For centuries, African Americans have experienced blatant exclusion in our society. Then came affirmative action and diversity. Affirmative Action was put in place as a way of reaching Employment Equity. Employment Equity refers to a workplace that employs a certain number of people from different race and gender groups. Attention has now been drawn to the fact that beyond equality, equity needs to include more than just the number of diverse individuals, but fairness in how businesses operate. What does it mean to move forward with fairness?
While diversity is a variety that includes race, gender, religion, physical ability, and gender (male/female).I don’t think any of us would disagree that the meaning of the word diversity has truly expanded to include, but is not limited to. race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, military status, educational, marital status, language, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental, physical ability, genetic information, and learning styles. We have just witnessed the protection of the LGBTQ community in our laws and this is a wonderful thing. It makes it that much more important to understand how companies and organizations define diversity.
It is also important to note that inclusion is bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making. I believe that this does not just mean being a part of the opportunity, but it also means having a voice that will be heard, valued, and respected. That is why It is imperative that “Equity” be included as part of the Diversity & Inclusion conversation. What does Equity really mean? More importantly, what does it look like? Equity is to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunities, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of information and resources by all. This means that we need to guarantee fair treatment by eliminating the barriers that have prevented the full opportunity for certain groups. In other words, it means to be inclusive of all people.
First, you must acknowledge that a problem exists to change it. Everyone must have the desire to make the necessary changes to create this environment. Once we are at this point, certain actions must be in place with appropriate consequences if not followed. It is critical that this needs to be reinforced with reporting, metrics, and values gained by the business and this boils down to effective communication and follow up. Some examples of behavior changes might be equal pay for women and opportunities for African Americans and other groups with support to succeed.
Another way to help with this effort is to do “skill resumes” vs. traditional job descriptions. We must realize that the ability to successfully execute certain tasks and initiatives is not solely correlated with whether or not someone graduated from a prestigious university. We must create opportunities for high achieving employees to be considered for advancement based on skills rather than just education, which would be a small step in the right direction.