Unrewarded diversity efforts

A recent opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed brings up important topics about what types of employees normally involve themselves in workplace D&I initiatives, and the tendency to penalize those employees instead of reward them. How can we think about and act on this in our own workplaces?

A faculty member who is a black woman wrote an opinion piece in Inside Higher Education about the need for universities to take into account the amount of time that some faculty spend on cross-campus diversity and inclusion efforts. She suggests that people from underrepresented groups tend to do far more of these activities than their peers who aren’t from underrepresented groups, for a few reasons of which she highlights.

She offers four calls-to-action for these peers to take: Diversify their own networks; See diversity as an asset; Get to know your campus differently, especially if you’re tenured; and treat D&I efforts with the same urgency you would other institutional matters.

Read more: What white faculty members can do to support diversity efforts.

The 411

There are a few things to dig into here, let’s look at two:

Firstly, you’ve probably experienced this: employees who aren’t from underrepresented groups, for a variety of reasons, aren’t nearly as active in D&I efforts as those who are. And we’ve already seen research that suggests that women and minorities are further penalized for promoting diversity. This is a double whammy!

A company that’s chosen to advance a diverse and inclusive workplace have theoretically prioritized D&I, or, at the very least, have suggested that it’s a positive set of activities to have in the workplace.

So why isn’t it getting rewarded?

Think of this example. If you’ve had a child apply for college any time in the past two decades, you know how important those extracurricular activities are on the application. Students are rewarded for taking part in interest groups and affinity groups, among other things. Why? Because they will be a more positive contributor to the community and culture of the campus.¬†Food for thought.

There are a decent handful of companies out there who’ve at least piloted ways to reward this behavior, hopefully there will be more. After all, it’s a bottomline issue, right?

Secondly, there are real opportunities to involve employees who aren’t members of underrepresented groups. In fact, there are often groups of white men who would like to be involved, but don’t know how. And even if they do show up, it often isn’t in an organizing or leadership capacity.

How can this be improved? One way could be through allyship. We’ve worked with a few companies from an ERG standpoint on creating internal allyship programs that create a specific pathway for this group of employees to enter into the conversation. You can do this in a lot of ways – everything from speakers series to reading groups to full fledged Ally ERGs – but it brings a fuller employee base into the conversation and activities. One idea? You could appoint 2-3 ally seats for each ERG (or the equivalent).

We’ve also worked on a less formal set of programs around the general topics of D&I. Open, facilitated, all-employee discussions or speaker series that encourage involvement from everyone, on important topics.

Just a few ideas, would love to know what you’re doing in this area.


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