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Diversity and Equity Trends To Watch For In 2015

Inclusion As A Form Of Window Dressing Is Passé

Diversity and Equity Trends To Watch For In 2015
By Mark Swartz

From diversity and equity compliance toward genuine “inclusion.” It’s a leading trend for 2015. Employers are striving to integrate EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) into their company DNA. Compliance alone won’t cut it anymore as the workforce becomes increasingly varied.
 
Other EDI trends to watch for in 2015? A move to put more women into Board of Director roles. Religious accommodation for minorities. A rise in competing rights. And unmasking unconscious bias in the workplace.
 
The realm of diversity is shifting subtly. More legislation is being passed. And Canada’s demographic mix has become less homogenous. Here are some key issues that are emerging.
                                                      
Real Inclusion, Not Just Lip Service
Many companies promote diversity while struggling to leverage its business benefits In a global study, 61% of employees report the are "covering" on some personal dimension (appearance, afiliation, advocacy, association), to assimilate into their organization.

Weaving inclusion into the fabric of your workplace takes deliberate effort. Why do so many employers fall short? Mainly because they approach EDI as just a compliance function. To remedy this, look beyond the visible differences. Strive to appreciate cultural backgrounds when assessing employee input. Tease out the full meaning behind new ideas which at first may not fit into your schema.

 
Research suggests that current initiatives often implement formal inclusion (that is, “participation”) without recognizing how that inclusion is based on assimilation. Individuals may feel pressured to downplay their differences in order to fit in. This behavior is referred to as “covering.” Celebrating differences ongoingly is one way to address the discrepancy.

Unmasking Unconscious Bias
Even EDI programs launched with the best of intentions can contain unconscious biases. Our actions and perceptions are strongly influenced by our instincts, filters, culture, upbringing and identity. These unconscious prejudices shape the actual decisions we make. They affect hiring decisions and how we treat people in the workplace.
 
Organizations are beginning to understand the need to gain a better understanding of how unconscious bias works, and the impact it has. Where it shows up most often is in hiring decisions, and how people are treated in the workplace.
 
Companies should plan on adding training and education about unconscious bias into their EDI programs. Sussing out stereotypes and clarifying common cultural misinterpretations will be essential.

A Rise In Competing Rights
When the legal entitlements of one individual interfere with the freedoms of another person, that’s competing rights. For example, the need for one employee to bring their guide dog to work may compete with the that of another employee who is allergic to dogs.
 
In dealing with these matters, familiarize your concerned staff with the guidelines on competing rights from the provincial or federal Human Rights Commission. They should also be aware of the duty to accommodate and what to do when competing rights are in conflict.
 
Women On Boards As Directors
In March 2014, the Boards of Directors Modernization Act was introduced to the Canadian Senate. The act received a second reading in July and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce.
 
If enacted, the boards of directors of public companies, state-owned enterprises, and certain financial institutions would have to comprise at least 40% ­women and 40% men. These quotas would be enforced in stages until sixth annual meeting of shareholders after the passage of this law.
 
Grooming females for board positions will be the employer’s responsibility. What are you doing about it?
 
Religious Accommodation For Minorities
Immigration has held fairly steady since the 1990’s. Nearly 250,000 new people are admitted to Canada each year. This influx has created an increasing requirement for accomodating minority religious practices.
 
Yet the news still abounds with cases of outright discrimination. A bearded Muslim high school co-op student was told at an interview the company’s policy is that every man must be clean shaven. Sikh employees have refused to put on a hard-hat because it meant they can't wear the turban required by their religion. Flexibility is important to attract immigrant talent 
or appeal to diverse Canadians.

Does your organization have a Religious Accommodation Policy? Have you specified the duty to accommodate in related areas, such as dress code, guidelines for scheduling interviews, shifts and holidays?

 
Sensitivity Increases Retention
One reason people leave organizations is that they feel like they no longer “belong.” Or perhaps they feel they will more accepted – and encouraged to thrive as themselves – at another employer.
 
Understanding EDI trends is part of dislaying sensitivity. Investigating and implementing updated policies shows your respect for everyone’s rights and differences.