The Road to True Inclusion: Going Beyond Surface-Level Diversity
In our globally interconnected society, embracing the principles of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII) in the workplace is essential.
Although many global organizations today boast diverse workforces, true inclusivity often remains elusive. Simply having a mix of races, genders, cultures, or sexual orientations doesn’t guarantee an equitable or inclusive environment. While fostering diversity is commendable, diversity alone isn’t sufficient.
To forge a fairer future, leaders must go further. They must understand the core principles that make truly inclusive organizations. And that starts by understanding what EDII is and how it can be translated into practice.
According to Eddy Ng, Smith School of Business Professor of Equity & Inclusion, genuine and long-lasting progress in EDII has to start from senior leaders at the top. He identifies key factors that set inclusive organizations apart. These factors are more than mere policies, head-counting, or legal formalities. Instead, they have much more to do with informal settings, a feeling of belonging, and group influences.
Ng advises against compulsory, punitive-sounding EDII training. “When we talk about training, it generally has a negative connotation. It’s either remedial or punishment, right? So, for example, being asked to go to sensitivity training, being asked to attend implicit bias training… what you end up getting is a lot of people going, ‘I’m not racist’ and ‘I have no biases towards other people,’” Ng says. (03:09)
What Is Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII)?
EDII, when applied in a professional setting, underscores the intentional steps and initiatives an organization takes to cultivate an atmosphere where all members feel they are welcome and treated fairly.
You might have also heard the term “DEI” (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) instead of “EDII”. While both frameworks promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, the latter leads with equality. Prioritizing equality is crucial for EDII’s success. No matter how diverse your team is, EDII efforts will fail if you are not able to provide equitable conditions and opportunities to everyone. Additionally, including indigenization is a commitment to addressing the historical and ongoing injustices faced by Indigenous communities.
The benefits of a strong EDII commitment in the workplace extend beyond revenue growth and readiness to innovate. It also enhances positive employee experiences, prevents conflicts, and reduces turnover. But how can organizations adopt an EDII ethos successfully?
The 4 Key Fundamental Pillars of Effective EDII in the Workplace
1. Structural Integration
To be truly inclusive, organizations must focus on the diversity of their workplace at every level of the organizational hierarchy. This means having a robust representation of minority groups, from entry-level positions all the way up to the boardroom.
2. Breaking Functional Barriers
Organizations often unknowingly perpetuate bias by concentrating certain racialized groups in specific functional areas. “We might find that in IT, for instance, or in the accountant’s office, there tends to be a representation of certain racialized groups,” Ng says while emphasizing the importance of dismantling these functional silos. (00:45)
3. Inclusivity Beyond 9 to 5
Inclusivity doesn’t stop at the office door. Genuine relationships and connections are often forged during informal events like lunches, dinners, and recreational activities outside work hours. These moments are crucial for minority groups, offering access to information, influence, and the feeling of being an insider. While it’s challenging to mandate inclusivity outside the office through formal policies, senior leaders can play a pivotal role in demonstrating and setting the tone for inclusive behavior.
4. Minimizing Inter-Group Conflict
Efforts to promote diversity and inclusion can occasionally cause discomfort among majority groups, leading to potential inter-group conflicts. Recognizing and addressing the perceptions of majority and minority groups within organizations is crucial. This recognition can pave the way for the creation of a collaborative work environment that diminishes the divisive “us” versus “them” mentality.
“When inter-group conflict is minimized, people are much more willing to work with each other,” Ng explains. (02:39)
The Imperative Role of Senior Leadership in Fostering EDII
According to Ng, the role of CEOs and senior managers in advancing EDII within an organization is hard to overstate. A leader’s active endorsement of EDII initiatives and strategic allocation of resources is pivotal in creating a culture that embraces diversity, promotes inclusivity, and fosters a sense of belonging (03:38).
Ng also challenges us to reconsider the way we think about excellence and success. He notes that current standards of meritocracy are often set by those already in powerful positions. To truly realize equity, diversity, and inclusion, our understanding of what constitutes a successful leader must evolve.
How Smith’s School of Business is Creating EDII-Championing Managers
The Smith School of Business has earned international recognition for its distinctive approaches to business education and for pioneering the areas of team-based and experiential learning. Their MiM program underscores its commitment to EDII by fostering a diverse cohort of students from various backgrounds and experiences. This commitment extends beyond the classroom as graduates join a global alumni network, reflecting a rich tapestry of perspectives and insights from around the world.
Curious about how a master’s degree can elevate your EDII leadership skills? Connect with a student ambassador today.