Diversity and Inclusivity

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 18, 2013

"“Diversity” is the noun, and “inclusion” is the verb

Diversity includes all experiences and characteristics that define each of us as individuals.

The Chancellor's Committee on Diversity defines Diversity as: ""The variety of experiences and perspective which arise from differences in race, culture, religion, mental or physical abilities, heritage, age, gender, orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.""

Organizations and individuals should recognize how these dimensions affect individual’s motivation, performance and success. Various studies on diversity indicate that when accepted and valued, diversity is found to enhance individual productivity, organizational effectiveness, and sustained competitiveness.

image:smarnad, freedigitalphotos.net

Inclusivity puts the concept of diversity into action by creating a conducive environment for individuals where they learn to involve, respect, and connect with others in the organization. It is an initiative to create a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who they are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that individuals can do their best work.

Inclusion requires a shift in organizational culture. Individuals can harness their full potential and contribute to the organization’s success, only when they feel valued and included in the organization’s mission. This shift in culture & attitudes of organizations creates learning and integrated organizations with high performance culture and loyal employees.

In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together. Organizations need both diversity and inclusivity to be successful.

Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

According to Insight Educational Consulting (IEC) founder and CEO, Tom Floyd ""Diversity in today's workforce must start from the top for most organizations, and the companies that have been successful have created cultures where awareness, acceptance and diversity are core company values. It is so much bigger than putting out glossy brochures with a variety of faces from different genders, races and other groups. Companies are realizing they need to 'walk the talk,' living and breathing diversity every day.""

A survey conducted by Capital H Group & Wake Forest University on “Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace”. It included senior managers and managers from DiversityInc Top 10 companies for diversity and a comparison group of Fortune 500 companies. Qualified respondents ranged from office manager to vice president and were responsible for managing or leading a team. The results of the survey revealed that diversity and inclusion were viewed very positively. 93% of respondents say that diversity is treated as a key business driver, impacting strategies, business goals, and results at their organizations. 92% say their company's current diversity and inclusion practices have helped their organizations to attract and retain talent which is critical in today's competitive marketplace. Almost 96% of respondents believe their background and perspective is respected and valued by their peers, reporting manager and senior leadership.

Benefits of a Diverse Team

• Analyzing issues from different viewpoints

• Gathering fresh perspectives

• Customers can better identify with the workforce and this helps to generate better insight of customer relationship strategies

• Learning about the values of various lifestyles and cultures

• Makes an organization stronger, more competitive and better equipped to understand its customers or constituency

""The benefits of a diverse workforce are almost endless... they enable companies to increase innovation, recruit top-notch talent and better connect with customers, to name a few,"" explains Wake Forest University Dean of Business and former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Steve Reinemund. ""I saw this day in and day out during my 23 years at PepsiCo and we have incorporated this key principle in business education at Wake Forest today.""

Is it merely filling quotas? Or is it “inclusion” that we are interested in?

There's no doubt many organizations, particularly in advanced countries, are increasingly diverse. But are they inclusive?

Inclusion focuses on not just who you are but how you do business and also who you do business with. In case of truly inclusive organizations diversity is embed in all aspects right from recruitment to procurement. In these organizations diversity is not just included in the junior level but also in the C-suite and boardrooms. It is a subtle but important move towards embedding diversity in the DNA of an organization and its culture.

Getting the numbers in is only one part of the story. But creating an environment that makes them feel included is another very important part that we need to focus on. The story remains complex and contradictory. Degrees of stereotyping remain as leading organizations appoint chief diversity officers and embark on ambitious programs to drive diversity and embrace ""inclusion.""

Valencia de la Vega, a global account manager at Intel Corp, is only in her early 30s but already has compiled an impressive resume. Despite her past achievements and managerial status at a high-technology company that prides itself on embracing diversity, de la Vega still finds that being a brown-skinned woman in corporate America means she has to overcome stereotypes.

