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Walking the Walk of Inclusion: What Organizations Must Do to Create Truly Inclusive Environments – Part 1

Apr 26, 2024
A group of individuals sitting around a table.


Imagine the following situation:

LuminaTech is a prestigious tech company that prides itself on its commitment to diversity. Recognized for its progressive hiring practices, the company attracts a diverse pool of candidates from various backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Among them is Maya, a talented software engineer with a passion for innovation and a stellar track record.

Excited to join a company that champions diversity, Maya gladly accepts LuminaTech's offer. As months pass, though, Maya starts to feel increasingly isolated and undervalued. Despite being one of the few women on her team, she finds herself excluded from important meetings and decision-making processes. Additionally, subtle microaggressions and biased remarks from some colleagues make her question whether she truly belongs.

Feeling disheartened and disconnected, Maya begins to reconsider her decision to join LuminaTech. Despite the company's efforts to recruit diverse talent, the lack of inclusivity within the workplace leaves her feeling marginalized and overlooked. Despite her undeniable talent and contributions, Maya realizes that without a sense of belonging and respect, she cannot thrive in this environment.

At the end of her first year, Maya decides to leave LuminaTech in search of a workplace where her skills and identity are valued and respected. As she reflects on her experience, Maya recognizes that a company’s commitment to bringing diverse talent in is not enough. Equally important is the effort they place in creating an inclusive culture where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

While LuminaTech's focus on recruiting diverse candidates was commendable, their failure to foster an inclusive environment ultimately led to Maya's departure.

This serves as a reminder that true diversity and representation cannot be achieved without a commitment to creating an inclusive workplace culture where every voice is heard and every individual feels valued and respected.


LuminaTech’s mistake is all too common. That is because bringing diversity in is not enough.

Organizations need to see diversity, equity, and inclusion as three sides of the same triangle. If you remove one side, the triangle collapses.

Needless to say, creating a culture where people are respected and appreciated requires another level of effort. Kathy Gurchiek, an associate editor on SHRM’s online news team, said it best:

“Think of diversity as being similar to selecting people for a chorus who have different musical backgrounds, vocal ranges, and abilities. The inclusion piece of D&I means making sure that those different voices are heard and valued and that they contribute to the performance.”

When employees feel they can contribute, retention rises.


Understanding the Difference Between Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In my many years as a DEI+ consultant, I have found there is a great deal of confusion around these terms. So, how can we effectively implement appropriate solutions or strategies when our starting point is steeped in ambiguity?

Here is a brief definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion:


Diversity is all about differences. In the workplace, these differences can encompass various dimensions, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, cultural background, and more. Embracing diversity involves recognizing, valuing, and celebrating these differences, as well as acknowledging the unique perspectives and experiences that individuals from diverse backgrounds bring to the table.


Equity involves ensuring fairness and impartiality in the treatment of individuals within the organization. Equity is about providing employees with what they need so they can perform at their best. Please understand that equity and equality are two interrelated but different concepts.

Equality assumes that everyone is starting from the same place so, they all receive the same resources or opportunities. Equity acknowledges that different individuals may require different levels of support or accommodations to achieve equitable outcomes. Equity aims to address structural inequalities that may disproportionately affect certain groups. When these inequalities are addressed, it results in equal access to opportunities and resources for all individuals.

Although the image below focuses on a single identity dimension, height, it still illustrates the difference between equity and equality, while demonstrating the need for equity. That is, providing individuals with what they need so they can perform to their full potential.





Inclusion is the practice of creating environments where all individuals feel valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their differences. Inclusive environments foster a sense of belonging and encourage the active participation and contribution of every individual, regardless of their background or identity. Inclusion goes beyond representation. It is about creating a culture in the organization where diverse perspectives are welcomed, diverse voices are heard, and diverse talents are recognized and utilized to their fullest potential.

Note: The acronyms around DEI are changing rapidly. A simple Google search will provide you with additional acronyms such as EDI, IDEA, JEDI, DEIA, DEIB, EDIJ, DEIP, and EDIRO. They all refer to efforts aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within various contexts, including workplaces, educational institutions, and communities. This will be the topic of a future newsletter. This is also the reason I have adopted the acronym DEI+.


The Seven Benefits of an Inclusive Organization

In today's increasingly diverse organizations, the benefits of fostering an inclusive climate extend far beyond mere compliance or optics. Fostering an environment of inclusivity yields numerous advantages ranging from enhanced creativity and innovation to improved employee morale and retention.

Below, I will present some of the benefits of creating an inclusive workplace culture where diversity is celebrated, and every voice is heard.

  1. Diverse Perspectives Drive Innovation. Inclusive environments foster diversity of thought, which fuels creativity and innovation. When employees from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together, they bring unique insights and ideas to the table, which can lead to more innovative solutions or approaches to existing challenges.


  1. Better Decision Making. Research shows that inclusive teams make better decisions. By considering a diverse range of viewpoints and experiences, teams can avoid groupthink and make more well-rounded, informed decisions that reflect the needs and interests of diverse stakeholders.


  1. Recruitment and Retention of Top Talent. Inclusive workplaces are better able to attract and retain top talent. That is because candidates today are searching for workplaces where they will feel valued, respected, and supported. They want environments where they can bring their authentic selves to work, which can lead to a more engaged workforce.


  1. Enhanced Employee Engagement and Morale. Inclusive environments foster a sense of belonging and community among employees. When individuals feel included and respected, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work. This, in turn, leads to higher levels of employee morale, productivity, and satisfaction.


Next week, I will go over three additional benefits of inclusive organizations. I will also address 10 ways you can ensure your organization is ready to “walk the walk” of inclusion.




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