Workplace diversity is understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people including those:

• of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations.
• with differences in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases.

Diverse and inclusive companies drive innovative results. Yet many industries still struggling with diversity and inclusion, often failing to attract diverse talent due to inclusivity issues in the workplace. For organisations looking to shape up their diversity and inclusion programs and policies, the change can be challenging – and rewarding. Diversity gives you access to a greater range of talent, not just the talent that belongs to a particular world-view or ethnicity or some other restricting definition. It helps provide insight into the needs and motivations of all of your client or customer base, rather than just a small part of it.

In these politically intolerant times, corporations bear responsibility to take a leading role in creating genuinely diverse and inclusive workplaces, where employees can learn from each other and “bring their whole selves” to work. How can corporations learn to transform homogenous cultures? We must confront unconscious bias to transform our workplaces.

While there’s no one fool proof way to identify unconscious bias, employers can help mitigate its effects by:

• Helping managers focus on inclusivity and diversity in the conscious mind, thus sharpening their ability to identify instances of intended and unintended bias in the workplace.
• Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition in a public forum to help foster a sense of connection, shared purpose and belonging among employees.
• Holding companywide bias trainings.
• Organising perspective activities to address stereotypes and view situations through a different lens.
• Assigning diverse groups to work together to help achieve a common goal.
• Soliciting honest feedback about the company’s efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment.

Men need to start worrying about the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap is not a niche issue that can be side-lined by those in charge. It taps right into the culture of a company. Is there transparency about how and what people are paid? Are people promoted on merit, or as a result of nepotism and tradition? Is there room for innovation? Any employee – of whichever gender – who cares about these principles should be deeply concerned when corrupt, opaque payment practices are allowed to flourish. Until the men in charge start seeing the gender pay gap as an urgent issue for them, gender equity will remain performative.

Homogenous workplaces are bad for business.
In our modern workplaces, we must prioritize creating teams based on difference, instead of homogeneity. While the tendency is to look for candidates who are a “good fit” for an existing team, it can in fact be more productive to look for someone who brings something new, even if that adds friction to the team. This could be people of different skills and temperaments.

Inclusive leadership start with gathering data.
Creating truly inclusive organisations means changing the culture of the organisation from top-down. So, how can business leaders achieve this? Well, first they need to try to understand how their employees actually feel about working in their organisation. Do they feel that their ideas are heard and respected? That they’re given credit for their work? That they have opportunities to grow professionally? Gathering this information can help organisations create an Inclusion Diagnostic that uncovers which behaviours help and which ones hinder employees’ perceptions of inclusion in the workplace.

How leaders transform a broken culture.
When leaders embrace a new way of thinking and match words and actions with authenticity. Then and only then can they lead change and transform a culture. To successfully lead change and transform an organisational culture, senior leaders must first transform their mind-set and embrace the fact that they will be pushed outside of their comfort zone. Then and only then will their words and actions become authentic. Authenticity and belief are what inspire the team to come together and achieve lasting change.

Diversity and inclusion policies should be tailored to specific industries.
It is crucial to hire and maintain a diverse workforce, so gender and racial/ethnic initiatives will be launched and maintained into the foreseeable future. There is much to learn from leaders in diversity and inclusion, but it is important to remember that every company’s D&I initiatives will look different. You should tailor your initiatives to address your specific industry and your company’s areas of weakness. Furthermore, global strategies should be able to be adopted locally.

The tech industry has the power to lead the way on diversity and inclusion. For many years, big tech companies have claimed that they are “so white” because minorities simply don’t have the skills and education necessary for employment, blaming a “pipeline problem”. To counteract this, companies like Facebook and Microsoft have invested heavily in scholarships and educational opportunities to prepare women and minorities for tech jobs. The success of initiatives like Women Who Code has had the further benefit of humanizing the field.

Diversity and inclusion transformation should not just be viewed as an initiative or a program; it requires investment from the senior-most folks to the newest person in the door, and it requires real behaviour change. It’s about how the entire company operates and the individual ways of working, communicating, contributing and even just being in the world.