By Nor Izmawati Mostapar, Head of Corporate Communications & e-Learning at MII
There is an increased yearning for change following two of the most difficult years in decades. It has never been so important to get inclusion and diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, and social differences right. The number of factors that define diversity is truly unlimited. Throughout our lives, our unique biological and genetic predispositions, experiences, and education impact who we are as a person. These experiences are what diversify and evolve the community, allowing individuals to connect and learn from each other.
We know intuitively that diversity matters but new research by McKinsey & Company shows that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. This also means that diversity makes sense in business terms and has become a competitive differentiator that can shift market shares. While correlation does not equal success, the correlation does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. More diverse companies can win top talents and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a commendable cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity—for example, in age, sexual orientation, global mindset and cultural fluency are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies.
According to research, there are ten key reasons why diversity is so vital and may well be the key to healthier times in 2022 onwards:
- Diversity increases awareness and curiosity
Learning about, recognising, and respecting your own and other cultures enables us to understand different perspectives and gives greater insight into varying attitudes and beliefs. Foster curiosity to fight against ignorance and prejudice. Encourage your team to be courageous; be curious yourself – practise active listening and demonstrate empathy for a different way of thinking and become a role model to show them exactly how it is done.
- Diversity promotes individuality
Culturally rich environments teach us that everyone is unique, and we differ not just because of our race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religion, socio-economic status and so on, but because of our life experiences and personalities. When we celebrate our differences, it is easier to find commonality and create a more accepting environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves.
- Diversity creates a healthier environment
A workplace lacking in diversity and inclusion will detrimentally affect mental health and have a direct causal correlation to feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger, and injustice. HR leaders must ensure they enforce equal opportunity for promotions, not just once but all the way to the executive suite for a healthy, diverse workplace.
- Diversity is good for business
Responsible, resilient workplaces embrace inclusion, diversity, and equality, recognising that these have a direct positive effect on productivity in the workplace, helping businesses and employees. By aligning business objectives to the meeting of human needs, companies can tap into powerful ways to facilitate change.
- Diversity promotes new thinking
A diverse group of people are more likely to have ideas that are distinct from each other, with diverse viewpoints allowing for more creative solutions to problems. Recent research suggests that companies embracing diversity, make better, bolder decisions and are more radically inclined to innovate.
- Diversity unites us
Diversity brings society together and celebrates a range of perspectives. It encourages inclusivity and equality and promotes harmony and unity. Diversity creates space for us to gain awareness, educate, integrate, evolve, and include.
- Diversity leads to a better understanding
‘Othering’ is the process whereby negative characteristics are attributed to someone because they are deemed different and are labelled as not fitting in. The opposite to that is wanting to learn more to understand what makes other people different so as to educate ourselves and to reduce our unconscious biases.
- Diversity prevents bullying
Successful diverse environments promote inclusivity and help prevent social problems such as bullying. Power differentials are a breeding ground for othering and bullying. Active, genuine inclusion is the most effective way of eliminating dysfunctional, power-play and bullying behaviour.
- Diversity reduces stereotypes
Understanding, accepting, and embracing differences will reduce stereotyping which can be unconscious behaviour. This happens when we typecast certain people according to our own assumptions or generalisations about why and how they are different
- Diversity promotes respect
The more time spent interacting with people different from us, the stronger our understanding, acceptance and relationships, and ultimately, the stronger our respect for one another. A visible commitment to diversity and inclusion during the prevalent pandemic is also likely to strengthen a company’s global image.
Qualities that entail diversity and inclusion
Diversity encompasses the qualities and characteristics that distinguish individuals from one another. The different types of workplace diversity that companies should investigate in order to understand the diversity and inclusion concept encompasses: