Awareness of diversity in the United States traces back to the 1960s when Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination. Title VII of the Act prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act came later and added additional protections.
Organizations have traditionally approached diversity in the workplace by attempting to build an environment of respect and acceptance of the ways in which employees differ. But is that enough?
While respecting diversity is very important, inclusion takes the next step to involving and connecting the diverse forces in a workplace and providing the means for each individual to achieve his or her full potential. This, in turn, helps create a culture that values and harnesses each person’s uniqueness. When an organization focuses on diversity and inclusion, individuals not only feel respected for their differences, but also feel their differences add value to the success of the organization.
Inclusion can provide these benefits and many more:
- Diverse opinions, thoughts, and ideas in the creative process lead to innovation.
- Inclusion leads to engagement. Highly engaged employees are the most productive.
- Inclusion provides a competitive advantage to meet the rapidly changing needs, tastes, and desires of your customer base.
- Organizations that consistently practice inclusion can more easily attract and retain employees than those that do not.
The case for diversity and inclusion becomes even stronger when you consider that the American population and workforce are more diverse than ever and becoming more so every day. Women now compose almost half of the U.S. workforce. Demographers say there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States by 2050. Between 2000 and 2050, new immigrants and their children will account disproportionately for the growth in the working-age population. With these changes in mind, it follows that organizations that successfully leverage inclusion to engage a more diverse workforce will be poised to effectively and efficiently meet the demands of a changing customer base. How inclusive is your organization?