The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion
The United States is a nation of immigrants. In fact, only about 2.4% of the population is Native American, and 26% of the population is comprised of first-generation immigrants and their children. It’s a country of racial diversity as well, with groups such as Asian, Black, and Hispanic making up nearly half the country. This rich mosaic of people informs the importance of diversity and inclusion throughout public and private spaces.
What Is Diversity?
Of course, the concept of diversity is not limited to race and nationality. Diversity also refers to the practice of involving people from a range of social and economic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and abilities.
Diversity in the Workplace
A workplace that values diversity will emphasize hiring a broad range of people to reflect the society it exists. At the minimum, all employers must adhere to several federal laws that protect against hiring and workplace discrimination, such as:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Others, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees over the age of 40
- Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to pay women and men equally for equal work.
What Is Inclusion?
While diversity refers to the characteristics that make individuals unique, inclusion refers to practices and social behavior that make individuals feel safe and welcome in a given environment.
Inclusivity in the Workplace.
The Society for Human Resource Management defines an inclusive workplace as one where “all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” For example, if a workplace consisted of equal numbers of men and women, but only men were promoted to higher positions, the workplace might be diverse but would not be inclusive.
A Word On “Political Correctness”
Recent immigrants often notice how much care people in the US take to not offend anyone, especially in professional environments, often referred to as “political correctness.” In reality, this is simply a positive practice in inclusivity - it would not make someone very safe or welcome if they are being teased for their race or socioeconomic status, for instance. Be aware of the fact that comments that could be interpreted as making fun of or looking down on someone for their gender, sex, race, nationality, age, ability, or sexual orientation could cause you to lose your job. “It was just a joke’ or “I didn’t mean anything by it” won’t work as a defense.
What to Do if You Experience Discrimination
If you believe you are being discriminated against in your workplace, you can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government authority in charge of enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. They will investigate and can even file a lawsuit against your employer if need be.