By: Kevin Lam, University Internship Program (UIP) assistant
I have the privilege of experiencing a truly diverse work environment at DePaul University’s Career Center. Full-time and student staff are part of a community that is both inclusive and welcoming of diverse backgrounds and experiences. I love coming into work because I don’t feel pressured by my differences. In fact, I find that they’re celebrated. My opinion is valued in meetings, and I feel like a core part of my team. That being said, not every organization embraces the idea of diversity.
Seeking understanding about diversity in the workplace, I decided to sit-down with Brenda J. Williams, Director of Career Experiences. We discussed the many benefits of diversity in the workplace. She shared that statistics show, more diverse companies perform better than those that are not. Brenda believes that the more different types of people you bring to your workplace, the better your workplace is able to innovate and meet the needs of your consumer.
With so much to gain, why would anyone resist diversifying their company? Brenda’s theory is that the change is hard work and uncomfortable to some people. It’s one thing to have a diverse staff as far as numbers go, but to have inclusion requires work that some may not be willing to put forth. Ignorance about people that are different and lack of respect can also play a large role in the resistance against diverse workplaces as well as the discomfort and denial of the fact that conversations about these issues need to happen.
The benefits to diversity and inclusion in the workplace are endless and while it’s a work in progress anyone can be part of this movement, whether you’re an intern or an entry level employee, you can bring your perspective to the table. To get started, Brenda suggests, “Understand the dominant culture of the industry and the workplace that you’re interested in working in and understand it in relation to what your culture is.” Understanding the cultures at play is step one in a long process of diversifying workplaces and leveraging your seat at the table to provide critical insight, here are a few other ways you can encourage diversity from your desk.
- Use your insight to help develop strategies: Let’s take a look at age for example. Sometimes being a millennial means older generations don’t initially listen to your perspective. Bridge the gap between older generations and your age demographic and share what you know about your peers to help companies see how they can better engage with an audience that you’re part of. You’d be surprised how a few key insights can improve a plan or a strategy.
- Drive higher quality, targeted marketing by offering insights on target audiences: Have you ever watched a commercial that made absolutely no sense to you? Or maybe you read an email that failed to resonate with you. So many initiatives across all industries fall on deaf ears because messaging easily gets lost in translation or because businesses don’t understand their audiences. When it comes to messaging, you can see your perspective and experiences to offer suggestions and help ensure that companies are actually seeking out and connecting with key insights in specific targets.
- Inspire creativity and drive innovation: Groupthink is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discounts creativity or individual responsibility. You hear it all the time when someone questions a process at a workplace that could clearly be improved upon, “We’ve always done it this way,” or “Everyone else is on the same page.” These can be signs that a lack of diversity has impacted openness to new and creative ideas. Nevertheless, you can use your perspective to bring fresh ideas to the table and help challenge the homogeny.
Diversity is a multi-layered issue—there’s so much room to grow when it comes to how we cultivate inclusive spaces in the workplace. The good news is that as young professionals you have the ability to contribute to that growth. Always know that your perspective is valuable and insightful to employers and organizations. Don’t be afraid to offer your perspective and insight! Not sure how to share your insights and ideas? Meet with a Career Advisor to learn more about successful strategies and remember, your diversity is a strength!