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This article brushes through statistical data, pie charts and figures in order to depict the limitations and unjust proportion of diversity in the workforce.  The article further discusses the benefits of a diverse workforce with a four-step implementation adopted from the Harvard business review towards a racially just workplace, November 2019. The article has drawn most of its facts from Harvard Business reviews like Toward a Racially Just Workplace(1), Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case (2), Success Comes from Affirming Your Potential (3) and  Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case (4).

 

Zappos family: How they work

In the case of Zappos, the concept of diversity has been embedded into the core working ethics, where employees celebrate one another irrespective of colour, nationality etc.

Social events with education and empowerment. They have different sub circles within the family for employees to be accepted and feel appreciated by being within familiar circles, other than being a part of the Zappos family as a whole. For instance, there is black awareness and empowerment, leadership &women empowerment (WE circle), LGBT-Z circle etc. These circles help them be more comfortable, expressive and be recognised who they are while helping them discuss their work and social lives within. Thus fostering an environment of full-on inclusivity and diversity. In fact, their core value three is “creating fun and a little weirdness”!

Emotional Tax

Modern racism is at its peak as more people think that blacks no longer face racism because they can compete in the marketplace. For instance,  indications like employees showing a tendency of being aversive around their black employees or showing microaggression (assuming blacks to having a lesser position at the office) are few effects of modern racism.

In reality, high executives of colour are expected to be more strategic and performing than their white colleagues. They are often provided with assignments involving greater risk of failure and are expected to show more competence.

Having said that, the previous leads to feeling diminished levels of motivation and more sense of isolation, since there are more uncertainty and differences faced while performing tasks and competing in the workplace. Furthermore, there is diverse fatigue in the form of how the employees of colour are to participate in programs and conversations to represent their community, other than their normal workload.

Case study: Facades of Conformity

Hewlin and her colleague Anna-Maria Broomes found in a survey of 2,226 workers in various industries and corporate settings, African-Americans create these facades more frequently than other minority groups do and feel the inauthenticity more deeply. They might chemically relax (straighten) their hair, conform with coworkers’ behaviour, “whitewash” their resumes by deleting ethnic-sounding names or companies, hide minority beliefs, and suppress emotions related to workplace racism.

Numbers don’t lie.

Has the dream of racially just workforce been realised yet? Probably, but mostly no. At least according to the quantitative data. Here are a few highlighters:

  •  The wealth gap between the blacks and the others continues to widen so much so that the experts predict that black families’ median wealth will decrease to $0 by 2050, while that of white families will exceed $100,000.
  • Just 8% of managers and 3.8% of CEOs are black
  • At U.S. finance companies, only 2.4% of executive committee members, 1.4% of managing directors, and 1.4% of senior portfolio managers are black.
  • The average black partnership rate at U.S. law firms from 2005 to 2016 was 1.8%.

Benefits of diversity

  • Research shows that socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogenous groups. This would help in complex problem-solving. This is mainly because different backgrounds bring different mindsets to the workplace, which is mostly dependent on their different social upbringing.
  • In order response to president tump’s orders to close borders for refugees and visitors from a lot of third world countries and other Muslim nations, a paper was published reporting that unity in diversity would bring the needed empowerment in science and innovation.
  • Diversity enhances creativity (scientificamerican.com). Employee exposure to diversity can bring about unfettered discoveries sine there exist informational diversity (unique information and experiences).
  • Even gender composition, with more women at higher positions, directly impacts the financial performance of the firms(scientificamerican.com).
  • There is no direct relation(causation) of diversity towards better performance (scientificamerican.com). Diversity is in correlation with better performance, where correlation does not imply causation, which means that they both exist together to affect each other positively.
  • Diversity is thought-provoking as it brings different perspectives to the table (scientificamerican.com). After examining 1.5 million papers it was concluded that papers written by diverse groups receive more citations and have higher impact factors than papers written by people from the same ethnic group (Freeman & Huang W., 2019).
  • Different perspective brings among the people the belief of behavioural change as well. This is because diversity increases the expectancy that the group members are likely to analyse the different opinions and accordingly adapt to react socially & cognitively.

Hence diversity brings opened, diligence to adapt accordingly, innovation raises the cognitive & expectation bars and creativity.

