Encourage Diversity

"...the issue of diversity is not just about encouraging more women......it's also about hiring people of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures and with different qualifications..."

Yolanda Redrup 2016

Need to understand how to encourage diversity. Decades of social science research has shown that you won't get people on side by blaming and shaming them, and then re-training them (Frank Dobbin et al, 2016). Most diversity programs are based on a training and legalistic grievance framework. Yet they are not increasing diversity nor reducing bias in recruitment, promotion, etc. In fact, there is research suggesting that this type of training can activate biases rather than reduce them, and that a legalistic grievance framework will push the diversity issues underground. While people can be easily taught to respond correctly to a questionnaire about bias, they soon forget the right answers; the positive effect of diversity training is at best short-term. Voluntary training works better than mandatory training.

In fact, organisations get better results when they ease up on the control tactics. Better results occur when there is increased on-the-job contact with minority workers. One way to establish more contact is to develop self-managed teams which allow people of different roles and functions to work together. This will increase contact amongst diverse groups of people because specialties within the organisation are still divided along racial, ethnic, gender, etc lines. Having people work side-by-side breaks down stereotypes.

Other ways include mentoring, regularly rotating management trainees within the organisation, social accountability (plays on the need to look good in the eyes of colleagues/peers), appointing a diversity manager (can prompt managers to consider diversity in their decision-making), etc.

An indication of lack of diversity can be the use of nicknames. Nicknames can create familiarity and favouritism amongst those who have nicknames and create an exclusion zone against those who don't.

Studies have shown that decision-making improves when there are diverse perspectives included. Also, people who experienced diversity first-hand improve their cognitive skills and intellectual self-confidence How to improve cultural diversity

i) Leaders have skin in the game (most male senior executives have women who are important in their lives like mothers, wives/partners, daughters, nieces, etc)
ii) Collect data (how do staff identify their cultural, etc backgrounds)
iii) Accountability & Targets (targets are important stepping stone to cultural change)
iv) Tackle Bias & Discrimination (question the assumptions behind your decision-making, especially around selecting/promoting staff)
v) Cultivate Diverse Leaders (promote professional development of staff from diverse backgrounds so that they can reach their full potential)
vi) Be Prepared to Stand up and Speak Out (for those under-represented be prepared to support and fight for equal treatment)
(sources: Hannah Tattersalls, 2016a; Frank Dobbin & Alexandra Kalev, 2016)

More on diversity

Diversity necessitates the acceptance, respect and fair treatment of all people regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality/sexual orientation or socio-economic/political status. This involves an obligation to encourage ideals, such as respecting people's rights, dignity and inclusion. This will result in a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures, beliefs and attitudes. Diversity needs to be built into organisational DNA, ie it is the way we do business around here. Encouraging diversity is a way of handling group think as you are more likely to have a greater range of alternatives to select from. Implicit in diversity is acceptance, fair treatment, social justice, compassion, respect and tolerance with a full acceptance of others and having due regard for their wishes, feelings and rights.

On the other hand, a community or organisation that has a very narrow view of humanity, and fosters strong stereotypes so that entrenched views become commonplace will miss the benefits of diversity. Also, activities like bullying will become commonplace.

"...our ability to reach unity in diversity will become the beauty and the test of our civilisation..."

Mahatma Gandhi as quote by Roy Kelley (Headmaster, Melbourne Grammar School), 2016

Australia is in the Asia-Pacific region yet only 4% of the directors of the ASX 200 companies are Asian and only 2% are senior executives

Large v small entrepreneurial firms: large corporations are less likely to appoint somebody who doesn't "fit the norm" of that organisation, whereas high growth, small start-up or SMEs whose focus is on driving the firm with its goals are more likely to look for people, irrespective of background, who will help them get there.

Some informal feedback on cultural diversity shows that employees not willing "to go to the pub" attitude in some industries, like fund management, can be viewed as a negative. Some other examples include
- light-hearted sexist jokes (we are getting a dishwasher for the kitchen office - when does she start!!!!)
- office staff are referred to as "guys" or "need to grow some balls", eg need to become more courageous
- office rituals that favour males, like beer and pizza meetings, performance rewards offering male toys like powerful motor bikes
- females stating they do not understand "techie stuff"

NB need to create an environment of respect that questions language and jokes that appear to be inappropriate

An example of stereotype is refereeing in Rugby Union. Most referees are males from senior management positions in organisations like the large banks, major consultancy firms, business owners, etc. One of the findings from interviewing rugby referees was that they have negative attitudes to some groups of people like Islander people and women, eg
- Islander people were more likely to have penalties awarded against them and/or be sent off the field; the referees have a perception that Islander players are violent and the referees need to penalise them heavily, otherwise you lose control of the game
- similarly for women rugby players need to be watched carefully as they are really dirty players, they are underhanded, they will try and do anything in ruck, etc

NB When people step from one world, like business, to another, like refereeing, they can revert back to old attitudes and stereotypes. This is an example of unconscious bias.
(source: AFRBoss, 2016a; Rebekah Campbell, 2016a)

Hannah Tattersalls, 2016.


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