by Denise Ingabire-Smith
From the controversy of the DOVE commercial to the recent H&M hoodie incident, the damage that a lack of diversity can have on a company are undeniable. In one way or another most of us have encountered that awkward situation where a word was uttered, an action was done, or a comment was mentioned to either us or a fellow human in the room that left our jaw hanging in disbelief. When it comes to big incidences like the ones mentioned above the same question keeps haunting my mind: how did this mistake pass through all the channels and all the levels of a big company’s paid representatives to make it to the public? And the simple answer is a lack of diversity. Diversity in gender, age, race, cultural background, ideology, lifestyles, ethnic group, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background … diversity in everything and at every level in the company. It is easy for a man to brush off a misogynistic comment and it can be easy for a young entrepreneur to bypass a need that will benefit the elderly…My point is, if it is not personal it is likely to be minimized.
We can say it a lot and give a lot more reasons why diversity is so important in every aspect of our lives but the simple fact is DIVERSITY and INCLUSION IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Embracing a culture of diversity help us develop and grow both as individuals and as entrepreneurs. When we enclose ourselves in our own bubbles, we are more likely to have very narrowed lives, lives that are deprived of the rich experiences, understanding and knowledge that each and every one of those with different gender, race, religion or creed can bring into our lives. Diversity expands our point of view on many topics and impacts our decision making. When we diversify our circle people bring in their own originality, their enriching life experiences.
As an entrepreneur or a business, diversity takes on another important step, which is to make sure that diversity is not being done just for the picture. What I mean by this is that businesses shouldn’t just diversify for show, but that they should actually give diversity a voice and listen to it. Listen to the people with various life backgrounds, listen to the ideas of those who may be able to relate better or to offer more from their own lives experiences. Entrepreneurs and businesses should also put emphasis on making sure that diversity is at each level of management or that it has an important voice in decision making. We often hear of examples of male dominated businesses whose idea of diversity is the female secretary who types everything they agree on. Or sometimes see examples of big companies who hire minorities for their custodial or gatekeeping duties and call it diversifying. This form of diversity though a step in the right direction towards diversity in the workplace, it does not in much way affect the big decisions made at the top level of management in that company.
Investing in a culture of diversity and inclusion at every level in a company is a wise investment towards its human capital. This step ought to be taken seriously and strategically carried out. Diversity gives the business or the entrepreneur a glimpse into the audience they aim to attract and to serve. This also enables us as entrepreneurs and business owners to reach out to people beyond our own comfort zone. Diversity at every level of a company magnifies its impact and expands its reach. It means that the company has a representative in every culture and walk of life. A diverse workforce can present clients and audience with an image that they are easily able to relate to. Diversity and inclusion makes any business a place where people from all aspects of life can feel comfortable, welcome and relatable and therefore, a place for everyone to get services.
Denise Ingabire-Smith is a clinical scientist and a public health epidemiologist by academic training, an inspirational and motivational speaker from life experience, a freelance writer by opportunity, a lifestyle blogger by passion and the face behind www.myowntotell.com. Denise is an American immigrant from Rwanda, a wife, a mom of one and a small business owner. She uses her own triumphant stories of overcoming life’s adversities to motivate and inspire people to live their lives to the fullest.