Diversity and Inclusion

Everyone Has A Role In Creating An Inclusive Culture

Maybe you’re in marketing or finance or accounting and don’t think you have responsibility for diversity and inclusion within your workplace. Not so, said Wanda Wallace, PhD. while presenting the Women Lead webinar Creating an Inclusive Culture – Why Everyone Must Play a Role. Dr. Wallace believes that “everyone has a part to play in creating a more inclusive culture,” whether you manage a team or not.

What is diversity? What is inclusivity?

First, it is essential to understand the difference between diversity and inclusivity. “Diversity is really important, but it is fundamentally an accounting exercise to make sure there are enough people in the right categories and right positions,” Dr. Wallace explained. Inclusivity, on the other hand, is “fundamentally about the culture; it is what the people who are not part of the dominant coalition feel and what they believe is true,” she said.

“Dominant coalition” is a fancy term for a demographic pattern that predominates within an organizational culture: for example, gender, ethnicity, and/or nationality.

People who are outside the dominant coalition have needs that must be met in order to feel part of the fabric of the organization. For example, they want:

  • People to know them;
  • Transparency in how assignments are handed out;
  • Their voices to heard and valued; and
  • To be able to raise objections.

In short, they want to feel part of the team without sacrificing who they are or changing themselves.

Why should we care about inclusivity?

There are many important reasons that inclusivity should be a top-of-mind issue for anyone in the business world, including:

  • Demand for talent: There is an increasing demand to find top talent, which means companies will be seeking talent from diverse populations.
  • Better business results: Having a diverse workforce leads to a wider array of employee contributions that offer varied perspectives, often leading to innovation and growth
  • Higher retention: Companies with inclusive cultures have lower employee turnover rates
  • Client attraction: Many clients prefer to do business with companies that are truly diverse

Practical tips for creating an inclusive “dream team”

A team member who doesn’t feel a sense of belonging will feel pressure to change or leave a company, negating the benefit of hiring a diverse candidate in the first place. Follow these suggestions to create an inclusive environment where a “dream team” can thrive:

For managers:

  • Give all team members a chance to be heard, and politely intervene when someone is “talked over.”
  • When challenged by a team member, pause instead of getting defensive. Respect all opinions, and acknowledge them even if you don’t agree.
  • Get to know your team. Highly-rated managers take time to make sure they understand each person on the team as unique individuals.
  • Give everyone equal opportunities. Spread out the coveted opportunities rather than giving it to the people you know best.
  • Help diverse team members find resources to navigate the organization.
  • Look beyond the expected when recruiting. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren once found a key employee when she was working at a restaurant.
  • Give feedback – good or bad.

For individuals, both within and outside the dominant coalition:

  • To be a leader, you have to be willing to constantly grow and change.
  • Balance your qualities that “fit” inside a culture with the things that make you unique.
  • Accommodate others – this does not mean changing your personality, but consider your colleagues’ styles when approaching them for collaboration.
  • Develop yourself and your career. Take control and ask for guidance.
  • Avoid isolation. Jump into projects, organize an event, and find ways to engage.
  • Every time you go to an event, seek out people who are different than you.
  • Cultivate trust and make it easy for people to get to know you. Getting to know people increases trust, and we all need allies.

Inclusivity is important for the many reasons outlined above, but as Dr. Wallace noted, many people also believe it is simply “the right thing to do.”

A full library of previous Forté webinars is available to Premium Access Pass members. For $100/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars. If your company is a Forté partner you may be entitled to free Access Pass. Check our partners to see if your organization is involved. Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resume to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.


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