In the last 10 years, a common trend is that companies have expanded their executive boards to include titles with the words equality and diversity to ensure a more equitable workplace. It’s a catchall phrase–all for a noble, worthy goal: to increase belonging throughout their workforce. We can acknowledge that the world around us has changed (understatement of the last 3 years), and employee retention has done more flips than an Olympic gymnast. McKinsey estimates that US companies spend $8 billion a year on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to produce an outcome of belonging, which helps their bottom line.
The business case for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, DEI&B remains stronger than ever. And while some have expressed weariness about the subject, DEIB is a business imperative, not something companies should implement simply because of social or legal pressure or because it is the “in” thing to do. Diversity brings into organizations new ideas from various backgrounds and experiences, resulting in greater innovation and creativity.
The fight for diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn’t going away. The need for inclusion is amplifying as workforces move toward globalization and virtual teams. And as the workforce modernizes, employees are beginning to realize that work/life balance and a sense of belonging are necessities for psychological and physical well- being.
“Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a behavior. But belonging is the emotional outcome that people want in their organization,” said Christianne Garofalo, a partner at Heidrick Consulting and a diversity consultant.
These are everyday examples of microaggressions. People may target others with microaggressions because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, disability, weight, or age, among other factors. Microaggressions are the everyday slights, insults, putdowns, invalidations, and offensive behaviors that people experience in daily interactions with generally well-intentioned individuals who may be unaware that they have engaged in demeaning ways. These can be verbal or nonverbal.
Micro-aggressions typically stem from our ingrained biases against people who are different from us, which often trace back to how we were raised. Many people are not even aware of their biases until they are directly confronted with them during a conversation or dispute. Communication that doesn’t speak to all intended audiences is not effective. Inclusive language acknowledges diversity and shows respect to everyone. Due to language’s fluid nature, words and their meanings can change quickly. That’s why applying inclusive language principles are more important than always keeping up with the right phrases. At its core, inclusive language is about human connection. It’s about the way we listen, hear, and interact to expand our horizons and make sure we work together and converse in a way that’s best for everyone.
Pat Bennett, Founder, Pat’s Granola, is an entrepreneur with more than four decades of business experience in sales, marketing, finance, communications, and management. Currently, Pat helps small businesses articulate their brand and create marketing strategies and opportunities for collaboration.