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The rise of diversity and inclusion in the USA | Leadership | Business Chief

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Business Chief speaks with workplace culture experts to discuss the current state of diversity and inclusion in the United States.

In recent years, Dr. Rosanna Duncan MCIPD, Chief Diversity Officer at Palladium, has “seen giant strides not only in America, but globally, as more women gain a seat at the top table.” Both Dr Nancy Doyle, psychologist, founder and CEO of Genius Within and Patricia Hume, CEO of Canvas GFX, agrees with Dr. Duncan that “the diversity conversation in corporate America is louder and more widespread than it’s ever been before, and that is having an impact. Even more emphasis is being placed on the need for a diverse workforce and the benefits this can bring,” says Humes. ”The barriers have really been broken down thanks to role models, solid data collection and legal statutes. However, although there is now a heightened awareness when it comes to diversity and inclusion, as well as some solid breakthroughs, we’re still not there yet,” adds Dr. Doyle. Agreeing with Dr. Doyle, Dr. Duncan highlights that it is important to remember amidst this positive growth, that “diversity and inclusion in business is much more than just gender. There cannot be a meaningful impact beyond the boardroom if we fail to consider race and class. We know that diversity adds real value to the bottom line by improving decision-making at all levels. However, in the race to achieve gender parity, we risk treating women as a homogeneous group in which female board members come from similar racial and social backgrounds, and express similar perspectives to their mainly white male counterparts.”

When it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion, Hume strongly believes that “education on the value diversity and inclusion can provide from an early age is essential. Making sure equal opportunities are available throughout the education process and within the workplace is vital. I believe that the more time people spend in diverse, collaborative communities, the less likely they are to focus on differences.” Both Dr. Doyle and Dr. Duncan further elaborate that to stand a chance of increasing diversity within America, organisations also need to turn their back on old-fashioned and outdated methods of recruitment. “One solution would be to introduce approaches that purely test capability and potential, as opposed to favouring candidates with postgraduate qualifications, even when a high level of technical expertise is not required. On the face of it, this may seem an equitable differentiator. But this can exclude some groups including African Americans or other racial minorities, as well as those from low income backgrounds. It’s not due to their lack of ability, but a lack of opportunity and considerable financial constraints,” comments Dr. Duncan, who highlights that according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “less than a third of nursery school children from low-income families – who achieve high test scores – end up with a college education and a decent-paying entry-level job. By contrast, those from families in the highest-income brackets with low test scores have a 70% chance of reaching the same education and job level. It is not surprising then that many low-income students, who have had access to fewer resources, struggle to maintain the advantages they may have had as infants. Employers need to look at a wider range of educational pathways including those who have studied part-time, flexibly, and even vocational qualifications.”

Ultimately, “there’s no silver bullet” when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion within a business, says Dr. Duncan. “Real change takes time and can only be achieved when everyone works together. The difficulty can lie in helping organisation to think about diversity beyond gender, and to see that everyone is responsible – from executives to the front line – for creating a diverse and inclusive environment. Whilst having conversations on gender parity has over time become an easier conversation and is now part of the zeitgeist, I’m afraid that racial and socioeconomic parity in the workplace has been neglected.” However, Duncan does explain that there are steps, that when put together, can help move an organisation in the right direction. “The first of these is to give diversity and inclusion a place at the top table. One of the biggest risks is the perception that diversity and inclusion is a bolt-on to HR, or of too little strategic value to merit proper commitment. Secondly, senior leaders should be held accountable. At Palladium, we hold quarterly forums and require senior leaders to be transparent, reporting on our KPIs to all staff, including targets on equal pay and blind recruitment. Additionally, the conversation needs to be flowing – internally and externally – constantly sharing ideas, debating issues, and encouraging people at all levels to develop their own thought leadership on the subject. Finally, behaviours which are unacceptable should be called out. Creating a diverse workforce is pointless unless you create an inclusive environment where everybody can feel safe, that they belong, and can reach their full potential.” Agreeing with Dr. Duncan, Hume adds that, “when we bring our differences together in an environment where people feel respected, accepted, and included, amazing things happen. It is crucial to remember that diversity is fundamentally good for business, a diverse team is better at serving a diverse audience.”

