Our work has primarily focused on the work in the United States. Let’s broaden our view and look at an international perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion. Select two countries of interest to you with differing cultures (i.e. Norway and Brazil, or China and Honduras) and examine diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in them. How do they compare with the United States? As social workers, we will deal with im
Module 7: Lecture: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Module 7: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The discussion of this topic must begin by defining these three concepts (Kapila, 2016):
1. Diversity includes how people differ, encompassing the characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often about race, ethnicity, and gender, the broader definition also includes age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also includes the diversity of thought: ideas, perspectives, and values.
2. Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and remove barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing fairness and equity within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems and their distribution of resources. Addressing equity issues requires understanding the root causes of disparities in outcomes within our society.
3. Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to participate fully. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. It is important to remember that while an inclusive group is, by definition, diverse, a diverse group is not always inclusive. Increasingly, recognizing unconscious or “implicit” biases helps organizations to be deliberate in addressing inclusion issues.
For-profit and nonprofit organizations use these words as they strive to become more diverse. Yet, many leaders are unsure of the steps needed to turn dialogue and intention into action. For many organizations, the desire to increase diversity does not translate into the reality of an environment that allows people from different backgrounds to succeed and hear the diverse perspectives that advance the mission.
Implementation of Affirmative Policies
There are four main arguments for addressing affirmative social policies that achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion (Hines, 2016):
1. To achieve moral or social justice, each person has value to contribute, and the barriers and historical factors that have led to unfair conditions for marginalized populations must be addressed. For example, racial equity refers to what a genuinely non-racist society would look like, where the distribution of societal benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race, and individuals would not be more or less likely to experience them because of the color of their skin. From a moral perspective, organizations create policies for the betterment of society and, as such, should be diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
2. The economic aspect is based on the idea that organizations and countries that take advantage of diverse talent pools are stronger and more efficient. Economists see discrimination as an economic inefficiency resulting from the systematic misallocation of human resources. In fact, the Center for American Progress finds that workplace discrimination against employees based on race, gender, or sexual orientation costs businesses an estimated $64 billion annually. That amount represents the estimated annual cost of losing and replacing more than 2 million U.S. workers who leave their jobs yearly due to unfairness and discrimination. In this argument, organizations should be more diverse and inclusive because it makes economic sense to tap into talent pools from different populations.
3. On the market side, the argument states that organizations will better serve their customers if they reflect the diversity of their market base. According to the Census Bureau, a dramatic demographic shift is underway in the United States, which will be majority non-white by about 2043. In the private sector, companies such as Deloitte recognize the buying power of minority populations and emphasize that diversity is critical to increasing market share and the bottom line. In the nonprofit sector, customers want to see themselves represented in the organizations that serve them. Donors are also clients, and organizations and their clients can benefit from the resources of different groups. In addition, organizations with diverse leadership are more likely to understand the needs of a diverse client base.
4. Diverse teams lead to better results. Scott Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, uses mathematical models and case studies to show how diversity leads to greater productivity. His research found that diverse groups of problem solvers outperform groups of the best individuals in problem-solving. Diverse nonprofits, and the diversity of perspectives within them, will lead to better solutions to social problems.
Multiple factors have influenced the discourse of nonprofit and for-profit organizations on these issues. First, recent social movements have brought this issue to a higher priority; Black Lives Matter, the marriage equality movement, and the movement to end mass incarceration all focus on inequalities in America. In addition, other industries are speaking openly about their diversity and inclusion efforts and showing how they benefit the bottom line. The technology industry has been highlighted with organizations sharing data, individuals sharing experiences, and media analyzing progress (Searby, 2021).
Inclusion Focus Area
A public or private organization or state prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion to create an environment that respects and values individual differences along different dimensions. In addition, inclusive organizations foster cultures that minimize bias and recognize and address systemic inequalities, which, if left unaddressed, can create disadvantages for certain individuals. These efforts should be reflected in the organization’s mission, vision, and values, incorporated into strategic plans; and cascaded throughout the organization. This is not a human resources issue; it is a strategic issue.
The focus area includes resources linked to the for-profit and nonprofit workforce: the current state of diversity, recruitment and selection, retention and diverse teams, leadership and boards, and programs and stakeholders. Where appropriate, resources that apply to specific diversity characteristics are highlighted. This approach initially emphasized promoting inclusive policies across race, ethnicity, age, and generations. Subsequently, the focus was on gender, economic diversity, physical ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity (Celoria, 2016).
