Workplace Diversity: Yep, we still need to talk about it and why
Workplace diversity is far from a new topic, but it is one that continues to evolve. So we will be devoting this month to it, including:
- What is it?
- Why and what are the benefits?
- How to become a more diverse organisation and…
- How Australia stacks up against the world.
It’s something to be taken seriously, and it deserves your attention not only if you want to be known as an employer of choice but quite simply if you want to be able to engage the best talent and be a high performing organisation.
You simply won’t have a choice but to think about how your organisation stacks up and what you are actively doing to become a more diverse organisation.
I believe that planning in the diversity space will be as much of a strategic issue that impacts your long term performance and survival as conducting competitor analysis or SWOT or reviews of your products and services and customer base at your strategy meetings.
Diversity, at its core, means inclusion.
Employees should look around and not see a sea of the same faces, but rather a range of people who bring unique perspectives to the team and the business.
The importance of workplace diversity not only hits on your company reputation and culture, but it hits your bottom line.
How, did you say?
“A diverse workforce will bring different ideas and new ways of thinking to the table. They’ll be able to better serve your client or customer base. Members of staff that come from a range of backgrounds will have had different experiences, giving them a greater understanding of different points of views. This can be useful for empathising or problem-solving various situations, offering more tailored support to clients or customers,” according to a 2018 article in Real Business.
But when we say a diverse workforce, what do we actually mean?
It’s the way we either define ourselves or are defined by society, including race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, age, religion, mental and physical abilities, and sexual orientation.
Before we dive deeper into ways to achieve, let’s talk about what we mean for each category and briefly discuss some of the issues business owners face with each facet.
While we’ll dive deeper into how Australia stacks up overall in diversity, here’s a couple of numbers to think about as we consider all the facets of workplace diversity.
- Women make up about 47% of all employees in Australia. However, on average, they make $239.80 per week less than men.
- Approximately 95% of parental leave is taken by women.
- Australia ranked 35th in the world for gender equality in 2017, a fall from the high point of 15th in 2006.
However, when you talk about gender, it doesn’t just mean circling M or F. To achieve true diversity, it’s important to recognise that gender means three things: biology, identity and expression.
Race and Ethnicity
While strides are being made in this area and Australia is performing well in achieving this goal, there’s still much to do, especially in the area of immigrants.
According to a survey of employees by Hays Australia & New Zealand, 49% felt immigrants face discrimination when it comes to accessing or gaining employment in Australia.
Age discrimination is a major issue in the workplace today.
And let’s be honest, how many employers shy away from seriously considering a candidate who is above 55?
The Australian Human Rights Commission, in a survey, found that one in 10 bosses won’t hire a worker older than 51.
But like any of the sections of diversity, age brings yet another element of perspective to the workplace.
With age, you’ll find employees bring a wealth of experiences and depth of knowledge that are vital to your business.
As illustrated in the recent movie with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway – ‘The Intern’, just think about how useful it can be to balance some of our Baby Boomers wisdom and work ethic with some of our Gen Z technology and productivity hacks.
With 5 different generations now in our workplaces (and potentially across our customer bases), do you have a good cross-section?
Religion & Spirituality
From the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples to Catholic, Jewish and Muslim, the Australian population certainly represents a diverse faith base.
While there are laws to protect anyone from discrimination based on religion, employers need to improve inclusivity on religion by accommodating religious needs, such as:
- A “reflection or quiet room” that could be used as a prayer room,
- Allowing religious attire to be worn at work.
- As well as considering different leave for religious holidays.
Mental and physical abilities
Your workplace needs to allow accommodations for not only physical issues but also mental health.
It doesn’t stop at wheelchair accessibility—we also mean hearing impaired, blind, visually impaired and chronic illness.
Mental illness and depression fall under this category, too.
In 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that 45% of Australians between 16 and 85 would experience a mental health condition during their lifetime.
That’s a staggering number that means most likely one or more of your staff members has experienced an issue—do you feel equipped for this?
A hot button issue in today’s world, employers must continue to strive for equality for all their employees.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 39% of LGBTI people hide their sexuality or gender identity at work.
That means they don’t get to talk with co-workers about simple things such as references to partners and families.
While these are only very brief overviews of the various areas of workplace diversity, it should get you thinking.
So, start here: Look at each area we covered above and ask yourself how your business does in each one:
- Are you truly looking at every qualified candidate equally?
- What about your current employees—would they feel that diversity exists in your company?
There’s so much more to be said on the topic of workplace diversity, and we look to cover some of those topics in the coming weeks.
Next: Are you ready to tackle diversity in your business?
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