Great workplaces celebrate diversity and inclusion

A study has shown there’s immeasurable benefit to be gained by including diverse groups within work spaces.

The study by McKinsey shows that companies with a more diverse workforce perform better financially.

Professor Cecil Bodibe, author of “Salt and Pepper: the challenges of diversity and inclusion”, quoted the study at the recently held international fourth Diversity and Inclusion (Dive In) insurance festival. Last month more than 27 countries from around the world took part in the festival that was first held in the United Kingdom in 2015.

The study of 366 public companies in various countries was titled “Diversity Matters” and advocated for more diverse and inclusive workspaces to the benefit of both employer and employee, and in the long run countries as a whole.

The South African insurance industry celebrated by picking each other’s brains on issues of diversity and inclusion. A panel discussion saw representatives of various diverse groups such as people living with disabilities, gender advocates, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) group and neuroscience experts speaking on how diversity and inclusion affected productivity and initiative within the work space.

Bodibe, who was the guest speaker, tackled the idea of whether or not diversity and inclusion were in fact heart or mind matters. No matter the answer, healthy work spaces would have to harness an element of cultural intelligence (CQ) as well as a consented awareness of the impact of exclusion on ‘the other’. Issues to keep top of mind when cultivating CQ are equality, equity, justice, fairness and empathy. CQ is a vital soft skill in a globalised world.

Only through an admission of our own privileges – earned and unearned - can we begin to objectively see issues of exclusion around us. Empathy and introspection are necessary tools on this journey, as well as an acknowledgement of our own personal blind spots. These are some of the key points he addressed.

“This process is a journey, it starts with denial, then we become defensive, then we minimalise, accept, adapt and integrate,” says Bodibe. “Great workplaces will not just happen – consented efforts from all is needed.”

The McKinsey study also found that when companies allowed diversity to seep into their leadership, greater success was achieved. Diverse companies were found to have the ability to attract top talent, improve customer experience, improve employee satisfaction and decision-making which all resulted in a positive impact on returns. These and other findings meant that all types of diversity, be they on the basis of age, sexual orientation, disability, race, gender and the likes, would most likely yield positive results.

Gender, however, still overshadows most of the diverse groups on issues of inclusion. Even so, there are other elements of exclusion that do not feature in the common dialogue on the matter, such as people living in abusive relationships and the impact that has on their work. Violence is also an aspect of marginalisation.

If the insurance sector is to succeed in creating great diverse and inclusive workspaces, then the industry must commit to creating new patterns of thinking. The justification for change has to overpower the need to revert back to the status quo. Education, dialogue and a commitment to changing the culture have to be ongoing. Only through an interruption of the exclusion we have normalised as society will we derive the greatest impact from inclusion.

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