Business Chief speaks with workplace culture experts to discuss the current state of diversity and inclusion in the United States.

In recent years, Dr. Rosanna Duncan MCIPD, Chief Diversity Officer at Palladium, has “seen giant strides not only in America, but globally, as more women gain a seat at the top table.” Both Dr Nancy Doyle, psychologist, founder and CEO of Genius Within and Patricia Hume, CEO of Canvas GFX, agrees with Dr. Duncan that “the diversity conversation in corporate America is louder and more widespread than it’s ever been before, and that is having an impact. Even more emphasis is being placed on the need for a diverse workforce and the benefits this can bring,” says Humes. ”The barriers have really been broken down thanks to role models, solid data collection and legal statutes. However, although there is now a heightened awareness when it comes to diversity and inclusion, as well as some solid breakthroughs, we’re still not there yet,” adds Dr. Doyle. Agreeing with Dr. Doyle, Dr. Duncan highlights that it is important to remember amidst this positive growth, that “diversity and inclusion in business is much more than just gender. There cannot be a meaningful impact beyond the boardroom if we fail to consider race and class. We know that diversity adds real value to the bottom line by improving decision-making at all levels. However, in the race to achieve gender parity, we risk treating women as a homogeneous group in which female board members come from similar racial and social backgrounds, and express similar perspectives to their mainly white male counterparts.”

When it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion, Hume strongly believes that “education on the value diversity and inclusion can provide from an early age is essential. Making sure equal opportunities are available throughout the education process and within the workplace is vital. I believe that the more time people spend in diverse, collaborative communities, the less likely they are to focus on differences.” Both Dr. Doyle and Dr. Duncan further elaborate that to stand a chance of increasing diversity within America, organisations also need to turn their back on old-fashioned and outdated methods of recruitment. “One solution would be to introduce approaches that purely test capability and potential, as opposed to favouring candidates with postgraduate qualifications, even when a high level of technical expertise is not required. On the face of it, this may seem an equitable differentiator. But this can exclude some groups including African Americans or other racial minorities, as well as those from low income backgrounds. It’s not due to their lack of ability, but a lack of opportunity and considerable financial constraints,” comments Dr. Duncan, who highlights that according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “less than a third of nursery school children from low-income families – who achieve high test scores – end up with a college education and a decent-paying entry-level job. By contrast, those from families in the highest-income brackets with low test scores have a 70% chance of reaching the same education and job level. It is not surprising then that many low-income students, who have had access to fewer resources, struggle to maintain the advantages they may have had as infants. Employers need to look at a wider range of educational pathways including those who have studied part-time, flexibly, and even vocational qualifications.”

Ultimately, “there’s no silver bullet” when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion within a business, says Dr. Duncan. “Real change takes time and can only be achieved when everyone works together. The difficulty can lie in helping organisation to think about diversity beyond gender, and to see that everyone is responsible – from executives to the front line – for creating a diverse and inclusive environment. Whilst having conversations on gender parity has over time become an easier conversation and is now part of the zeitgeist, I’m afraid that racial and socioeconomic parity in the workplace has been neglected.” However, Duncan does explain that there are steps, that when put together, can help move an organisation in the right direction. “The first of these is to give diversity and inclusion a place at the top table. One of the biggest risks is the perception that diversity and inclusion is a bolt-on to HR, or of too little strategic value to merit proper commitment. Secondly, senior leaders should be held accountable. At Palladium, we hold quarterly forums and require senior leaders to be transparent, reporting on our KPIs to all staff, including targets on equal pay and blind recruitment. Additionally, the conversation needs to be flowing – internally and externally – constantly sharing ideas, debating issues, and encouraging people at all levels to develop their own thought leadership on the subject. Finally, behaviours which are unacceptable should be called out. Creating a diverse workforce is pointless unless you create an inclusive environment where everybody can feel safe, that they belong, and can reach their full potential.” Agreeing with Dr. Duncan, Hume adds that, “when we bring our differences together in an environment where people feel respected, accepted, and included, amazing things happen. It is crucial to remember that diversity is fundamentally good for business, a diverse team is better at serving a diverse audience.”

This content was originally published here.

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