Workplace diversity is a hotly debated topic in today’s world, and a lot of thought has gone into how to achieve workplace diversity, but less often do we ask the question, “Why is workplace diversity so important?” in this article, we are going to look at reasons why workplace diversity matters, from equity and inclusion to creating fresh ideas.
What Is Workplace Diversity?
Workplace diversity is having a workplace composed of people of different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, abilities that includes marginalised groups (e.g. Maori, Pasifika, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people). This is the basic definition and what most people think workplace diversity is. However, the reality is more complex:
What workplace diversity is:
What workplace diversity isn’t:
Why Workplace Diversity Is Important
Workplace diversity is important for many reasons, from creating an equal workplace to potentially increasing performance. Here are some of the main reasons why workplace diversity matters:
Equity And Inclusion
As mentioned above, inclusion is a key element of workplace diversity. It’s also a reason why it’s so important. Minorities have often been barred from certain jobs, either intentionally or via implicit bias, and unfortunately, this is not just in the past. For example, Maori and Pasifika make up only 2% of New Zealand’s science workforce, and only 12% of Kiwi engineers are women. (Then, of course, there is the continuing pay gender gap, which is exacerbated by race— Pasifika women make 72 cents to a Pakeha man’s dollar). Therefore, valuing workplace diversity is important in ensuring that everyone, not just the privileged, can work in their dream jobs.
By committing to diversity, companies are helping in a small way to dismantle centuries of oppression, discrimination and systematic inequalities. Though many governments worldwide are doing something to improve outcomes for minorities, the private sector also needs to step up.
Making Everyone Feel Welcome
Following on from the previous point, workplace diversity can help make everyone feel welcome, included and safe at work. A workplace where an active anti-discrimination stance, both against outright discrimination and microaggressions, is taken is a workplace where everyone can feel safe. Discrimination is less likely to occur in a diverse workplace due to its very diversity. Diverse workplaces are also more likely to take steps to make everyone feel welcome.
These steps mean lower employee turnover and, in some cases, protect diverse employees from being fired (which is a particular issue for neurodiverse or trans employees).
Getting Rid of Tokenism
In a diverse workplace, gone are the days of hiring diversity consultants or consulting outside the company on diversity issues. Awareness and knowledge of minorities will be present within your own organisation. Workplace diversity can also help prevent faux-pas like Kylie Jenner’s infamous Pepsi ad.
People from different backgrounds bring new ideas and different ways of thinking compared to people of the same backgrounds (who tend to think in the same way because of shared experiences). Diversity often brings creativity with it and problem-solving skills, which might otherwise be lacking from an organisation, attributes that can help refresh and grow businesses. A diverse workforce can also help companies make better decisions that have wider and more long-reaching benefits.
It’s also worth remembering that a lot of talent in diversity was traditionally missed due to structural inequalities and discriminatory hiring practices. Remember what Stephen Gould said about Einstein’s brain: “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”
Workplace Diversity Improves Performance
Workplace diversity has actually been proven to make companies more money. This is partially because of the fresh perspectives and new ideas mentioned above and because a more diverse workforce may understand different markets and customer profiles. Employees from culturally diverse backgrounds can also help companies tap into international markets (which is one reason why companies branch out overseas).
Diversity is vital for progress in the workplace, and fortunately, it can benefit both employees and employers in surprising ways.