In an interview, she said, ""I would say the majority of people (at Intel) are here to perform. But some people do judge you on your appearance and gender.”

""As a young minority female,"" she added, ""I find that I constantly have to prove myself to dispel the myth that I'm here because there's some kind of quota the company had to fill.""

Organizations today may be forced to recognize diversity in hiring practices or to have diversity programs in place due a legal mandate or legislations. Labor laws may direct an organization's employment practices and may even charge fines or punitive damages for noncompliance. Often, organizations implement diversity programs when forced to - due to addressing a succession challenge or an external litigation.

Some organizations might still be focused on numbers and lack a complete understanding of the vital role it plays in uplifting their business. While organizations are increasingly respecting diversity as a fundamental characteristic, neither the acceptance nor the appreciation have equated to inclusive workplaces where unique aspects of diverse people are valued.

Merely hiring a diverse workforce but failing to respect and include them in senior and strategic levels is a crime. The minority groups are again subjected to suppression and discrimination. For example, in the US military, women cannot fly fighter jets, even though that has nothing to do with women's ability.

Discrimination and favoritism

Discrimination and favoritism are not different sides of the same coin. While discrimination is considered illegal, favoritism and offering advantages to a relative or friends is not.

Many companies give preference to referral hiring programs, especially for middle- level and senior-level positions. Employees also earn a reward for making such referrals. These practices of the organizations are likely to replicate the existing composition of the workforce, suppressing other efforts to be diverse and inclusive.

Studies show that women and minorities are still not being compensated as highly or treated similar to white male counterparts. While there is ""inclusion"" to some degree, diversity expert and practitioners agree that diversity in the workforce continues to be a work in progress.

CEOs of Fortune 500 companies

• 21 women, accounting for 4.2 percent (Margaret C. Whitman, HP, Virginia M. Rometty, IBM, Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo, Marissa A. Mayer, Yahoo!, Ursula M. Burns, Xerox)

• 6 colored, accounting for 1.2 percent (Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co, Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA-CREF, Kenneth I. Chenault, American Express, Don Thompson, McDonald’s, Ursula M. Burns, Xerox Corporation, Clarence Otis Jr., Darden Restaurants Inc)

• 8 Asians, accounting for 1.6 percent (Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo, Richard Hamada, Avnet, Omar Ishrak, Medtronic, Kevin M. Murai, Synnex, Ajay Banga, MasterCard Worldwide, Francisco D’Souza, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Ravi Saligram, OfficeMax, Sanjay Mehrotra, San Disk)

The society has changed markedly as women and minorities - among other formerly excluded groups - have advanced in academia, business and finance, the professions, and most areas of life.

Today, the major challenge facing organizations incorporating a diverse workforce is to make sure women and minorities rise in the organization. Ensuring that there are adequate resources, tools, mentoring and support from the top management are available to help in their career progression.

""We need to go to the next level, which involves learning how to empower this diversity through quality decisions and strategic diversity management."" Roosevelt Thomas

Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)

According to DiversityInc companies that have a “chief diversity officer” (that specific title) has risen from 12 percent five years ago to 30 percent today among the participants. However, 96 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 have a dedicated executive leading diversity efforts, versus 46 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies five years ago. Further, 86 percent of the the DiversityInc Top 50 have diversity leaders with titles at director or above and including “diversity” in their title.

Moving from diversity to inclusivity

The major challenge identified by diversity experts and practitioners is that diversity in many organizations does not reach higher stratums. It is largely applied at the lower levels where workers meet customers but hardly in senior-level. This leaves the controlling mechanisms in these organizations in the hands of a homogeneous group that lacks the ability to make in-depth decisions that a diverse team would display.

These organizations should create an inclusive workforce by granting all members of the diverse workforce of the organization the same opportunities to advance. This variety in workforce composition will result in greater insights and creativity at all levels.

