I was deep in research mode, looking for evidence of how equity can benefit bottom lines and boost performance. I came across a LinkedIn article by Wendy Veloz, What good Does focusing on equity do me anyway? and a line grabbed my attention. “As professionals, we have to commit to doing everything we can to make sure things are equitable and accessible.”
This got me thinking about my role in DEI as a white woman and a professional. I consider myself an ally of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and actively participate in change-making. Yet here I was searching for reasons to prove why equity in the workplace reverberates elsewhere. It occurred to me that a lack of cohesiveness could also be the reason it is misunderstood.
“For us to create sustainable social change, we can’t forget that equity has to take place on all levels, especially at the top. Having diverse leadership is only one step, but creating a pipeline of talent is important too.” — Wendy Veloz
The vocabulary of inclusion is becoming commonplace these days. DEI practices, unconscious bias, and embedded systemic racism are discussed at dinner tables across the country. But words alone don’t move the dial toward systemic change. Privilege allows people to believe that social equity is right because it’s fair, and still not grasp why it’s essential.
The burden of change is on organizations and leaders to cultivate buy-in for DEI initiatives within their organizations.
How Can Equity Benefit the Bottom Line? Think About It!
Have you ever not been hired because you are female? Or interrupted and spoken over in meetings because you are from another country?
Are you Latinx and suspect that your ethnicity might be why you were turned down for a small business loan? Did your background prohibit you from networking your way to acceptance at a competitive university?
Can you relate to the frustration of not qualifying for a mortgage because your credit isn’t quite good enough? Or losing your license because you didn’t have the cash to pay a traffic fine?
There are a lot of firms with personnel dedicated to the work of DEI specifically. HR departments receive training and change hiring practices. But the seriousness with which DEI is embraced is less measurable. Sometimes it gets lip service, and even those who support diversity, equity, and inclusion don’t necessarily understand it. Or why it matters to people who have historically faced discrimination, experienced barriers to access to education and employment, or lacked the resources needed to succeed in their career goals
Measurable improvements and evidence-based practices are important to proving the value of DEI in mainstream society. Arguments should be made for the positive impact of DEI across all levels of an organization, including those who are the primary target audience, and its influence on business ecosystems.
Groupthink happens pretty easily within homogonous teams and organizations. Companies that lack diverse people and perspectives also lack some capability to provide innovative solutions, disruptive business strategies, and essential elements of communication that leads to healthy growth.
Our individual experiences might shape how we think, but the mashup of perspectives can lead to awesome new ideas. In a room where most of the people don’t share some commonality (language, culture) or there an overwhelming gender imbalance (men or women) exists, communication might prove harder and slower at first. As individuals begin to find shared experiences or beliefs, they get excited and foster a dynamic environment that can spark innovative ideas and unheard-of solutions.
An Example of How Bias Works
Why does a pharmaceutical company spend its R&D budget on developing drugs for men? Because most leaders are men who hire men to develop questionnaires for the health consumer market. The surveys end up being biased toward the needs of men, even though the total consumer market is pretty evenly split. Are you surprised?
This bias creates a problem with the availability of health products for women. But the pharmaceutical company is leaving money on the table because they survey half of the consumer market. How can they change that?
Cosmetic companies figure out that targeting people with white or light complexions neglected a lot of available markets. The global market is made up of hundreds (maybe thousands) of skin tones. Ignoring those consumers is simply bad business! Understanding the needs of the underserved consumers could lead to a lot of new revenue. A more diverse team can create relevant products and prove how equity can benefit the bottom line.
Discrimination stagnates people who want to create wealth and have more purchasing power. The right to a living wage and fair pay is about more than between 29 and 18 cents on the dollar*.
* (If you want to know more about the state of the wage gap in 2022 you can check out this downloadable resource: https://www.payscale.com/research-and-insights/gender-pay-gap)
Better base pay leads to better loan rates on mortgages. With more money and PTO, employees have disposable income and days to spend on outings. They come back to work well rested and happy with ideas to share.
As purchasing power increases so does the value of consumer markets. This seems like strong evidence for equity as a guiding principle in policies. The company that creates the policy, hires the outsider, promotes the unacknowledged, will stand to see how equity can benefit the bottom line.
Assessing Why and How
Understanding how equity can benefit the bottom line begins with an assessment. Where are we now and what do we believe.
In ReInventing Diversity by Howard Ross, you can find guidelines to assess current-state mission, policymaking, and cultural values. Ross stresses the importance of DEI being written into organizational DNA, rather than a laser focus on hiring practices.
I believe that education is how organizations can drive engagement and comprehension. Understanding why is more than fairness. It is essential to connect the dots to how and produce innovative solutions that benefit all people.
Build a business case for DEI in order to break down and remove discrimination in our workplaces and world.
Different but the Same
An accurate assessment of how equity can benefit bottom lines begins with asking the right questions. The first question might be what is the difference between equity and equality.
Instride defines their differences and suggests actions that organizations can take toward forming a plan of how equity can benefit the bottom line. Click here for new ideas from Instride!
“Equality seeks to provide all employees with access to the same resources, regardless of the pre-existing barriers they may face. This can refer to an equal distribution of money, resources, or opportunity between workers at a similar level.
Equality is in many ways a beneficial concept that can push company culture in the right direction. However, it often fails to address problems of underrepresentation or an unfair status quo.
Equity is distinct from equality in that it doesn‘t provide the same resources and opportunities to everyone. With equity, an organization will recognize that each employee has varying access to resources and privileges. And those with less access may need more support in order to take fair advantage of opportunities within a given company.”
One of my favorite articles by Globoforce talks about the multi-tier impact from new hires to leadership. Click to read!
This case study from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is an example of evidence-based practice… get the details
Of course, Forbes magazine weighed in on the topic. Convening a panel of human resources experts to compile a list of benefits from DEI. Find out what they came up with!