5 common diversity myths and how to tackle them

min read

Diversity and inclusion have become some of the main focuses of HR departments, talent recruiters and managers. While many organizations still struggle with these principles, a diverse, inclusive workforce benefits everyone: It has been proven to be a key driver of internal innovation and business growth and helps organizations cater to a broad spectrum of individuals. An empowering diverse and inclusive workforce improves retention rates and engagement and helps build a strong corporate culture.

So, what can you do to get there? Here are 5 common misconceptions about diversity, equity and inclusion – and ways to tackle them.

1. “Diversity is just about gender and race.”

There are many more dimensions of diversity that make every individual unique and that we must acknowledge if we want to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. These factors can be divided into two categories: Inherent diversity involves demographic characteristics like sexual orientation, age, nationality, class/socioeconomic status, physical abilities/disabilities, political or religious beliefs. Acquired diversity includes factors like education, experience and skills. Recognizing these differences and their possible intersections is essential to achieve an understanding of potential privileges and barriers individuals are facing.

2. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are synonyms referring to the same thought.”

Understanding the different meanings of these terms is an important step in identifying issues your organization might have and finding ways to improve.

  • In your workforce, diversity is the presence of different identities, including those that are often marginalized in their professional field and/or the wider society. Diversity does not automatically lead to inclusion and equity, though.
  • Inclusion goes one step further and asks, “Do employees with diverse identities feel welcomed, valued and supported?”. The mere presence of a diverse workforce does not necessarily mean that a workplace is empowering for everyone.
  • This is where equity comes in: Other than diversity and inclusion, it does not describe an outcome but a set of preconditions. For managers and HR personnel, equity means a task to acknowledge the different starting points employees from diverse backgrounds have and correct this imbalance to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to grow and contribute.

3. “Let’s hire a DE&I manager and we’re good.”

Appointing trained DE&I professionals can be a great start to tackle issues your organization might have – but making your workforce more diverse and inclusive is not a task that can be outsourced to a single person or department. Integrating these values and practices is a complex and continuous task the entire organization has to be committed to. Top management has a responsibility to formulate policies that promote diversity and set a good example implementing them.

4. “There are not many diverse talents applying at our organization – so it’s not really our fault, right?”

Your marketing and job advertisements have an immense influence on who feels attracted to it and encouraged to apply for a job, as they can reproduce unconscious biases that can discourage talents from diverse backgrounds.

  • Wording: Are your job ads formulated gender-inclusive/neutral? Do you use ‘masculine sounding’ terms like ‘dominant’ that have proven to be less appealing to women?
  • Visuals: Who is represented on your company pictures? Diverse talents will not apply to your organization if they cannot see themselves in it.
  • Sourcing methods: Job openings are often communicated through referrals and professional networks that tend to lead to homogenous workforces. Post your openings on third-party websites that are open to anyone regardless of their connections and actively reach out to diverse talents through specific publications, organizations, and networks.
  • Recruiting process: To avoid unconscious bias and discrimination, use automated resume screening software to shortlist candidates. Blind resumes with removed names, birth and graduation date and other details help reduce unconscious biases based on race, gender and age.
  • Recruiters and interviewers: Did your recruiters receive unconscious bias training? Is your interview panel made up of a diverse team to reduce unconscious bias and make candidates from diverse backgrounds feel more comfortable?
  • Feedback: Ask your employees and applicants for feedback to avoid blind spots and optimize your acquisition and recruiting process.

5. “At our organization, anyone can get to the top.”

Employees from diverse backgrounds often face discrimination and microaggressions in their work lives: Unconscious biases can affect how managers judge professional performances and achievements. 

Programs like our digital mentoring solutions support managers fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. We help identify, motivate and support internal talents with leadership ambition, focusing on women and members of marginalized groups. Through connecting young professionals with experienced mentors, we encourage a dialogue and exchange of knowledge, skills and values.

If you are interested in our custom online mentoring solutions, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Feel free to schedule a call here.

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