A growing body of research suggests that more-diverse teams outperform their less-diverse counterparts, but many organizations still struggle to create an inclusive work environment.
Leaders may struggle to create an inclusive environment because they think diversity and inclusion are the same thing, argues Dolly Chugh, an associate management professor at New York University.
Chugh explains that diversity is more like a gateway, while inclusion is the pathway that leads people to and through those gateways. For example, your school’s commitment to diversity might influence who you hire, but your commitment to inclusion affects whether those employees are successful.
If you start paying more attention to the social dynamics in your meetings, you’ll get a sense of the larger patterns that make life harder (or easier) for certain people to succeed at your institution. Chugh outlines a few ways to create a more inclusive workplace.
Step 1: Give everyone a chance to speak
Tony Prophet, the chief equality office at Salesforce.com, asks people to reflect on their last meeting and think through who spoke the most (or the least), who interrupted (or was interrupted), and who was (or wasn’t) invited. For example, studies have found that women are much more likely to be interrupted than men (research has also found that culture and status play a role, as well).
Observe your next meeting with these questions and biases in mind, recommends Chugh. Ask a colleague to do the same and compare notes afterwards. You may notice a larger pattern of who gets talked over or ignored in your meetings, she writes.
Step 2: Shake up the seating arrangement
Where people sit in a meeting can influence who they speak to and how much attention they get, writes Chugh. At your next meeting, observe who sits with whom. Do people tend to sit in the same seats or with people they already know? Do certain spots around the table get more visibility and attention than others?
If you can influence who sits where during a meeting, assign seats to give certain people more visibility, suggests Chugh. If not, sit next to a different person or in a different part of the room than usual to switch it up, she recommends.
Step 3: Practice active listening
Listening is critical to create an inclusive environment, writes Chugh. But many of us are lousy listeners. We may sneak a glance at our phone or let our minds wander. And we tend to listen to some people more than others. In her research, Chugh found that people are less likely to take advice from women and minorities.
When you become a better listener, you’ll start to notice when certain voices are ignored or muted, writes Chugh. When you notice someone is interrupted during a meeting, point out the interruption and give that person back the platform.
Step 4: Give credit where credit is due
In the workplace, men are more likely to receive credit for their contributions than women, argues Chugh. This imbalance can lead certain people to over-claim credit and under-credit people from groups facing bias, she argues. Together, these two patterns can lead us to ignore the contributions from people around us, and claim their contributions as our own, she warns (Chugh, TED Ideas, 11/8/18).
This study will help academic leaders approach diversity and inclusion not merely as an idea, but as the result of more equitable and intentional practices under their direct control.
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