Diversity in the workplace why should we bother?

Diversity. It’s a topic that’s rife with discussion and seemingly no solid answer. We’re hearing more people speak up about the discrimination they’ve faced in the workplace, and it’s happening in every industry. Female movie stars being paid considerably less than their male counterparts, Mississippi’s anti-LGBT workplace discrimination laws, black individuals being reprimanded for wearing their natural hair. It’s no surprise diversity is the focal point of every opinion piece nowadays.

It’s important to remember that diversity doesn’t just mean racial diversity. While it’s a very current, and important, aspect of diversity the term should be used to speak about a variety of all forms; gender, physical and mental ability, age, creed, the list goes on. But why should we bother about it all? Is actively hiring a diverse workforce positive discrimination? It is tokenism until you hire more diverse candidates? There are all fair questions and we hope to address some of them here.

At a simple, but nonetheless significant, level diversity will help innovation. Think about it like this. If you hire similar people, all middle class from the same geographical locations, same ethnicity and gender, you’re unlikely to create insightful discussions. A diverse workforce equals diverse thinking.

But where do I find a diverse workforce without creating ‘affirmative action’. Well, if you’re using a bad recruitment firm or using traditional sourcing methods you’ll end up with a homogenous pool of candidates. Moving beyond social media is essential, particular when you consider many diverse candidates may not upload images due to fear of discrimination.

If you want to attract diverse candidates you need to offer to their needs. Here at Opus we offer flexible hours for religious needs. It might sound trivial but it’s something that has helped us form a unique workforce. After all, diverse workforces are better at problem-solving. But before you can reap the benefits of diversity you must move beyond tolerance and into understanding.

If you’re still not sold, a report found that organisations with females in their management saw better financial results. Unfortunately, women and minorities in high-level positions are being penalised for promoting workplace diversity:

“When white men promoted diversity in the workplace, it did not improve how bosses rated their performance and competence. When women and non-white executives promoted diversity in the workplace, their evaluations from bosses were worse.” – The Guardian.

It’s like taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Luckily, there are companies that are consciously improving their workplace diversity. Bloomberg reported that more companies in Middle American are recruiting LGBT individuals and job seeker networking events have started to pop up to help those with less physical ability.

But what if you have two candidates and the ‘diverse’ one isn’t as good as the other, is it prejudice? Perhaps not, but maybe the problem needs to be looked at before candidates even enter the workplace; diversity in education. People have done entire books and theses on these topics so we’ll keep this short. A lot of people have societal privileges that provide them with the opportunities to better networks, better jobs, and better futures. Societal privileges are often invisible, but when hiring a ‘diverse’ individual you must be aware that they have had less opportunity. Maybe it’s time for them to be given one...

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