With proper implementation of these three BIG little letters (which, to define our terms, stand for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) we can find measurable benefits on our workforce and its output. Conversely, if these are left unchecked, the impact of unconscious bias can have severe negative consequences. Want to do even better for your team? Let's get stuck in.
In the UK, there are more CEOs named Peter leading major companies than there are female CEOs. The US has a similar issue, known as ‘The John Problem’. Although roughly 3% of the US population are named John, and 50% are female, there is currently an approximate 17:7 John to female CEO ratio.
This does not make any business sense. Research shows that gender-diverse and ethnically-diverse companies are dramatically more likely to outperform their homogenous counterparts (15% and 35% respectively).
The Great British Diversity Experiment
In 2015, five creative directors from the advertising sector set out to prove the strategic importance of diversity. They recruited a diverse group of 150 people (40% female and 35% non-English nationals) and divided them into teams. Each team was given the same live brief, with ethnographic researchers studying their interactions to see how they compared with homogenous groups.
1) More room for self-expression
With increased representation, participants felt more comfortable being themselves, listening to others, and sharing their thoughts.
2) More life experiences to fuel ideas
The diverse teams had a dramatically wider-ranging perspective to draw from, leading to new insights and more powerful ideas.
3) Greater chance of meritocracy
Since there was not just one dominant voice, ideas were judged on merit. In more homogenous groups, a consensus might be reached more quickly, but the results could often be weaker.
How to Make it Happen
To ensure your company benefits from greater diversity, we recommend taking a look at GapJumpers’ revolutionary blind hiring process, which judges candidates on anonymous tasks instead of their resumes.
Without the unconscious bias of gender or ethnicity, GapJumpers saw the number of minority applicants selected for interviews boosted by 60%, with a 125% increase for female applicants.
“Access ain’t inclusion”, says award-winning sociologist and Harvard professor, Anthony Jack.
Jack’s focus is on higher education, and he outlines the challenges faced by students entering college from disadvantaged backgrounds. In particular, the “doubly disadvantaged” poor students from typically distressed public schools, who he believes are at a disadvantage to poor students from private schools (or “the privileged poor”).
These “doubly disadvantaged” attend college with no prior experience of “the hidden curriculum”, the unwritten expectation to engage with faculty during office hours. Faculty visits are linked to recommendation letters, emotional support, and even higher GPA scores (with each visit corresponding to a 1.25% boost).
As Jack explains, this disadvantage continues into the working world, where a lack of awareness of these unwritten rules can prevent employees from being considered for promotion. Recommendation letters in college are dependent on relationships with faculty, just as promotions at work are dependent on relationships with superiors.
This issue is just as stark in workplaces across the pond. A UK study found that civil servants from disadvantaged backgrounds were dramatically underrepresented in senior roles (18%, compared with 72% from privileged backgrounds).
To be considered for promotion, these workers needed to master an unwritten behavioural code described as “studied neutrality”. This code included speaking with an RP accent (received pronunciation) and displaying “an intellectual approach to culture and politics [which is] not directly related to work”.
How to Make it Happen
Consider the potential unwritten rules within your own work culture. If your workforce is largely homogenous, is there cultural jargon that should be defined? Could there be unconscious biases that stem from these unspoken expectations?
Did you know that passengers on flights with a first-class section are almost 4% more likely to experience air rage? This was found to be significantly more likely for coach-situated passengers that had to walk through first-class to reach their seats.
A similar instinct to recognise and react to inequity was found in the experiment, ‘Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay’. In this study, a pair of capuchin monkeys were rewarded with cucumber for completing basic tasks. When one monkey was awarded the superior prize of a grape, the other reacted in anger, throwing her cucumber from her cage.
We see equity as a core need which, if threatened, could result in chronic stress and even chronic inflammation, which is directly linked to cancer, heart disease and general lower life expectancy. Studies have found that people who experience recurring racism show chronic inflammation in their bodies.
How to Make it Happen
According to management trainer, Paloma Medina, diversity should not be our end goal, but instead a metric for measuring equity within our workplaces. Set a clear objective to achieve equity in your hiring process. Make it measurable and time-bound.
It’s been said that, “Diversity is the new Darwinism”, and the same can be said for DEI as a whole. And for those who fail to keep pace with these higher standards of equality and inclusion? Well, they're heading for extinction.