Diversity is defined as a representation of equality for all regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic background. Inclusion integrates individuals from these demographics into one community or workplace. Diversity and inclusion must be cultivated in the workplace to ensure the most qualified workers are employed. Studies have shown that when diversity and inclusion are fostered in the workplace, creativity and innovation increase, while turnover decreases. It is essential that businesses adapt to our changing population demographics in order to compete effectively in today’s job market.

Without inclusion, diversity is of very little value. In the workplace, if diversity exists but inclusion is not cultivated, the connections that encourage employee participation and innovation will not occur. Verna Myer, a diversity advocate, was quoted saying, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” Sadly, diversity without inclusion occurs too often is the setting for most workplaces. For instance, studies show that 41% of African Americans, 20% of Asians, and 18% Hispanics (senior level employees) feel a need to sponsor employees of the same gender or ethnicity as themselves as compared to 7% of Caucasians. Moreover, among these same groups, are concerned they will be perceived as showing favoritism to their ethnic group if they promote an employee of the same group. These issues add a layer of complexity in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Evaluating the success of promoting diversity and inclusion is complicated. Measuring diversity is straightforward as it is a count of the diverse groups. However, inclusion is more challenging to measure as it evaluates the feelings and perception of individuals. A longstanding statistic regarding gender inclusion in the workplace is that women are paid 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Moreover, African American women are paid 65 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job position.

The first step in meeting the challenge of promoting diversity and inclusion starts with inclusive leadership. Leaders need to ensure the team has a voice and is empowered to speak up. A safe environment to propose novel ideas and empowering team members is essential. Appreciation for our differences and allowing others to be themselves must be supported. For years, senior level female employees have stated they must “act like a man” to become a leader in the fields of science, engineering and technology. Feedback to team members is critical in a trusting environment.

Lastly, recognition of team members is the key ongoing success. Another step in meeting the challenge is to promote networking and visibility among diverse groups. Senior level leaders can sponsor a mentee and promote their visibility. Mentorship has been consistently shown to increase retention and workplace success for the mentee. Diversity and inclusion, combined, can be a strategy of improving success for a company. If diversity and inclusion are not supported together, many opportunities will be missed and company growth will suffer.

Jennifer Manning is a newsletter contributor for the National Diversity Council. She is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Nursing at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing.

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