Diversity Washing. It's a thing!
Everyone is familiar with ‘green washing’. A company will appear to employ environmentally friendly or sustainable practices but won’t really make changes beyond putting recycling bins in the kitchen.
Recently I have noticed similar approaches when it comes to diversity.
Having staff with a range of backgrounds has become a popular topic across Australia and indeed around the world. While there is a movement towards systemic change, we need a lot more than statements and marketing opportunities.
This is not diversity
The benefits of a diverse workplace have been proven. Many businesses are rushing to jump on the bandwagon. However, so many companies, and even entire industries are merely paying lip service. They’re promoting themselves as equal opportunity employers but they are not putting their money where their mouths are.
Diversity does not mean having a one-off breakfast to celebrate your minority group employees. It doesn’t mean having a lovely page on your website explaining your policy on a balanced workforce.
Diversity also doesn’t mean hiring a minority into an executive position but doing nothing to break down the “bro culture” of the business (yes advertising and tech industries, I’m looking at you).
A truly diverse business does not fall back on the old ‘hire by merit’ argument to justify promoting the same people over and over again. It is endemic to business around the world. Companies get excited about bringing ambitious, culturally diverse staff on board. Once they have, they forget about supporting them. These workers find themselves subjected to open or subtle prejudice.
Unable to break through ingrained business cultures and tired of missing out on opportunities for genuine career advancement, minority workers become disillusioned and go elsewhere. This leaves their former employers to do little more than shrug their shoulders and say “we tried”.
What inclusion should look like
Embracing diversity as a business is not about organising a Meet Up, ticking boxes and filling quotas of token females, ethnic groups etc. This may look good on paper, however without an enduring strategy and genuine belief that diversity is valueable, those workers won’t feel supported and will move on. It hurts morale and damages the company brand.
Providing equal opportunities across race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and physical ability must involve long term HR policies. These policies should also extend beyond permanent roles and into contract and consulting positions.
As well as promoting diversity, there should be means to support people in their roles. This means incorporating and heavily promoting initiatives such as flexible work hours for working parents, regardless of gender.
An organisation doing diversity well will also provide work-related training and deliver education programs to break down incorrect beliefs about minorities and their abilities as workers.
Along with setting targets to improve diversity, results must be tracked and executives held accountable. Change doesn’t have to be instantaneous but the goal is to have a positive trajectory.
The candidates are available to hire - we need to be open in how we attract and motivate them. True diversity means making opportunities available and encouraging those who have the aptitude to put themselves in the running for roles and promotions.
Create a blueprint for success by evolving your organisation into a truly inclusive place to work for permanent and contract employees. You and your entire team will reap the benefits in more ways than one.