Pizza Diversity vs. Pizza Inclusion
Your team performed excellently over the last quarter, so you’ve decided to invite them over for pizzas homemade by you, the boss. A bit adventurous—you’ve never made pizza before, but surely it can’t be too difficult. The dough has been rolled flat, the ingredients are measured and you’re ready to go. You plop a glob of cheese on the center of the pizza and toss it in the oven: what a pro! But when it comes out, the cheese only melted in the center and you are left with dry tomato sauce spread toward the crust. What happened?
Now think about the diversity training you just mandated at work. You clear everyone’s calendars for a half-day, out-of-the-box training so that employees learn to be more aware of diversity issues. The consultant comes, PowerPoint presentations are had, and no conflict arises. You feel that twinge of pride about committing resources to the training but are surprised by the lackluster response from your employees, especially those from historically underrepresented groups. What happened?
It looks like you’ve been using the pizza-diversity strategy for your work, generally working from the center but missing the edges. What if you took the pizza-inclusion approach? Instead of the cheese in the middle, you sprinkle from edge-to-edge while still covering the middle, too. Instead of a one-and-done training, you assess the diversity-related needs of everyone in your organization while systematically restructuring policies and practices to support an equitable experience for everyone. In the spirit of Dr. Bell hooks, you restructure in ways that meet the needs of everyone at the margins, while also supporting those at the center. Now you have both delicious pizza and a thriving business.
Benefits of Inclusion
Dr. Damon Williams discusses inclusion as an active, intentional and ongoing process to integrate diversity into the work we do. By doing so, individuals learn to engage their work in sophisticated ways and understand the complexity of systems and institutions within which they work. Businesses can leverage these outcomes in ways that make them good stewards in our communities while also supporting company sustainability and growth.
Creative solutions. Having a climate of inclusion at your company empowers employees to think outside of the box and develop novel approaches to the questions and problems that confront your organization. Not only will your employees feel supported in developing these strategies, they will be more likely to risk sharing these ideas to give your company a competitive edge.
Recruitment and retention. The successful implementation of your inclusion plan will not only help you recruit diverse types of people to your company, you will also be more successful at retaining the talent you already have. There is a synergistic effect that comes from having inclusive practices in place; having diversity of identities, experiences and opinions with your staff; and having a welcoming environment for all employees. Current employees will feel more committed to your mission and stay with the company, and new recruits will be impressed by the fabric sewn at the organization.
Visibility. Tied to the previous two points, inclusive work environments create opportunities for employees to feel visible and be honest about who they are. Consider times you have had to conceal or minimize an aspect of who you are—it doesn’t feel good and makes it less likely that you will fully engage at work. The inclusion you practice at your company will validate the unique experiences your employees have, and the investment will mature in powerful ways, including productivity and passion.
The bottom line. By integrating diversity and inclusion, you are committing to the sustainability and growth of your organization in an increasingly diverse and global society. Whether you choose to engage it, there is high complexity of the problems we face in our communities. Companies that choose to actively build an inclusive culture will position themselves to succeed over the long term.
Making the active commitment to diversity—and inclusion—can feel daunting but also is rewarding. The work takes place strategically and at multiple levels, such as encouraging individual conversations; assessing the needs of employees and groups; reevaluating policies and practices related to hiring, performance and governance; examining accountability structures; providing adequate mentoring, training and diversity-related resources; and most importantly, demonstrating a willingness to change based on what you learn from your employees.
In the spirt diversity and inclusion, Westminster College will host a panel discussion, “Executive Perspectives on Diversity,” as part of the B.W. Bastian Foundation Diversity Lecture Series on May 3, 2019, at 11 a.m. The event will include perspectives from local business leaders who place diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their work and will be followed by a networking reception.
Whether it is with us or other community partners, be sure to involve others as you develop and implement your strategies for a more inclusive work environment. And, of course, remember to sprinkle the cheese from edge-to-edge on your inclusion-pizza.
Written by Chris Davids, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor of Psychology and Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion | Westminster College and Bethami Dobkin, Ph.D. |President | Westminster College