feel like no matter what you do, you don't seem to be successful in hiring a diverse team? Maybe it's time to change your hiring strategy and make some changes in order to bring diversity and inclusion to your business. You can reach out to organisations that support and develop diverse talents. You can also go to a conference where diverse talent might be present.

 

Work on your employee integration and training policy

Got a new employee integrating your company? Implement initiatives as soon as the employee starts working in your company. For example, consider including your new members in company presentations and training for new employees and giving them a platform. It would help if you also valued the development of inclusive practices among current employees.

 

Look outside your local area: welcome remote work

Diversity is also looking for people from outside your local area. It will allow you to choose a future employee from a bigger pool of talent. Get out of your area. The best people are scattered all around the world. If you're hiring in your city, you're definitely limiting your options. Widen your search. Maybe even look in different countries. That's maybe where the talent you're looking for lives.

Some people can't afford to move or relocate to the city you live in. It may be too expensive for them or they can't go due to family reasons. If you're limiting yourself to your local area, you might be missing out on bringing new ideas, perspectives and skills to your company.

Also, remote working proved to be totally efficient during the pandemic. Therefore, there's no reason not to support remote work anymore. Remote work also promotes neurodiversity and is an excellent opportunity for some candidates, such as introverted people.

 

Focus on company culture

Company culture is vital for giving a sense of belonging to your teams. Building a diverse workplace is nice, but maintaining it after it's been built is where the trick is. 

The company culture is one of the keys to attracting and keeping diverse talent. In order to do that, companies must build a safe environment for their employees. Empathy is also important.

Having an inclusive culture is also another thing you should focus on. For example, you can recognise all holidays for your team members. Your Muslim employees, for example, might request a few days off for their religious holidays, and you should be able to recognise that. You can also honour some particular months, such as black history month or pride month, that some of your employees care about.

 

Did you think about a multigenerational workforce?

80% of millennials feel more connected to their work when their company ensures a diverse workforce and workplace culture. Building your workforce with employees from multiple generations is one of the bases of building a diverse and inclusive environment. Different generations have different things to offer, and collaboration amongst them leads to innovation.

  

Make your boardroom go through a change

Is your boardroom composed of white men only? Why not change that? Diverse company leaders are still scarce in the tech world. Did you know that companies with diverse leaders have shown to be far more profitable? Unfortunately, reports say that there aren't enough diverse company leaders. To change that, you can start internally developing the talent in your company. Encourage participation and growth in your teams. Increase the diversity within the company.

You can offer training to your employees who want a career shift, allowing them to get better at their job and acquire and develop new skills. You can also provide development programs and training to underrepresented groups within your company.

Give a platform for all your employees to have their voices heard

One of the reasons why diversity and inclusion aren't progressing as fast in some companies is because employees are afraid to speak up. What are going to be the consequences if they speak up? Will they risk their job? Will the other employees look upon them? A lot of fear is present amongst them. So it's vital for them to feel like they're in a safe space where they can freely and openly express their concerns and feelings without fearing victimisation.

Also, many employees give up on their job and quit because they feel like they are under-appreciated because of their differences. It's important to make every employee feel heard, included, valued, and respected, regardless of factors such as age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, physical conditions, etc. It allows them to relate and connect with the company.

In order to achieve that, first up suggests creating a workforce communications platform. By doing that, you will gather all communication channels into one platform and therefore be able to connect with all the employees and make them feel connected in all initiatives of the company.

 

Showcase your efforts to attract talents

Showing explicit support for diversity and inclusion is significant. A candidate may not know what your company is doing in order to support diversity. Change that. Celebrate diverse employees. Show what you've been doing to help diversity and make external people feel welcome. That also works in another way: you also appreciate your employees in the company, thus, giving them a boost.

Measure the results of your efforts

All initiatives to bring diversity and inclusion to your company are very thrilling. It's the first step into actually making things happen. Are they really working, though? Are you getting any results?

After setting your initiatives and applying them, make sure to have a plan for reporting the results and studying your company's diversity demographics. Getting internal employee feedback is also an excellent way to measure your efforts. You have to know if they feel included and happy in the company. Get to know their struggles and worries about the company culture. You can improve by doing a quick survey in order to have some insights.

 

Get yourself a head of diversity

Passionate about diversity? Do something about it and think about going the extra mile. Having someone overseeing diversity efforts can increase the number of underrepresented groups in management. Also, having someone solely focusing on that will accelerate the diversity within your company. Many companies like Microsoft or Google have a diversity and inclusion manager.

 

Use gender-inclusive language

You can make your company's language more gender-inclusive. It's a small step that can make a huge difference. What does using gender-inclusive language mean? The website of the UN says that it means "speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes." You can start by reviewing your job postings to ensure language neutrality and maybe create a guide on how to use gender-inclusive language within your organisation.

Get some help

Everybody makes mistakes, but you can always learn. Are you struggling and need some external help with diversity and inclusion in your workplace? There is a lot of training available to learn more about D&I. You can check some of the training now.be offers right here. In Belgium, Codef has made a list of organisations and initiatives in the country where you can seek help regarding D&I.

 

D&I in the Belgian industry

The D&I Census has surveyed the level of diversity and inclusion in the marketing and communications industry in 27 countries. The survey measures the challenges diverse people face regarding age, gender, family status, sexual orientation, and disability. 

