Diversity is Great, But Here's One Thing You Should Watch Out For

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The pros and cons of diversity toxic workplace unfair unequal pay

Words like diversity, inclusion, equality, and respect come up more frequently in everyday workplace conversations. In public speech, diversity focuses more on gender; but in reality, it implies a varied range of differences such as age, country of origin and culture, religion, sexual orientation, abilities, and so on. Diversity can achieve better business results and positively impact an organization’s reputation, but it can also lead to unintentional, toxic practices. 


The positive results of diversity in the workplace:

  • The Peterson Institute for International Economics’ Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey showed that the return on investment of diverse executive teams could be up to 35% higher than the least diverse. Yes, 35% higher!
  • A 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that companies with diverse management teams experience 19% higher revenue due to innovation
  • McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report on 366 companies found that racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%


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Unfair pay can still exist in a diverse workplace


Just because your organization has a diverse workforce; however, doesn’t always mean everything is fair - especially pay. 


Google, which publishes its state of workplace diversity every year and has championed new paths to diversity and inclusion practices, admits to an oversight on such pay gaps. 


Though men are not widely considered the disadvantaged gender group, in 2019, the Silicon Valley giant found that it was underpaying men more than women for doing similar work. 


Your employees want fair pay across diverse lines. The Workforce in Europe 2019 survey showed that  68% of respondents would consider changing jobs if their employers had existing wage differences for diversity (unfair pay).


Preventing toxic practices is rooted in the culture


Unintentionally, diversity can cause tensions in your company culture. To prevent that from happening, a culture of trust and commitment to personal authenticity is required. 


How does it really work? Check out the graphic below:


workplace environment diversity authenticity relationship


An organization is the sum of the ways each one of its members sees the world and how these perspectives are related.


Some brave people are authentic and show their true selves no matter the circumstances. The vast majority, however, need a trustworthy environment supported by a sense of psychological safety before opening up. We will only see different people when we allow, we accept, we embrace the authenticity of each person. When management is based on trust, companies can achieve 106% more energy at work, 76% more engagement (Paul Zak, from the book Trust Factor). 


A fundamental step is to align people-related systems or processes to a culture of trust and equality. Here are some examples of what those processes are:


delivering happiness model system audit workshop


You can start by evaluating these segments and asking the following: 

  • How can you create a more trustworthy environment?
  • Have you gotten input from your diverse groups on how this process affects them?
  • Does this favor one group more than another? Is that intentional?


Measuring the extent to which these people-related systems, policies, operations, and approaches enable staff to easily live ​diversity, inclusion, equality, respect, and authenticity. After that, in a proactive and consciously way, refine your strategic approach, embedding those elements into its people-related systems.


Bad intentions are not always the cause of discrimination. Ethically speaking, bad things happen not for what we are, but in spite of what we are!


Learn more about our People-Systems Audit Workshop, which allows our team to work with you to recognize where the gaps and strengths of your culture exist and determine your next best steps: 

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About the Author

Sunny Grosso

Currently the Culture Chief at DH, Sunny’s mission is to inspire others to live BIG by being true to themselves and following their purpose. She is passionate about realizing this through positive work cultures. Through her diverse journey Sunny has been a wellness researcher, saké trainer, ultra-runner, one of the world’s first happiness coaches and, finally, a global culture consultant.

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