- Diversity is all the differences in experience and perspective we bring to work. Inclusion is about valuing that difference and creating a sense of belonging and psychological safety so employees feel valued and respected
- While many organisations in Australia are at a stage of supporting “surface-level diversity” (such as gender, culture and age), an increasing number are focused on “deep-level diversity”, which is valuing a wide range of thinking approaches to solve problems, create and innovate
- The concept of “managing diversity”, popularised in the 1990s, evolved into “leveraging diversity” and is now firmly anchored with efforts to create inclusive workplace cultures
Many organisations say, “We’re committed to diversity and inclusion.” But what does this statement really mean? And how did we get to where we are today? Back in 1990, R. Roosevelt Thomas, formerly an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, introduced the concept of “diversity” within organisations to business circles in a Harvard Business Review article. Thomas called on organisations to shift the focus from hiring women to a focus on maximising the potential of every person in a company. “The diversity I’m talking about includes not only race, gender, creed, and ethnicity but also age, background, education, function, and personality differences. The objective is not to assimilate minorities and women into a dominant white male culture but to create a dominant heterogeneous culture,” wrote Thomas.
Yet even today, some people still believe the term “diversity” only refers to gender diversity. However, there are now increasing efforts to promote diversity that includes a focus on many dimensions of difference. That is because companies increasingly recognise the value of teams from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who bring with them diverse thinking approaches. Innovation and good decision-making are just some of the benefits of a diverse workforce. During this time, many practitioners were concerned the expression “managing diversity” implied a form of control over non-dominant groups, and as time has gone on, it has been replaced by usage of terms like “leveraging” or “maximising” diversity.