December 18, 2019
“Diversity is the vegetation planted in the garden and inclusion is the soil...If you want to plant tomatoes or roses into that garden and you find a bunch of rocks in the soil, you can’t just start planting. You have to fix the soil first.” — Dr. J. Goosby Smith, on the difference between diversity and inclusion.
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When we think of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we often think of identity markers like race and gender. But in this line of thinking, many hiring teams may overlook other valuable aspects of diversity, says BCG senior partner Grant Freeland. For instance, if your company aims to conduct international business in any capacity, hiring employees with “knowledge of other cultures and languages” can help.
Another overlooked aspect of diversity is industry inexperience. As Freeland points out, outsiders with no preconception of “how it’s always been done” can lend diverse new perspectives to the workplace. When hiring, it’s also critical to focus on job novices’ diverse skills, rather than industry veterans’ long-established credentials. Lastly, Freeland recommends hiring a mix of ages for a combination of fresh thinking, fearlessness, and tried-and-true knowledge and experience.
We wholeheartedly agree that diversity and inclusion “should be a way of life that shows you’re committed to the ongoing success of the business.” Freeland’s examples show us that there are always more layers of diversity to consider when hiring, and they each contribute to a business’s success.
Think of some aspects of diversity that typically go unseen in your organization, like an employee’s language skills or level of tech savviness. How can you celebrate these aspects of diversity, and continue to build upon them as you hire new employees?
The unemployment rate for people with mental illness is three to four times higher than it is for those without mental illness. This is especially bad news considering the mental health benefits of being employed, such as “daily structure and routine, a sense of self, meaningful goals and opportunities for friendships and social support.” Professor Bandy X. Lee says people with mental illness often face unemployment due to myths about their abilities, morals, and behavior. These myths are then exacerbated by ongoing stigma and silence surrounding mental illness.
Professor Lee says that stigma can serve as a form of violence against people with mental illness, exposing them to greater discrimination, exclusion, depression, and suicide. Lee’s comment is especially poignant, given that people with mental illness are often assumed to be dangerous. (Studies show no difference in violent behaviors among those with mental illness and those without.) In sum, there are real and fatal consequences to perpetuating stigma by silencing conversations around mental illness.
Speaking openly about mental illness in the workplace can help to dispel myths and interrupt mental illness stigma. In addition, programs at work can increase mental health literacy, target bias against those with mental illness, and teach crisis intervention skills. How can you incorporate these mental health practices into your workplace culture?
The University of Kentucky, Central State University, and Kentucky State came together to offer a law school preview for students traditionally excluded from the field. The event featured sessions on navigating the law school application process, financial information, and even a mock class. Alumni attorneys and current law students also spoke about what to expect from law school and the legal profession as a whole. UK law professor Dr. Melynda J. Price explains how valuable events like these are.
“More than anything, what students who are first generation, first in family, students from low-income backgrounds need is to be able to visualize themselves as participants in these [classes] and to know there is a place for them in these spaces.”
Application processes for higher education can be incredibly challenging for first-gen and low-income students. If these students don’t know any legal professionals, for example, it may not even occur to them to consider a career in law. And even students who do know they want to study law may get discouraged when navigating financial aid or learning and working in potentially tokenizing spaces. Programs like the law school preview can help temper these critical barriers to diversity.
The law school preview is a great example of an effective diversity initiative. Rather than competing for students, the schools above are teaming up to increase diversity in the broader law community. Further, the law school preview addresses specific barriers faced by prospective law professionals. What barriers do diverse professionals in your industry face? Can you organize events like the law school preview to help address those barriers directly?