A deeper dive into diversity and inclusion

November 8, 2019 Dan Miller

4-minute read

Rosette Cataldo

You’re interviewing a candidate and he’s tapping his toes. Annoying? Perhaps. Distracting? Probably. What you may not know is that your candidate could be autistic, dyslexic, or perhaps has attention deficit hyperactive disorder or social anxiety.

Neurodiversity was just one of the topics that came up during yesterday’s Workhuman® Executive Forum in Houston. The attendees at Hotel ZaZa openly discussed D&I challenges, led by moderator Rosette Cataldo, Workhuman VP of performance & talent strategy.

While the D&I conversation often focuses on ethnicity, attendees touched on inclusion challenges, including navigating old boys’ networks, hiring veterans, and LGBTQ allies. There was also discussion on the value of employer resource groups (ERGs), and whether these are creating value or perpetuating organizational silos.

Heady stuff.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are born with autism today. “Oftentimes these are incredibly talented individuals,” said Rosette. “There are companies that are doubling down and by 2020, 1% of their workforce will fall under neurodiversity. Some organizations are taking massive steps not just to create inclusion, but to change the practices they’ve had as it relates to recruitment, performance, and the work environment to serve this population among us that we don’t necessarily know.”

When we think about diversity efforts, how far is too far? “These are some of the topics we may not be prepared to deal with,” said Rosette. “But we need to be educated and well-equipped.”

Many companies have created ERGs to bring to light some of these topics. Some attendees said ERGs may be creating silos – but others said it’s a safe place to have real discussions where all voices are heard.

One attendee said her global company created an ERG for veterans, but it’s been a challenge. “We had an ERG with veterans in the U.S., but it’s a little sensitive to go talk to other countries that are at war with the U.S.”

Another attendee started an ERG around the LGBTQ community. “It was a real brain-twister,” she said. “How do we ask people to join? We don’t ask members to self-identify whether they are LGBTQ. The group is open to everyone, and basically it’s people who want to be supportive or allies.”

Diversity and inclusion can mean many things. One attendee shared an experience of sitting at a dinner with her male colleagues who had been with the company more than 20 years (she was new) and enduring their stories of long-ago company events. To her, this was exclusion.

Another attendee who works in the U.S. but is from another country said when people tell her that her English is good, she sees it as a compliment. But one of her colleagues, who is Asian, does not. “She was born and raised in Michigan, so when people compliment her English she feels hurt because she was born here.”

“This discussion is around D&I, but what we’re really talking about is unleashing talent and thinking of new paradigms,” said Rosette. “We’re thinking of ways we can do things differently to create a culture of connectedness.”

The comments yesterday were reflective of the content presented and discussed in other Executive Forums. Indeed, Fiona Ibanez-Leach, head of diversity &inclusion, international markets, Walgreens Boots Alliance, recently told attendees in London: “With D&I everyone can make a difference. We can all set a new tone, on a small or a grand scale. We can recognize our own privilege to actively speak up for and stand with others in our day to day. If we are willing to be curious about others and humble about our own unconscious bias, we can create inclusive environments where everyone can thrive.”

The Executive Forums wrap up with the final fall session in Chicago on Nov. 13. If you can’t join us there, diversity and inclusion will be at the forefront of the discussion at Workhuman® Live in San Antonio, May 11-14.

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The why behind D&I: how diversity and inclusion initiatives benefit business

About the Author

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is the director of content marketing for Workhuman.

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