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Talking about workplace diversity without talking about inclusion and a sense of belonging can be counterproductive. Worse yet, it isn’t going to help the marginalized feel like they have a seat at the table.
I recently read a great post by LaFawn Davis of Indeed. In that article, LaFawn makes it clear the pandemic’s impact on people of color, women, older, and more often marginalized workers is entirely disproportionate. Cases in point:
- Discrimination against Asians in the U.S. has surged since the early days of the pandemic. Over 30% of Americans have recently witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 33 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were Black. This, despite blacks comprising only 13 percent of the American population.
- An October study on Women in the Workplace by McKinsey found that one in every four women is considering downshifting their careers. Or, they might give up their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.
We have a lot of work to do. And we must start that work by acknowledging that people of color and women are shouldering recent burdens far more than others.
Our Guest: LaFawn Davis, VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, Indeed
Joining me this week on #WorkTrends is the author of that insightful post, LaFawn Davis. LaFawn is the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Indeed. There, she leads Indeed’s strategic efforts to remove bias and eliminate barriers to entry by focusing on inclusive features and accessibility in products to help all people get jobs. She also enables a diverse and inclusive work culture for Indeed’s employees.
Because I find too many companies are still trying to lump diversity, inclusion, and belonging into one entity, I started our conversation by asking LaFawn how these three elements differ and, taken one at a time, how they help us build a truly diverse workforce. LaFawn’s response quickly cut to the heart of the matter:
“Companies are trying to silo off diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Or, they make one of the words synonymous with the others,” LaFawn added. Next, LaFawn intuitively explained how a deliberate focus on each element helps create an innovative workforce:
“Diversity is the belief that teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets are truly what makes innovation possible. Inclusion is really around the actions and behaviors that create a culture where employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic. And belonging is a feeling of community; it is the people and our culture that make us feel connected.”
LaFawn when on to say that when those three elements are adroitly combined, we feel valued:
“In the workplace, it’s not about looking like me or coming from where I come from. It’s about those common threads that pull us together.”
The Business Case for Workplace Diversity
Of course, many business leaders remain focused on the bottom line. So after talking with LaFawn about the undeniable systemic racism in the US today, I asked her how diversity, inclusion, and belonging impact that bottom line. LaFawn, as you can imagine, has some strong feelings about how leadership should be leveraging workplace diversity to build better companies.
“This should be what keeps every single business leader up at night,” she emphatically said. “Are we going to be a different and better company than we are right now? Ten years from now? 15? I mean, we know that businesses with a more diverse workforce are 36 percent more likely to be in the top tier of their industry. And we know that firms with greater gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to be at the top for financial returns, market share, and retention. So diversity, inclusion, and belonging do affect your bottom line!”
LaFawn and I also talked about how these three elements have been hit hard by the pandemic. Specifically, how the need to transform to a remote workforce and the stress the pandemic has placed on frontline workers impacts the ability to intentionally create and maintain a diverse workforce. We also discussed the role hiring has in creating workplace diversity and the mistakes commonly made as organizations work to include people of color, women, and other groups who feel marginalized in their workforce — those who do not feel they belong.
Looking Ahead to 2021
If you haven’t already, your organization will soon start taking a hard look at how diversity, inclusion, and belonging will look in 2021. Before you do, I invite you to listen to my conversation with LaFawn. In 20+ minutes, you’ll understand how she has helped Indeed build an innovative workforce. You’ll also learn how she has helped many other organizations — starting with hiring — create organizations where equality and parity become the norm. And where that norm becomes a critical component of the company culture.
My thanks to LaFawn Davis for joining me on #WorkTrends and for participating in our upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter chat at 1:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 16th. During that chat, we’ll answer these questions and more:
- Q1: Why do organizations struggle with building diversity?
- Q2: What strategies can help increase inclusion and belonging?
- Q3: How can leaders build more diverse workplaces?
Our thanks also to Indeed for sponsoring this timely episode of #WorkTrends.