Gustavo Linares
Expert Contributor

Diversity and Inclusion: Foundations to Build Your Company

By Gustavo Linares | Tue, 06/23/2020 - 09:05

Inclusion, it’s a simple word isn’t it? This word alongside with diversity has become popular over the past years in both society and in the business world. Nevertheless, it seems that many people, companies and organizations do not seem to grasp the real meaning, background and importance of this word. But how powerful is this word and why should your company or business have a better understanding of its true meaning and introduce policies to strengthen your workplace diversity and inclusive environment?

At the beginning of the month of June, many companies and organizations start to post the LGBT pride flag with their corresponding company logos in support of the LGBT community. But why in June? In 1999, this month was established as the Pride month for the LGBT communities worldwide after the Stonewall Rebellion, which is one of the key events in the history of gay/lesbian civil rights. Pride month is a time to celebrate and embrace the many contributions the LGBT community has made throughout the years. It is also a time when many companies review their internal workplace diversity and inclusion policies and procedures in order to become a more diverse organization or company.

But little do we know that most CEOs and heads of HR aren’t actually fully aware of what an inclusive and diverse workplace environment should consist of. And in many cases, the difference between diversity and inclusion is not even well understood, which puts your company at a huge disadvantage. Diversity is only 50 percent of a diverse and inclusive workplace environment. In other words, being a diverse company doesn’t make you an inclusive company and vice versa. Let me give you an example: ABC company determines they want to have a “diverse and inclusive” workplace environment and gives itself a 20 percent quota for hiring personnel from the LGBT community. However, ABC company is comprised of 80 percent male workers with little or no exposure to the LGBT community.

The HR department feels extremely happy once they have recruited that 20 percent quota for the company and have finally checked off the diversity section from their checklist. Weeks, months and years pass by, and the HR department realizes that their turnover rate is increasing and they have received many complaints from their personnel. The LGBT community complains to the HR department that they don’t have the same benefits and compensation packages compared to their other colleagues. Benefits such as including their same-sex common law partner in the health insurance package or receiving the same bonus as their straight colleagues when they get married and have a first newborn child. Moreover, they have been discriminated against by their peers in several meetings and events and are not even considered for promotion.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community does not feel like they belong in the company, hence they start leaving. ABC company has made a typical catastrophic mistake; they forgot the “I” in a Diverse & Inclusive workplace environment. Focusing only on diversity does not make you an inclusive company. In this common case, the HR department did not have inclusive benefits, compensations and rights for their diverse workforce. Moreover, they failed to create training programs, workshops and inclusion campaigns for their personnel, which is fundamental for creating awareness.

Luckily, there are many companies and organizations that do offer both diverse and inclusive policies for all of their workforce. A great example is the United Nations, where I worked for many years in the HR department. Not only did they have 50-50 gender parity and over 100 nationalities working under the same roof, but their compensation packages and benefits were perfectly tailored to leave no one behind. They recognized same-sex marriage and even if same sex-marriage was illegal in the country where you lived, we at the HR department accepted the same-sex common law documentation from another country to incorporate your partner in your healthcare plan and as well in the repatriation package. But the private sector does not stay behind.

I had the opportunity to work in one of the best tech companies in the world, where you didn’t even have to be married or be in a common law relationship with someone to include the person you love in your healthcare plan. They were not only being inclusive with the LGBT community, but also with their straight staff members who didn’t want to get married, letting them add their partners in their healthcare insurance without having the need for an official government document. And this is only the tipping point of an inclusive workplace. I have had the opportunity to elaborate, design and implement inclusive benefits, compensation and policies in several organizations. From having a breast-feeding room in the building, to including computers and workstations for visually impaired staff members. Being well aware that a diverse team does not only consists of gender differences, or LGBT staff members, will differentiate you from the others. Diversity is more than that. Diversity is embracing people with disabilities, people with different backgrounds, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, age, language, religion, beliefs, culture, sex and sexual preferences.

As a CEO, business owner or HR practitioner, you should not forget to have the knowledge of and the commitment to having both a diverse and inclusive business, which should consist of inclusive benefits, compensation and workplace environment for all of your staff members. We must stop trying to reach quotas and percentages in hiring minorities just because we are trying to be more of a diverse business without even really understanding the real meaning and background of this word. We must expand our notion of diversity and inclusion to include not only our organization or business, but also the greater systems that constitute its workplace environment. Being a diverse and inclusive company is a win-win for both the staff member and the business. So, let us not only celebrate Pride month in one month, let us celebrate all of our staff members all year long and demonstrate how we really care about them with actions and not just words.

Photo by:   Gustavo Linares