Four steps to implement

Increasing diversity does not, by itself, increase effectiveness; what matters is how an organization harnesses diversity, and whether it’s willing to reshape its power structure (HBR by Robin J. Ely & David A. Thomas, November 2020). Here are four implementations to effectively utilise diversity.

    • Moving towards a moral sense of business 

       According to McKinsey’s report(2015), where 366 public companies across Canada, the UK, United States, and Latin America were examined, few findings suggest as follows:

  •  Companies with top diverse workforce manage to financially perform 35% more than their concerned industry medians.
  • Companies consisting of top gender diversity in workforce show 15% more financial returns.
  • Companies consisting of top gender diversity in workforce show 15% more financial returns.

And the results are obvious since this deeply connected world companies must make optimum advantage of representations of diverse teams in the workforce. These teams must be mentored, led, sponsored, retained, thereby making the focus shift towards a moral business sense.

This social impact would create a sense of purpose amongst all employees, stakeholders and customers. Thus would imply towards eliminating agency problem (conflicts between the employees and the shareholder’s) leading to profit maximisation and full optimisation of resources. Again Emphasising on use of full potential, while realising maximum shareholder’s wealth and profits, a shift from capital-driven focus towards a more ethical and equity-based focus will lead companies from an exploitative business case to a moral one. This would lie in the best interest of all the clients, shareholders and employees, in general. For instance, Patagonia supports environmental protections by committing to donate either 1% of sales or 10% of profits (whichever is larger) to advocacy groups.

  • Encourage more open conversations about race

As in the words of Mellody Hobson, an African -American leader, companies must be colour brave instead of colour blind at all level of organisation. Stop asking black employees to blend in; instead, emphasize the value of a workplace that embraces all styles and behaviours. For instance, #MeToo — shed light on how to do so as through Revelations of abuse and harassment, bad actors were fired, women felt empowered to speak up, and awareness of gender discrimination has increased.

To create a culture of psychological safety and pave the way for open communication will require a top-down directive and modelling through informal and formal discussions in which people are asked to share ideas, ask questions, and address issues without fear of reprisal.

The goal is to shift the entire organization to a racial-learning orientation.

  • Revamp D&I :

Challenge the authorities keeping track of  D&I efforts is a must in order to have full representation, better organizational networks, and access to resources. This would in turn change across functions and levels over time. Over time,  black employees’ perceptions, engagement, and well-being would then improve, as the concerned employees measure the efforts’ effectiveness with data analysis and qualitative surveys.

For instance, Pfizer tracks numerous D&I (development and implementation_) metrics and notes that 21% of its workforce — 21,000 people — are actively involved in its D&I efforts.

  • Manage career development across all life stages

This requires careful investment in retention and development. Additionally, early in their careers, black employees need safe spaces to grow and develop and to experience authentic failures and successes without being subsumed in narratives of racial limitation. 

This step also requires the need for Sponsorship, in the sense recommending black employees for promotions and stretch assignments,  is even more important. Additionally, candid feedback early on is also critical.

At later stages of their careers, black executives should be seriously considered for high-stakes and high-profile positions and supported in the pursuit of outside interests, such as board seats, that enhance visibility.

All these four steps are easier said than done. Their implementation wouldn’t be a cake-walk. These need to be deeply incorporated into the corporate culture under the heavy mentoring and monitoring by the executives.

Conclusion

Organizations and society should strive to benefit from the experiences, knowledge, and skills of all, not just a few. corporate leaders have a much more powerful and immediate impact, amidst the government initiative. As then-Senator Obama said in 2008, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”


Reference List

Diversity & Inclusion In The Workplace – Zappos ONE | Zappos Stories – YouTube

https://www.jbhe.com/news_views/64_degrees.html

Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case (hbr.org)

Why Do Boards Have So Few Black Directors? (hbr.org)

What an Anti-Racist Business Strategy Looks Like (hbr.org)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/
https://www.pfizer.com/sites/default/files/investors/financial_reports/annual_reports/2018/our-culture-our-purpose/our-culture/a-diverse-pfizer/index.html

About the author

Sarah Singh,

Pursuing Bachelors of Commerce (Business Analytics) and Finance, Monash University.

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