The workplace has changed in several ways over the past few decades. One of the biggest changes being that of the growth in diversity. Employees today share their places of employment with a larger number of diverse individuals. These include, different:
• Sexual orientations
Diverse groups of people coming together and working for the same purpose is incredible, and acceptance, awareness, and inclusion are increased. Organizations also benefit from this because diverse individuals have different views, experiences, and ideas.
Of course, this diversification in the workplace has not always been positive or easy. Even today, many individuals are not accepted in their place of work. They may also feel as though they must hide their differences from their subordinates and coworkers. That is why organizations need to implement strategies to promote diversity and inclusion. These strategies may include:
• Implementing a hiring process that appeals to diverse individuals.
• Making it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated, and ensuring that discrimination issues are not being ignored.
• Acknowledging holidays from all cultures and religions in the workplace.
• Ensuring that work teams are diverse.
It is also crucial that individuals be willing to learn from each other. Listening to the experiences and stories of other individuals will help us gain awareness. This will also allow us to be more open-minded when it comes to embracing diversity and inclusion.
I decided to do just that, and I interviewed three different individuals with diverse backgrounds, careers, and experiences. Because this is a sensitive topic, those interviewed preferred to remain anonymous. However, with their permission, their careers and backgrounds will be explained to ensure that their points of view are understood.
The first person that I interviewed is a retired university professor of Spanish and Italian, that most recently worked in the state of California. She also taught Spanish at the high school level and altogether was a teacher for about 27 years.
She states that her experience with diversity in the workplace has mostly been positive. However, she did have an experience with discrimination when she taught in a Catholic boarding school for girls. The incident took place at a Diversity Conference in Denver Metro College when they were yelled at by a man because of and against their religion. They were all caught by surprise, and the young girls especially were shocked.
It was a negative experience, but the teachers were able to use it to give the girls a lesson on how they should approach that type of situation. They also spoke to the students about accepting others no matter what their differences were. She explained that this was important for them to do because, they as educators understood that through teaching the youth, society is molded. Children that are taught to be understanding and respectful of everyone, will be more likely to be accepting and open-minded when they grow up and enter the workplace.
The second person that was interviewed is a university professor of foreign languages in the state of Colorado. She has been in that position for over two decades and has been teaching since she graduated high school. She started working as an elementary school teacher and also taught GED classes to adults. Because of the amount of time she has had as an educator, she feels that she has experienced firsthand the evolution of diversity and inclusion in the field of education. She says that one example of that is that more men work as teachers than there were when she began teaching.
She started her career in education in her very early 20’s. As she looks back, she considers herself fortunate to have been able to work with individuals of different genders, ethnicities, cultures, and religions, as well as other diversities. She can also identify some changes that have occurred when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the field of education. For example, there is now more diversity in her classes. The student associations in the department of languages have also grown in participation and are very successful. Overall, the evolution of diversity that she has seen throughout her professional life has been positive. She is looking forward to continuing to experience the progression in diversity and inclusion that is taking place in the field of education.
The third person that was interviewed is a Millennial woman that currently works in the technology industry. She is a relationship manager at a tech company in Colorado, where she has held a few other roles. Aside from that, she has also been a pharmacy technician, cashier, gallery attendant, and receptionist at a psychiatrist’s office. She has worked in customer service throughout her entire professional life.
She has experienced diversity and inclusion in her places of work in different ways, some positive and some negative. She once worked with a pharmacy manager that was intolerant of another culture. Though she is not a member of that particular culture, she has friends that are, and so she knew a lot about them. She decided to try and explain that culture to her manager in hopes that she would be more accepting. But through this experience, she quickly learned that not everyone is open-minded and willing to learn about others different from themselves. She ultimately decided to leave it alone because it was apparent that her manager was not going to change her beliefs or feelings.
She feels that diversity should be celebrated and inclusion should be promoted in the workplace. She strongly believes that this would create a company culture in which individuals are understanding of the differences of others and have a desire to learn from each other.
Though each individual was interviewed separately, they all gave a similar definition of what diversity and inclusion in the workplace are to them. They each said that diversity is a coming-together of different groups. They all agreed that it should be accepted in the workplace without discrimination or judgment. Each of them also believes that the two concepts go hand-in-hand because one could not exist without the other.
Being able to sit down with these women and learn about their stories and understand their points of view was an incredible experience for me. I learned a lot from each of them and what they have lived. I already believed that our differences should be embraced and learning from others different from ourselves should be encouraged. Now, I have had the opportunity to do that and broaden my own knowledge on a topic that is so important to me.
This has truly opened my eyes to how crucial it is for an organization to train their employees on diversity and inclusion. They must also make it clear that discrimination and intolerance towards diverse groups will not be permitted. Only then, will individuals be fully comfortable with sharing their stories of diversity and feel that they are being heard without judgment