Diversity in the Workplace: More Work Ahead

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Companies are still failing to make significant progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the work place. A recent white paper titled, Uncovering Talent co-authored by Professor Kenji Yoshino at New York University School of Law, and Christie Smith Deloitte University Leadership Centre for Inclusion Managing Principal explains how little progress we have really made when it comes to full inclusion. The study draws on research from respondents spanning seven industries and a mix of ages, genders, race/ethnicities, orientations and seniority levels, as well as Yoshino's award-winning book "Covering" and Smith's work in researching leadership, values and organisational culture.

This study indicates widespread instances of "covering," the process by which individuals downplay their differences relative to mainstream perceptions, in ways that are costly to their productivity and sense of self, at work. Three out of four (75 per cent) research participants state that they have covered their identity; and, surprisingly, half (50 per cent) of straight white male respondents report hiding their authentic selves on the job. The authors suggest that most inclusion programs require people to assimilate into the overall corporate culture. This leaves very little room for people to actually be who they are at work. 

Yoshino and Smith offer a new approach to achieving inclusion in the workplace, so that people don't feel they have to leave a part of themselves at home. Their research provides us with a startling view of how harsh the corporate world can be for those who don't quite fit the mould. Stories of employees leaving their same-sex spouses at home while attending an event where significant others are invited. An employee who in spite of the pain leaves their cane at home so that they are not labelled disabled.

As expected, the highest levels of covering occur among groups that are historically underrepresented, including blacks (94 per cent), women of colour (91 per cent) and women (80 per cent). However, straight white males reported covering as well. The impact of covering is not only detrimental to the individual's sense of self; it also has significant implications for the organisation. A majority of respondents stated that their leaders (61 per cent) and the organisation's culture (59 per cent) expected individuals to cover. A substantial number of those respondents (45 to 49 per cent) said that this expectation decreased their sense of opportunity and commitment to the organisation.

There is an unwritten rule that employees will fit into the culture. This melting pot mentality has gone on for so long that it's easy to readily dismiss the impact of covering. The survey conducted by Yoshino and Smith shows that covering directly impacts an individual's sense of self as well as their commitment to the organisation. There appears to be much work that needs to be done in order for any real changes to occur.

Photo Credit: Businesstooldreviews.com