The challenge is how to implement DEI in a way that it’s not perceived by dominant groups as a zero-sum game.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are very important values for all organizations, academic institutions, and healthcare establishments. They are meant to support different groups of individuals including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders and sexual orientations, so that they can contribute to the best of their abilities.
Nevertheless, diversity, equity, and inclusion should not be regarded as a matter of life or death. But if implemented comprehensively, not as a top-down order, not as tokenism, DEI could enhance a person’s self-worth and their workplace performance.
Studies have shown repeatedly that diversity strengthens the workplace, and makes the environment quite productive. Institutions, organizations, and businesses that pursue a policy of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness respond to challenges better because they tap into diversity of ideas and perspectives.
In the academia, DEI could enlarge freedom, break down barriers, broaden intellectual horizons, and enhance learning. Most importantly, it is in the field of healthcare that DEI is so essential. Denial of good healthcare is denial of social justice. Without DEI, social justice is an empty slogan. The challenge is how to implement DEI in a way that it’s not perceived by dominant groups as a zero-sum game.
Although diversity, equity, and inclusion are often considered to be the same, they are different in their values. Nonetheless, all the three concepts include the idea of belonging. People become more productive when they have a strong sense of belonging.
When we talk about gender diversity, we mean to say that men and women and people with different genders would make different contributions and thereby enrich the environment, whether it’s a college, hospital or a business corporation.
Ethnic diversity, which means people coming from different racial and cultural backgrounds in the workforce, is very important because it has the potential to contribute to diversity of thought and enhance innovation.
Equity is fair and just treatment of everyone in the organization, but it is more than equality. Equality is based upon the assumption that everyone deserves to be treated the same way, a level playing field for everyone. But ironically, equality can create a sense of injustice because of the circumstances of one’s background. A person’s background can be a good enough reason for making suitable adjustments so that the person is treated equally and contributes to the best of their ability.
For example, in response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis anti-Woke guidelines about race-based discussions in businesses and educational intuitions, Miami Herald recently editorialized, “The knowledge that the median white household net worth is 10 times that of the median Black household, according to the Brookings Institution, should provide enough evidence that race impacts the types of opportunities one can access. And saying that we elected a Black president doesn’t change that.” Without some discussion about race, historical injustices cannot be addressed. Silence may lead to the suppression of an issue.
Inclusion and inclusiveness are very important for a culture of teamwork and cooperative productivity in an organization. A diverse population in an organization must feel that they indeed belong to the organization. A sense of belonging is one of the most important values in business organizations, academic institutions or health establishments. Without this environment of inclusiveness and belongingness some people might feel alienated and perceive that they’re being subjected to microaggressions by the dominant group.
According to the research done by McKinsey, drawn from 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies, there’s a significant correlation between diversity and business performance. The increased performance results were the consequences of increased employee engagement. Most employees, according to the research findings, support diversity.
Greater gender diversity also contributes to superior performance in a company, according to the research. Equally strong is the case for cultural and ethnic diversity for the performance of a company. Apart from these benefits, the report says, there are several other benefits including hiring talented people, improving the quality of decision-making, increased employees’ motivation and satisfaction, and improving the image of the company especially in foreign countries.
Miami Herald highlighted the political challenges of implementing DEI especially in red states like Florida. In response to Governor DeSantis’ “reverse racist” populist utterances, the newspaper admonished, “At the same time, good intentions alone won’t diversify a workforce. We know by now it’s not enough to simply invite everyone to apply or lament that ‘we couldn’t find any qualified women.’ Diversity cannot be such an elusive goal that it becomes an afterthought. The point isn’t to have ‘diversity hires’ but to hire people who are a good fit for a workplace, have the proper experience and skills—and that are also diverse. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not easy topics to discuss, much less achieve.”
The elephant in the room is the US Supreme Court whose adverse ruling about the Harvard Affirmative Action case would challenge the academia, corporate America, and health establishments to find some alternatives to frame policies conducive to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.
Dr Narain Batra publishes the Freedom&Geopolitics newsletter and podcast about media, culture, politics, technology, and America’s global role. He’s the author of The First Freedoms and America’s Culture of Innovation and India In A New Key: Nehru to Modi, and is affiliated with the Diplomacy and International Program in the graduate college at Norwich University, US.