It’s Not a Diversity Issue


It’s an inclusion issue. The topic of diversity and inclusion has been prevalent in the federal government for a number of years. A few initiatives have been established government-wide to improve Diversity and Inclusion practices in government agencies. However, as highlighted in an  OPM Overview, not much progress has been achieved from 2010-2014 in increasing diversity in the workplace. So what does it mean to have a diverse AND inclusive environment in the workplace? I look at it this way: diversity is about counting heads and inclusion is about making the heads count. In other words, its not enough to hire a diverse workforce in order to meet your quota, you need to purposely make them an integral part of your workforce and make them feel welcomed.

Below are two things that you can do to ensure an inclusive work environment:

Be mindful of the language/words you use to address your team/peers:

Make sure you use words that are inclusive to everyone and not just a select group of people. Below are some examples:

  • Use language that reflects what people call themselves: find out what labels or words a person or group uses for their identities and experiences rather than making assumptions, and always respecting the language a person uses to self-identify.
  • Use “person-centered” language as a general rule: when talking about groups you aren’t a member of, not using an identity as a stand-in for a person or a group: “people with disabilities” instead of “the disabled”; remember that any aspect of a person is just that: an aspect of a person.
  • Use words that encompass all genders rather than only two: Use “people of all genders” instead of “women and men”.

Encourage projects/tasks that require collaboration among your team members:

There is no better way of making your workforce feel included than allowing them opportunities to participate in, and contribute to, the progress and success of your organization. Here are some examples:

  • Facilitate brainstorming sessions to tackle a particular issue within your organization and encourage collaboration and participation form all team members
  • Create an environment that welcomes everyone’s ideas, perspectives and opinions
  • Give your team flexibility to make decisions and empower them with the ability to drive certain projects or tasks. Identify key areas that would benefit from greater flexibility and creative input but give them some parameters to work with so that they’re not overcome with options

If organizations only focus on hiring a diverse workforce and then neglect to create an inclusive environment, then they are not hiring for the right reasons. Yes, diversity is important, but it means nothing if we don’t offer our diverse workforce a seat at the table. It’s one thing to get invited to the party; it’s a completely different thing to feel welcomed at the party. Let’s make sure our diverse workforce always feels included and welcomed!

Michelle Rosa is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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