Diversity theorists claim that, ""The most influential factor that has assisted in the success of diversity programs is the commitment and support of senior management."" Further, organizational change theory argues that support from top management is a critical factor to the success of any change initiative”.

If the organization’s goal is to increase awareness of differences among employees then diversity and sensitivity training may be a good approach, but, if the organization is focusing into transforming the itself to one that values diversity, then the support of the entire organization is needed, especially the senior management.

An organization wins because it has a workforce that possesses the ability and capacity to reinvent itself multiple times due to the wide variety of insights available at all levels. A great example for the same is the turnaround that Advantica Restaurant Group, Inc. brought about in the Denny's Restaurant chain in the USA. After being criticized with several lawsuits in the early 1990s, Advantica hired a new CEO, who implemented rigorous changes, starting with hiring a chief diversity officer (CDO), establishing diversity at all levels, up till the company's board of directors, and setting up enormous and mandatory racial sensitivity training sessions throughout the organization. After its constant efforts in 2000, Advantica ranked No. 1 in ""America's 50 Best Companies for Minorities"" survey by Fortune magazine.


“Diverse groups outperform homogenous groups,” Kayrn Twaronite explained. She added saying that data like this is “especially essential as companies [in the modern economic climate] continue to try to do more with less.”

Workforce diversity and inclusivity, although enforced with hesitation in some areas, is gaining importance, and that is pleasing. What is more pleasing is that, of late even the more conventional organizations in developing countries are adopting diversity and inclusion in their business strategies and customer approaches. They are now targeting age, gender and ethnic diverse groups.

However, what is very disturbing is that too often these organizations only do so because customers feel at ease dealing with people who come from the same background or racial group as theirs and to tap higher degree of disposable income available with these groups and not because they feel that it is the right thing to do. And that remains truly regrettable.

Every organization should understand that diversity can cut both ways. An organization can make more profits by applying it and do the morally right thing at the same time, which we consider a win-win strategy.

The article has been authored by Mary Vinitha V, LIBA Chennai


1. http://ucsfhr.ucsf.edu/index.php/pubs/hrguidearticle/chapter-12-managing-diversity-in-the-workplace/

2. http://www.diversityjournal.com/1471-moving-from-diversity-to-inclusion/

3. http://www.diversityu.com/2011/09/27/what-is-the-difference-between-diversity-and-inclusion/

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion_(value_and_practice)

5. http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-facts/wheres-the-diversity-in-fortune-500-ceos/

6. http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-management/if-diversity-inclusion-is-working-why-are-white-men-still-getting-the-best-jobs/

7. http://www.diversityinc.com/diversityinc-top-50/web-seminar-diversity-best-practices-from-merck-ernst-young/

8. http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/news/1020800/half-employees-diversity-programmes-pr-stunt-adecco

9. Disentangling the Meanings of Diversity and Inclusion in Organizations by Roberson, Quinetta MView Profile. Group & Organization Management31.2 (Apr 2006): 212-236

10. National Survey Reveals Diversity in the Workplace is Critical in Attracting and Retaining Talent. Publisher - Business Wire

11. Diversity means opportunity, Mahin, John M. Government Procurement18.5 (Oct/Nov 2010)

12. Attributes of Diversity & Inclusion, Sweeney, Paul. Financial Executive25.9 (Nov 2009)

13. Workplace diversity: developing a win-win-win strategy, Marques, Joan. Development and Learning in Organizations22.5 (2008)

14. Moving beyond diversity to inclusion, Omidvar, Ratna. Canadian HR Reporter24.13 (Jul 18, 2011)

15. Building Support for Diversity Programs Among Senior Management in Organizations

16. Byers, Tony D, PhDView Profile. Diversity Factor (Online)16.2 (Spring 2008)


Views expressed in the article are personal. The articles are for educational & academic purpose only, and have been uploaded by the MBA Skool Team.

If you are interested in writing articles for us, Submit Here

Share this Page on:
Facebook ShareTweetShare on Linkedin