bucket on table

But my organization isn’t diverse!: Growing diversity, equity and inclusion in “homogeneous” organizations

Author: Cassie Myers

“But my organization is not diverse” is a statement we frequently receive from organizations as a barrier to growing equity and inclusion. In this blog, I aim to unpack this statement from a DEI perspective and share some actions that can be taken by organizations that feel this way to grow DEI. 

Homogeneity should not be visually determined. 

When we talk about diversity, having different identities, perspectives and experiences, in a workplace, it is important that we are of the understanding that not all identity markers are visible and that there are a significant number of categories that contribute to diversity. Visible and invisible identities are mentioned in recognition that sometimes highly visible identities (e.g., race, some religions, sometimes gender, some disabilities, education) can make an individual more vulnerable than the invisible (e.g., some religions, some disabilities, familial status). This being said, just because an identity might not be visible does not mean that it doesn’t impact the person who holds it. 

In this same vein, too often, DEI conversations begin and end at gender and race. However, there is a breadth of aspects of an individual that contributes to diversity. For organizations who believe their organization is not “diverse,” my first response is to ask how they know and how they might determine what diversity does exist. This can be important to understand who you are being inclusive and equitable of today and who you might position yourself to be able to better welcome in the future.

How did this happen? 

Let’s say it has been determined that, in fact, an organization is on the homogenous side. An example might be a team of 30 that are all white, without disabilities, cisgender, heterosexual individuals with post-secondary educations. We can think of this workplace using a bucket analogy. If we are trying to stop a bucket of water that is decreasing in volume, we want to first evaluate if it’s leaking. If the workplace is homogeneous, we need to determine if individuals of different identities are leaving or not being hired at all. 

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We know that it can be difficult for people who are systematically excluded to be invited to join a team. For example, men are twice as likely to be hired, regardless of the hiring manager’s gender (Reuben et al., 2014), however the likelihood of women getting a job increased by 25% to 46% when anonymous hiring was employed (Claudia Golden and Celia Rouse). 

While hiring is commonly a barrier to diversity, it should not be the first place organizations take actions. Companies can be quick to try to hire in order to address a lack of diversity, however, going back to the bucket analogy, if the source of the leak is not determined, we can’t be sure that any water will enter the bucket if poured or that the water that does enter will stay. For example, in the tech industry, 40% of employees leave a company after experiencing harassment, bullying or stereotyping and two-thirds of those who leave a company indicate they would have stayed if the culture were fixed (Kapor Center). 

Are we equipped to welcome a diverse team? 

We can think about retention in multiple ways. First, from the perspective of the talent, we might question why they would leave or stay. We can also think about retention from an organizational perspective; does the company have the resources and culture needed to welcome diverse talent? From a cultural perspective, we need to make sure that team members are contributing to a workspace that welcomes people of different identities and are able to work equitably alongside them. This might be achieved through coaching, education and clear management processes.  From an advancement perspective, it’s critical that there are processes in place to ensure that all team members have the opportunity to grow within the organization and visualize what that growth might look like for them. This might be done through transparent pay bands, 360 feedback processes, advancement plans and upskilling opportunities. There is also an issue of safety, which includes ensuring the physical space is accessible and welcoming and that there are processes and resources in place to ensure psychological safety is maintained. This might be done through policies with consequences for harmful behavior, avenues for reporting harm, and training to address and avoid harm.

When we explore the statement, “but my organization isn’t diverse” we grapple with critical topics that need to be addressed in order to truly grow DEI. Having a homogenous team does not mean that DEI is irrelevant, but that DEI is greatly needed. Growing DEI in any team can be a nuanced and difficult task. To learn how Lunaria Solutions might help, book a meeting with one of our associates

Header and Feature Image by Daniel Öberg  on Unsplash ❤️

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