4-minute read time

Diversity: the state of being diverse; variety. A range of different things. Inclusion: the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

If you look at those definitions independently, they’re not representative of their meaning in the workplace. They’re surface-level at best. When we see diversity and inclusion sprawled across headlines and through our social feeds, we give the articles a nod, maybe a “like.” But do we digest the content? The importance?

Maybe. Maybe not. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume it’s because employers don’t prioritize diversity and inclusion. They’re mixed up.

When we don’t understand something, we say the wrong things; do the wrong things. We neglect the crucial facets of our surroundings. And in the case of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we ignore an essential piece of an organization: the people.

What you’re reading isn’t another clickbait article about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It’s a quick and frank breakdown of the differences and why you can’t have a successful diversity program without both.

Diversity in the workplace

Diversity is the representation of different types of people. Specifically:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Education
  • Religion and culture
  • Citizenship status
  • Mental and physical conditions
  • Disability

We’ve all seen the stats. Exhibit A: racially-diverse companies are more likely to outdo industry standards. Exhibit B: gender-diverse organizations are 21% are more likely to generate more revenue. What that sounds like to other diverse folks and me is that dollar signs trump people. And that, among many reasons, is why so many diversity programs are ineffective.

Here are stats we should care about: 67% of job seekers say that a diverse workforce is important when weighing a job offer. Fifty-seven percent of employees claim that their work environment could and should be more diverse. So, it seems like employees care about diversity. It’s the corporations that appear to miss the memo.

Inclusion in the workplace

Inclusion is the conscious effort to welcome and accommodate diverse employees.

Here’s another stat that means something: 27% percent of companies admit that they can’t retain diverse talent. The reason? They don’t know how to cultivate an inclusive workplace. The definition of inclusion becomes more complex when you start to deal with real people.

Employers can’t just hire diverse employees and pat themselves on the back. In fact, they can expect turnover in roughly three months. Everyone needs to have the same opportunities. Everyone’s voices heard at equal volume. Those voices need to be valued, too.

Examples of inclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here’s what it looks like to foster an inclusive work environment:

  • Nursing room for mothers
  • All-gender friendly bathrooms
  • Feminine products (in every bathroom)
  • Acknowledge religious and cultural holidays celebrated by employees
  • Ask employees about their preferred pronouns
  • Diverse executive and leadership teams
  • Disabled-friendly office, equipment, and website

Diversity is no longer just about black/white/male/female/young/old. It can’t stand on its own anymore. Diversity without inclusion is like saying, “We’re disabled-friendly, but we only have stairs and no pathway ramp for wheelchairs” or “We support breastfeeding mothers, but only if you nurse or pump in the bathroom or your car.”

Diversity needs its inclusive counterpart. Employers can open the door for diverse employees, but if they don’t truly support diversity, those employees will walk right out the other door.