Regarding inclusion, Belgium is doing better than most countries. 74% said to not have negative experiences in the workplace, don't feel discriminated against, and have a sense of belonging to the company. This is the highest score of any country in the survey. However, 26% feel discriminated against, which shows that there is still some work to do.

47% of the respondents believe that their company takes enough measures and initiatives to be more diverse and inclusive. You can read a summary of the results here

Example of D&I efforts 

Ever wondered what has been done in International and Belgian companies recently regarding diversity and inclusion efforts.

GSK

GSK aims to create an inclusive workplace for its employees in order to attract and retain the most talented people from all backgrounds and cultures.

The company emphasises respect for people by creating an environment in which all voices are heard and where each person can achieve their full potential no matter where they come from and who they are. They believe their efforts will result in more success in terms of business performance as well.

They aim to make all employees feel involved and know that their work is an essential contribution to the company. GSK's inclusive work environment comprises diverse knowledge, perspectives, experiences, and working styles from across our global population, enhancing individual creativity and innovation.

What actions do they take? They have launched special development programs for high-potential talent, sponsorship of senior leaders for inclusion and diversity initiatives, and positive change advocated by their employee resource groups. They also organise a series of events within GSK to emphasise the importance of inclusion. They also have a support system for their employees.

 

Slack

The business communication platform has stayed ahead in the business regarding diversity and inclusion. Since they were founded in 2013, the company has committed itself to embed diversity, engagement, and belonging in every aspect of its operations. You can check their 2020 report here and their latest report, 2021 here. They publish these reports once a year in order to evaluate and improve their efforts.

Even though their numbers vary yearly, Slack has launched remarkable initiatives and programs in the US to have diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

 

  • Year up

They have partnered with Year Up, a training program that connects underserved youth with career opportunities in various companies on a nontraditional path to tech. The program seems to work since 87,5% of the interns that have taken part in the program now have full-time jobs.

 

  • Employee Resource Groups

ERGs are a popular way to raise awareness around D&I. This program helps "help drive belonging among employees by providing support, professional development, and a variety of programs across Slack's global offices."

 

  • Rising Tides

Slack also partnered with Rising Tides, a six-month sponsorship and support program for talented and diverse groups of high performers and emerging leaders that lack access to this type of support.

 

  • Carrot Family-Forming Benefits

Slack is also taking the initiative to help its employees support their personal lives. For example, they have partnered with Carrot to give access to quality fertility-related care for all their employees regardless of their differences. This program provides access to fertility education, essential fertility evaluations, fertility preservation for women and men, IVF, genetic testing, egg freezing, gestational carriers, adoption, and more.

 

  • Slack For Good

Slack has also launched a mission to increase the number of historically underrepresented employees in the tech industry. They have launched initiatives such as Next Chapter to find formerly incarcerated people for skilled, long-term employment in the tech world or Slack for Good committees, where they partner with local nonprofits and charities to support them.

 

Solvay

Solvay is very vocal about its efforts in D&I. The company has an entire page dedicated to the matter on its website.

Solvay's goal is to build "a team that has equal opportunity to work, grow and thrive in the workplace." They have launched a program titled "One Dignity" with specific targets they aim to reach by 2025. This program focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and places it at the forefront.

In terms of diversity, they want to allow their employees to be their authentic selves at work. Solvay aims to have gender parity by accelerating at all levels. They also want disability equality by making their workplace optimal for people with disabilities. Last but not least, they also want to develop employee resource groups.

In terms of equity, Solvay wants to "address structural inequality by providing equitable access to opportunities to talents & businesses." Their first objective is to have equitable pay. They want to get rid of all undesired pay gaps and get rid of the ones that are already existing. Fair recruitment is also something the company wants to focus on. They want to give all applicants a fair chance at getting a job regardless of their background. They also focus on giving their employees equitable career opportunities by allowing them to develop in the company.

Solvay also wants its employees to feel included and "grow and nurture an inclusive mindset, build an inclusive employee experience and foster a speak-up culture and corrective actions". They want to create a safe space for everyone to speak when they witness non-inclusive behaviour and have more inclusive leaders that will grow and nurture an inclusive mindset. Solvay's goal is to create an inclusive employee experience where everyone feels like they belong.

All this sounds good… but in reality, how are they doing? They're very transparent about their data. There still is an underrepresentation of women (23% of the management level overall). However, Solvay does make a lot of effort for D&I. They have partnered with Out and Equal to advance LGBTQ+ workplace equality and belonging. Breaking mental health stigma is also on the business agenda through different initiatives such as their employee resource groups. To ensure their employees' wellbeing, they have launched initiatives such as extended parental leave of 16 weeks for all co-parents, a speak-up program, and an internal medical network, just to give some examples. Solvay also supports inclusive behaviours such as the support of gender identity. These are only a few examples of what Solvay is doing to further progress in D&I.

 

Conclusion

It’s refreshing that companies are finally realising the importance of diversity and inclusion. That is a positive for the employees but also for the business. However, these efforts don't seem to be enough, and there are still many ways to go. Many giant companies such as Apple and Google invest enormous amounts of money to have better diversity and inclusion in their workforce.

It is only a matter of time. Some companies seem to be doing better than others, and some have a long way to go.

Diversity and inclusion are important to us. We were thrilled to have Samia Suys from Cheqroom give us a talk during Rocket Day about how to build a diverse product team. Make sure to check it out. 

Stay tuned, we'll be interviewing critical actors in diversity and inclusion in Belgium to give you more insight into what's going on in the tech industry when it comes to the matter.