The Benefits of Variety: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Business

Text Description automatically generated with medium confidenceCity of Burlington

Economic Development Office

September 1, 2022

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are terms that are brought up quite often nowadays – whether in recognition of the social movements like Black Lives Matter, assessing potential economic disparity from new governmental policy, or the presence of minorities in movies and shows. Diversity is a concept that arises in many areas of interest – in business, in education, in media – due to its foundational nature within humanity. As a society, difference is a given; how can diversity, equity, and inclusion be put to our advantage within business?

Diversity is Respect 

Prioritizing diversity in a workplace has multiple advantages for business success, employee retention, and building relationships. Diversity at its core requires respect for those around us. In a recent Forbes article diversity is described as “…the understanding that everyone is unique and should be respected for their differences. This includes race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, age, and abilities.” Some of the language around diversity is emotionally charged, which then leads to reluctance in adopting a diverse employment strategy for fear of conflict. But bringing together people of various genders, backgrounds, races, etc. allows the production of new ideas, innovation, and creativity – solutions, not conflicts. 

Introducing new perspectives into a workplace improves company culture through happier and healthier employees. Not only that, but customers often feel more respected and connected to businesses that have diverse workforces. In a 2018 study, Harvard Business Review surveyed over 1,700 companies across eight countries – in a variety of industries and company sizes – for levels of diversity in management positions, looking for any correlation with the percentage of revenues and innovation impact. The study determined that in all eight countries, the more dimensions of diversity represented within a company led to the increased innovation and performance outcomes. The innovation revenues (defined as revenue from products less than three years old) increased by an average of 19% in companies with above-average total diversity (measured through migration, industry, career path, gender, education, and age in this study). The study also acknowledged the importance of globalization and technology as drivers of performance, further emphasizing that diversity in aspects such as national origin, industry origin, and career path choices can contribute to performance output.

Equity is Accessibility 

Equity refers to the intentional effort of a company to ensure that resources are not only equally available to everyone, but also equally as useful to everyone. It is a detail-oriented approach to focusing on the needs of individuals on an individual basis – making sure that the people within a company are able to find equal opportunities, even if the opportunities are implemented in multiple ways. “When you do not create equal access, that means you don’t have diverse perspectives, experiences, and voices at the decision-making tables,” as said by equity strategist and author Tara J. C. Frank. Without making way for diverse perspectives, there is little room for a company to grow, which can hurt the workplace as a whole. 

Equity helps to make the workplace more productive, innovative, and competitive. When a company is in the process of recruiting and hiring, equity means interviewing people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In salary and job positioning, it is ensuring the pay for a female identifying person is the same as a male identifying person, as well as diversifying management tiers within a company by the same standards. It is in providing accommodations for people with disabilities, mental health conditions, or language barriers to aid them in reaching their full potential. Nowadays, in a post-pandemic world, accommodations often take shape through hybrid work; if a married couple has a child, the respective partners may need remote work in order to achieve a more balanced home life. The changes that are requested are not meant to be difficult or high maintenance; they are meant to be the structure on which to build close and trusting relationships between employer and employee in order to show the value in each person’s work.

Inclusion is Flexibility 

An inclusive workplace is a work environment that actively seeks to make every employee feel included and valued, while also acknowledging their differences. The emphasis changes from being who or what a person is to being what a person can do. Whether a person is 27 or 77 years old, working in their native language or in their third language, the goal should be for employers to inspire performance and cognitive diversity. 

Now more than ever it is important to have a diverse and inclusive workforce due to the labor market. As of June 2022, North Carolina has over 347,000 job openings, with around 171,000 individuals who are unemployed. With a gap of 176,000 jobs to people, there is an employment crisis currently happening due to labor shortages. There simply are not enough people to fill the job openings available. This forces businesses into a position of creating an attractive environment for job seekers, and more and more job-seekers are demanding a diverse and inclusive workplace. By 2025, the workforce is expected to be 75% millennials. In a 2016 survey, the World Economic Forum reported that 47% of millennials actively look for evidence of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 2025 is not far away; creating inclusive, flexible, and comfortable workplaces should be a top priority.

Keeping the Conversation Open 

The biggest fear we should have within the business world is that we get tired of hearing about diversity. The point of bringing up diversity, equity, and inclusion within the conversations is to make sure it is not forgotten – that it is constantly at the forefront of our minds and within every decision we make. Acknowledging difference and including accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but the best thing to do – as employers look for new avenues in labor; as individuals look for new businesses to support; even as economic developers, as we seek out resources for all levels of abilities, identities, and interests. By encouraging coexistence within the workplace and adapting to include difference, a company benefits through positivity, new ideas, and new motivations. Furthermore, the community that is built can be observed by customers – that positivity is contagious, thus further broadening the audience a company can serve. More diversity encourages more audiences, which then encourages more business. 

Including these practices in a workplace does not have to mean a complete makeover, and it also cannot happen all at once. The best way to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion is to start now – to do an internal evaluation of core values within a company, or to offer training modules for education purposes. Sometimes implementation must take place at the individual level – using inclusive language, connecting to networks that have a variety of perspectives, starting intellectual conversations. 

The point is to be intentional and vigilant. Find variety. Seek out diversity. Strive for new perspectives. And to never stop learning. 

If you are looking for more information on respective identities and resources, please visit our previous blog here.

Isabella DeLaGarza, EYOS Fellow

City Contact
Isabella DeLaGarza
425 S. Lexington Ave. 
Burlington, NC 27215