By Liv Stephens
Have you ever been a part of an organization that proudly announces “we are inclusive” or “this is an inclusive space,” then looked around you and seen no diversity?
But, they just said that they are inclusive! Where’s the diversity? Where’s the equity? If an organization has “inclusive” HR practices, shouldn’t a diverse space logically follow?
Man, it would be great to live in a world where causal logic mattered again.
Quinetta M. Roberson argues that inclusivity practices function as an agent of corporate identity, not as an agent of equity. Her study surveyed HR personnel from 51 publicly traded organizations via email. The survey asked how they define diversity, how they define inclusion, the attributes of a diverse organization, and the attributes of an inclusive organization.
The survey revealed that participants had distinctly different definitions of diversity and inclusivity.
Roberson defines Inclusivity as “the degree to which an employee is accepted and treated as an insider by others in a work system” and in the survey as “the ways an organization configures its systems and structures to value and leverage the potential, and to limit the disadvantages, of differences.” Participant “definitions of diversity focused primarily on heterogeneity and the demographic composition of groups or organizations, whereas definitions of inclusion focused on employee involvement and the integration of diversity into organizational systems and processes.”
What the heck does that mean? Diversity makes an organization look like it is comfortable for minorities, while inclusivity makes it feel that way.
Management of diversity through corporate HR practices is not the same thing as corporate inclusivity, she explains. Inclusivity is an identity-blind practice, meaning there rules are made with an imagined minority in mind.
Inclusive workplace policies are made to include any sort of possible minority the HR department can think of, often without thinking of a specific person or group when making these rules.
Diversity management, on the other hand, is done by hiring and promoting actual people.
Roberson concludes that identity-blind management is not always an effective way to promote the interests of marginalized groups, and states that more research must be done in a quest to strengthen the currently weak link between inclusion and practical diversity.
However, as companies continue to adopt inclusivity policies, many remain non-diverse with milk aisle excuses; all these [white] milks are different types, we swear! Inclusivity is a sanitized corporate practice that feigns relevance and uniqueness, but does not always create diverse spaces or improve the experience of diverse and marginalized identities.
We need to fight for inclusive and diverse workspaces if we want to solve the problem of diversity in the workforce.