Diversity in the Workplace
Diversity refers to the ‘collective mixture of human differences and similarities along a given dimension’ (Cox, 1995). Diversity in the workplace is important as it’s about valuing everyone in the organisation as an individual and the strengths that they bring to the room.
The discussion surrounding diversity was once again propelled into the limelight when Apple’s first Vice President of Diversity Denise Young Smith suggested that ’12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room’ can be as diverse as any other group as they still bring different experiences and perspectives to the boardroom. Although she has since apologised for this statement, it highlights the question of how diversity is defined within the workplace.
Diversity can relate not only to the collated characteristics of skin and sex, but to the human experience. In this way, diversity can be found in people who look similar as they will still have different experiences and strengths to inform discussion.
Through our research, we have identified 30 Strengths which show how individuals work and how they can develop their skills to achieve success for the team. They can use these strengths to identify what energises them, as well as strengths that they may overplay or underuse in some situations. Having different strengths within the workplace that complement each other can bring different ideas to the table when solving new problems. These strengths illustrate the importance of having diverse thoughts within the workplace.
In order for a workplace to be more diverse individuals will have different strengths, and therefore is important that individuals identify what energises them in order to develop and work effectively. Once individuals have identified their strengths, they can increase their self-awareness regarding their strengths and work more effectively at work.
However, diversity also promotes an inclusive environment, where individuals can develop and openly share their ideas. Through this all individuals within the workplace feel represented and have equal opportunities available to them.
In Zircon’s most recent research, “What Women Bring to the Boardroom” was explored as well as challenges they may have overcome to get to their current position. Around 60% of the women interviewed identified instances when they had to overcome significant challenges within their career in order to get to their current position. The most commonly stated issue was the concept of an ‘old boys club’ being present at this level, and feeling excluded from these conversations. Women across the research also stated that perceptions towards them were that they were ‘bossy’ when making decisions, whereas their male counterparts were ‘assertive’.
Also, the number of women within the boardroom has not changed within many of these organisations, with half stating that only 20% of their board was made up of women. This trend has not changed over time which may be due to several factors. This suggests that although organisations may be diverse they lack inclusion of women at high levels.
Diversity is key to success but so is inclusion. Both are fundamentally important within the workplace. Selecting and working with individuals with different strengths and removing barriers that could prevent individuals from reaching their potential is core to business success.