Diversity needs change in mind-set, Not infrastructure!

Diversity has evolved into a focus area for most organizations worldwide and businesses across industries are stepping up to create an environment in which every individual’s needs are acknowledged and respected. As we make our way through the 21st century, entering most workplaces will bring us face-to-face with infrastructural changes aimed at making the workspace more conducive to diversity and inclusion. From easily accessible pathways to inclusive washrooms and common areas, offices are taking myriad steps to bolster diversity in the workspace.

Alternatively, many workspaces today strive to create safe working conditions for women and individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. However, despite these progressive alterations, the actual abilities of the minority groups are largely ignored, leading to multiple hindrances on their way to the top of the corporate ladder. In simple terms, organizations and the workforce need to realize that diversity is not merely relegated to conducive infrastructure – rather, it is a drastic change in the underlying mindset and this pivot can only be affected through consistent reinforcement.

Appreciating and accepting the need to be inclusive

Organizations will be inclusive only if they accept diversity as seen in the outside world and, as a result, have adequate representation from each community. Empathy and acceptance of each individual in an organization is essential, but more importantly, they must be included as normal team members, respecting their diverse abilities and differences and making them comfortable. Efforts to handhold, mentor and train them so that they adjust to the work environment would be necessary. Creating allyship and groups to share challenges and successes would also be extremely beneficial.

Fostering a cultural shift

Diversity necessitates a collective approach and contribution from all employees. It requires an environment where employees listen intently, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, own up to their misjudgments, and open up conversations respectfully. There is a tremendous need for education and sensitization programs aimed at fostering a cultural shift in the organizational DNA towards Diversity. This can only happen through a responsible approach and a focus on the end objective.

Bridging the systemic divide

Yes, facilities like gender-neutral and accessible washrooms, period leave, conducive organizational policies, biodegradable sanitary napkin dispensers, etc., are important for an inclusive and sustainable environment but, at the same time, it is also imperative that organizations take consistent steps towards bridging the systemic divide and bring employees on common ground. Not only will it help them accept each other’s abilities but it will also fuel collaboration and inclusion in decision-making and other organizational activities.

Promoting an inter-connected approach

Many organizations struggle with adopting an inclusive mindset because the employees do not feel connected to their specially-abled colleagues. They either consider them a source of inspiration, or an object of pity, thus removing the human element from the equation. Our specially-abled colleagues are neither super-heroes nor weaklings – they are just like us and they want to be viewed through the same lens that we use to view ourselves. Removing this barrier will help drive a diverse mindset and this can only be done through an inter-connected approach.

Being a true peer ally is all about authenticity and building a culture that appreciates an individual’s different background, ethnicity, and belief system. It requires policies that promote diversity, employee-led task forces, a variety of opportunities for connecting outside of the typical workday, recognizing achievements and structured feedback mechanisms. Yes, it is not an easy task, but then, nothing worth achieving has ever been truly easy.

Community Manager.