(Understanding what it means to be Diverse)
“Diversity is like being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Bridget Tatham. But diversity and inclusion would be of little importance if there is no equity and equality. Most often, people confuse these two distinct terms. Equality is the state/quality of being equal, whereas equity is the quality of being fair or impartial—the whole idea of having equality and equity to provide a level playing field to everyone.
The word “diversity” has become a buzzword in the last few years, and the organisations aim to become more diverse. I firmly believe that embracing this concept can help us achieve sustainable goals. Before we talk about the intersection of sustainability and diversity, I think it is essential to highlight the underlying crux of diversity. This made me wonder what diversity is, and I looked upon the three most popular dictionaries on the planet: Cambridge, Oxford Learner’s, and Merriam Webster.
Cambridge dictionary defines diversity as:
Oxford Learner’s dictionary defines it as:
Merriam Webster defines it as:
But, I would say the definition/meaning of the word diversity as mentioned in the above text is incomplete, and it depends on which part of world a person is raised in (many of our thoughts are shaped by our environment and culture). After having a conversation with scores of people from different backgrounds throughout my professional life, I would like to propose a definition of diversity from a vantage point:
Diversity is the concept of having a state where people of different age, education, experience, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, social class, sexual orientation, political beliefs and physical abilities come together to achieve a shared common vision based on shared values and principles.
It is quite common to have conflicts in a diverse organisation because of differences in opinion or how one does their job. Therefore, it is crucial to have a common vision and shared values and principles that unite the irrespective of their differences. Such differences often disappear with time but might need special training sessions on unconscious biases, common cultural differences, etc. With the resolution of conflicts comes inclusion which gives the team members not only a sense of safety and belongingness but also self-esteem, which is one of the most important aspects of living to reach one’s true potential.
It is possible that an organisation can be diverse but not inclusive. Segregation is possible within the teams if there is no affinity within the team/organisation. So, it is essential to have those shared set of values that binds the employees together. E.g. in certain cultures, it is a tradition not to drink alcohol or not eat carnivorous food. In such cases, people often cluster together. Another example that challenges inclusiveness is that, in certain cultures, people do not work on certain days but in an organisation, are they given the flexibility of taking off on these days? We need to put a governance check that diversity and inclusiveness go hand in hand. As Bridget Tatham says, “Diversity is like being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”
But diversity and inclusion would be of little importance if there is no equity and equality. Most often, people confuse these two distinct terms. Equality is the state/quality of being equal, whereas equity is the quality of being fair or impartial—the whole idea of having equality and equity to provide a level playing field to everyone.
Let us take a hypothetical situation where you need to hire a candidate. Two people, A and B, applied for the job, and both are equally good but with just one difference: candidate A is Harvard alumni. Whom would you hire? I assume your answer would be candidate A because he is supposed to be more productive and efficient. Moreover, graduates from elite universities are paid more because of common notion that they will be performing better. But a study by HBR says, “In this more realistic case, the predicted difference in performance would be closer to 1%.” This challenges the idea of equity (and it is often the case of unconscious bias).
Image credits: The image with the caption Equality vs Equity is licensed under CC BY
Diversity is not just about inclusion, equality and equity. It leads to self-realisation or achieving one’s true potential resulting in better performance. As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a human needs to climb up the several steps to be the best version of oneself: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Belongingness and love needs, Self-esteem, and last is self-actualisation. Self Actualization is a person’s motivation to reach their full potential; but before self-actual a person’s basic needs must be fulfilled.
If we perform a 360-degree analysis of diversity and inclusion, we will observe that the concept of diversity is indeed helping one to achieve all their physiological and psychological needs. Maybe this is why truly diverse teams are up to 33% more productive! (In a report, published in Jan 2018, McKinsey highlitghted, “For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability”.)
An organisation can be truly diverse if it embraces all four parameters: diversity, inclusion, equality, and equity. Of course, a lot depends on project/organisation requirements, and a concrete study needs to be done within an organization before reaching any conclusion. Perhaps, a good governance structure and customised framework for an organisation can be adopted to oversee different parameters.
In the next part, we will analyse how diversity can help us achieve SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).