Contemporary Trends in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
As time progresses, diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be an important focus, both as an organizing principle of workplace culture and as a strategic business advantage, as well as an advancement in achieving social justice. It is an increasingly important topic for organizational leaders outside the human resources department (Bridges, 2021).
A Multigenerational Approach
Today’s society is aging and changing considerably in terms of generational composition. There are now five, or more, generations converging from the silent or traditional generation (those born between 1928 and 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), Millennials or Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1996) and the newest cohort, Generation Z (born since 1997).
With each of these generations come distinct needs and expectations around issues such as employment, economic resources, recycling, and climate change, upskilling in the age of automation, holistic wellness programs, connecting work with social impact and purpose, and leveraging social networks. Similarly, each group must implement measures that bring them closer to social equity (Searby, 2021).
The Impact of Unconscious Bias in the Social Domain
Implicit or unconscious bias, the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations or feelings, is not necessarily a new topic of discussion. You can expect to see a lens focused on how biases impact the implementation of social policies (or lack thereof) to achieve a diverse and inclusive society. A recent Harvard Business Review article highlights the impact of gender affinity and bias on relationships among women. Establishing positions on behalf of a group that has a variety of perspectives, experiences, and lived experiences and is representative of the communities that organizations serve is the comparative advantage of diversity. Personal biases (possessed by all humans) influence decisions and ways leaders can minimize the impact of unconscious bias (Bridges, 2021).
Support for Gender Identity and Expression
Gender identity and gender expression or presentation have been a much talked about topic in recent years, with a growing awareness of the challenges faced by citizens who do not identify with their assigned sex at birth. In 2020 , Merriam-Webster recognized “they” as a singular, non-gender-specific pronoun. Organizations across the country are grappling with issues related to the use of gender-specific restrooms, many simply offering gender-neutral options. Some states have included social policies to provide health care benefits, including transitioning for a gender change. Government leaders in many countries and some states in the United States need education about the language and their responsibility related to the gender identity and expression of their citizens to implement social policies that eradicate the oppression experienced by these marginalized groups (Bridges, 2021).
As the movement to recognize and accept transgender and non-binary gender employees continues, it is likely to see an increased focus on updating diversity, equity, and inclusion training, along with the need to have internal conversations and education about gender inclusion.
Moving from Diversity and Inclusion to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Recent years have brought to the forefront that a focus on diversity, or increasing representation of people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, is only one part of the equation. Inclusion, making space for, and amplifying the voices of everyone in the community equally, is another. Both concepts will continue to be a primary focus for states in the years to come in implementing social policies. Many forward-looking nations are also focusing on the idea of “equity” as part of their overall strategy. The implementation of equity-related social policies manifests itself in various ways, from passing laws to eradicate wage inequity, to establishing gender-sensitive programs in the elementary, middle, and high school education system, to updating programs aimed at benefiting people in vulnerable conditions.
Social Justice Framework for the Implementation of Social Policies
When justice is the objective of social policy, equity becomes the objective of the analysis. Thus, for example, a needs assessment that is conducted using a social justice framework would not claim to be value-free or objective. Even the most technically sophisticated cost-benefit analysis relies on a basic understanding of what is fair or beneficial. In this way, social justice permeates policy analysis as a philosophy, a mission, and a goal.
Understanding social justice as the fair allocation of rewards and benefits of group membership generates a distinctive approach to policy analysis called the social justice perspective. When this perspective is employed, it considers both the policy development process and the impact of the policy itself. The steps in this approach are summarized as follows:
1. Evaluate the fairness of the policy development process.
2. Describe the allocation rules built into the policy.
3. Determine the net effect of the policy on vulnerable populations.
4. Conclude on the impact of the policy on social justice
Farmer, P. (2005). Pathologies of power. Health, human rights, and the new war on the poor. University of California Press.
Pérez-Garzón, C. A. (January, 2018). Unveiling the meaning of social justice in Colombia. Mexican Law Review, 10(2), 27-66.
Thompson, N. (2002, September 1). Social Movements, Social Justice and Social Work. The British Journal of Social Work (32)6, 711–722.
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