There are numerous benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the workplace. Just to list a few, DEI has been correlated with increased engagement, employee retention, innovation, and positively influencing the bottom line. With all of these great benefits, why is there still resistance to DEI at the executive level?
Many executives still view diversity and inclusion as just a “nice-to-have” instead of realizing that it is essential for business. This limited buy-in decreases overall interest and intentionality in DEI efforts. Like anything else, DEI training and initiatives require an investment of time and budget in order to create progress in this area.
Unconscious bias and prejudices may create mental blockades, preventing some executives from supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives. An example of this is a question I get asked after nearly every one of my diversity and inclusion presentations. A skeptical executive will say, “Are you telling us that we have to promote minority individuals that are not qualified just because they are minorities?” This question is laced with unconscious biases against minority candidates. Even though they may not realize it, some leaders are assuming that minority candidates are not qualified! They may think that simply because a minority candidate may not have the same background, education, or experience as a white candidate, they are “not qualified.” These very differences are essential to create a diverse workplace with unique thinking and creative solutions. By addressing these issues, we can slowly work towards achieving executive buy-in to diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Furthermore, some executives may not even realize there is an issue with the lack of diversity and inclusion in their organization. In consulting engagements, I observed many avoid broaching discrimination conflicts, minimize the significance of exclusion, and suppress attempts at progress. These actions may come from a place of mere misunderstandings about the gravity of certain situations. Additionally, some executives may have concerns about potential clients viewing DEI initiatives negatively, citing taboos about Black Lives Matter or Pride movements.
Our answers to these fears and worries need to consistent and educational. When facing challenging executives, I always start by highlighting the rewards of DEI. Share statistics and industry research touting the benefits diversity brings to the bottom line. Showcase how inclusion improves employees’ connection with the company, increasing employee engagement, retention, and efficiency in the workplace. Mention the positive visibility organizations committed to DEI receive and how these initiatives can expand clientele.
In conjunction with the advantages that DEI brings, stress how diversity initiatives can help organizations avoid future challenges. A lack of diverse employees may lead to a lack of diverse clients, as buyers often trust and relate to individuals similar to them. Furthermore, unique candidates and young workers often seek a diverse work environment. Without the proper initiatives, organizations may be missing out on top talents and rising stars. Lastly, compare your organization to competitors in terms of DEI strategies. This juxtaposition will help executives understand the importance of investing in diversity to gain an edge in the industry.
By illuminating the countless benefits that DEI brings alongside the advantages a diverse work culture holds over its competition, we have a greater chance of gaining the executive buy-in that is needed. The positive influence of DEI outweighs the concerns and it is our job to share this with the leaders.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company with a primary mission for advancing individuals in leadership. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. In addition, she provides guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within the organization.