It seems hard to believe, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now make up 51.6% of the employees in “management, professional, and related occupations” in the USA. That’s a magnitude of change from how things were just thirty years ago! Pursuing greater inclusivity helps organizations hire and promote the best talent without being misled by biases, live up to the corporate value of fairness, and create work environments that engage everyone. Things are better today, but there is still plenty of work to be done to increase inclusivity in the workforce.
Fix gender imbalance in other roles. Women and men may be approaching equal representation in professional and managerial jobs, but what about other areas? Consider, for example, jobs such as a roofer, stonemason, crane operator, and carpenter, which are over 95% male; and jobs such as dental hygienist, speech-language pathologist, and early-childhood teacher, which are over 95% female. (And before tackling any of those, HR–in which women are overrepresented–should probably get its own house in order first.)
Tap other overlooked or underrepresented talent pools. Just as women have long been an overlooked talent pool, there are almost certainly other groups that are similarly undertapped. These might include groups that have faced discrimination, such as overweight people, for example, or people who are short, whose voices are a certain pitch, or who have some other characteristic that might elicit prejudice against them. Making this a priority is not only good for business but also helps companies promote fairness.
Help overlooked people in need. If the goal is compassion, then the inclusion movement might consider groups in need who are overlooked. For example, there are many people who are highly stressed because they have a close relative who suffers from addiction or a severe mental illness. These people typically soldier on without complaining. A worthy social responsibility goal for diversity and inclusion departments is to help these people in need.
Focus on individuals rather than on groups. Companies that want the best candidates need to stop overlooking people for appearance reasons (e.g., body shape, tattoos, fashion style) connected to stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups. Instead, the organization should make better use of assessment tools so that really hire the best person for the job–a practice that is both good for business and fair to candidates. Similarly, initiatives that actively promote environments in which all individuals get along may be more useful than initiatives that stress group-based cooperation.
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David Creelman is the CEO of Creelman Research and a member of the board of supervisors of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. His most recent book is The CMO of People: Manage Employees Like Customers with an Immersive Predictable Experience that Drives Productivity and Performance (coauthored with Peter Navin). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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