I’m noticing a trend: people are using the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” interchangeably.
Remember when the conversation was about “equality” and equal opportunities? Since the 1970s the topic of workplace equality gained the attention of organizations and 1984 saw the beginnings of Employment Equity in Canada.
But over the past two decades, many organizations ditched the “traditional” language of equal opportunities in their internal and external policy statements in favour of diversity. Whereas equality emphasized non-discriminatory practices in the workplace, diversity was about recognizing the benefits of bringing together the different skills, backgrounds and viewpoints that exist in society.
We’re talking about more than just semantics here. The language an organization uses is a reflection of its values, and something as simple as one word can signal meaningful changes in its policy orientation.
Today, the word “diversity” is sort of becoming like your favourite jeans from last season. They still fit but they’re not in style anymore, and everybody else has a pair.
Organizations that want to stand out and lead the pack are now adding “inclusion” to their diversity statements – among them corporate leaders like RBC, HP and AOL. This begs the question: What is the difference?
Diversity is, quite simply, the “mix.” It means a variety of different kinds of people are at your workplace, reflecting the range of cultures, ages and other variations that exist in the workforce. Inclusion is taking that diversity to the next level.
HP defines inclusion as “a work environment where everyone has an opportunity to fully participate in creating business success and where each person is valued for his or her distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives.”
A salad, for instance, is a great example of “inclusion.”
You can lay out a variety of vegetables on a plate with dressing on the side but that does not make it a salad. It’s just vegetable diversity. In an actual salad, the lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and dressings are all mixed together. This creates synergies where all the parts are working together and the result is far more delicious and impressive than the plate of vegetables you had to start with.
Diversity is the range of differences among the organization’s people – women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, immigrants, LGBT people, blondes, redheads, tall people, short people, sports fans, foodies – you get the picture.
Inclusion is a quality of the organization itself.
Career Edge Organization embraces this shift, recognizing that the best companies are those that have integrated diversity at all levels, creating an environment that supports and leverages their employees so they can reach their full potential.
Don’t get me wrong – a variety of vegetables is better than just a boring plate of carrots. But wouldn’t you rather eat a salad?