Guest column

Data-driven inclusion platform founder says ensuring your workplace is diverse just isn't enough

Just making sure your workplace is diverse isn't enough to solve the problem. Inclusion should be just as important of a goal, says this expert. Getty Images

Business leaders have long recognized that a diverse and inclusive workforce results in greater employee engagement, innovation, financial returns and market share. Although the "business case" for diversity has long been proven over the years, and "diversity" has become a buzzword adopted by corporate America, few companies — big or small, new or old — have been able to cultivate real inclusion, acceptance and collaboration in the workplace.

According to a 2018 Atlassian study, State of Diversity and Inclusion in U.S. Tech, less than 30 percent of underrepresented employees feel a sense of belonging in their workplace. By and large, most diversity and inclusion initiatives focus primarily on recruitment and increasing the representation of various demographics in the workforce, with little attention given to inclusion — although research has shown that increases to diversity alone do not improve inclusion.

One reason companies have focused on diversity, as opposed to inclusion, is because it is easy to measure diversity — it is simply a matter of headcount. Traditionally, trying to quantify feelings of inclusion was difficult for organizations to measure. However, it is important to incorporate quantifiable and data-driven strategies to measure inclusion, in order to drive the necessary cultural and structural changes needed in the workplace.

What many companies struggle with, it turns out, is not solving problems, but figuring out what the problems actually are—especially when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces. At Kanarys, we have constructed a unique and robust framework for measuring inclusion, to help companies promote a sense of belonging among their employees in the workplace. Our data-driven approach and methodology relies on artificial intelligence and responsive, anonymous, quantitative surveys, to provide actionable insights in order to promote an environment where all employees feel included and empowered.

Understanding employees' daily lived experiences in the workplace is key and fundamental to understanding an organization's' inclusiveness. However, fear of retaliation and retribution prevents most employees from holding back true and authentic feedback. Benchmarking key aspects of an organization's culture—and understanding the employee experience—is important to understand in order to promote lasting inclusion.

Diversity without inclusion inevitably results in missed opportunities with diverse talent because they no longer feel empowered to contribute and lead. However, if you have both diversity and inclusion, retention and engagement for all employees increases–resulting in a potent mix of innovation, collaboration and success.

Instead of asking "how can we acquire more diverse employees?" we should be asking, "what is it about our systems and culture that prevents us from retaining diverse talent?" Employers must therefore recognize that hiring a few "diverse" employees alone is not enough, and that inclusive cultures don't just happen. They are intentional.

I invite businesses to re-focus their efforts on true diversity, equity, and inclusion and help create workplaces where their employees have a true sense of belonging.

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Mandy Price is the CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based Kanarys Inc., a web platform that incorporates data and AI to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

According to the American Association of University Women, women are losing $500 billion each year because of the gender pay gap. Pexels

National Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year, falls on April 2 this year and marks a 56-year effort across the nation to have employers address the gender pay gap and provide equal pay for equal work.

That effort is now, closer than ever, to reality as the U.S. House of Representatives, in a heartening move this week, passed the bipartisan Paycheck Fairness Act, authored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and co-sponsored by newly elected Texas Congressman Colin Allred.

The act, among other things, would require employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate job-related reasons, prohibit employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay, provide assistance to all businesses to help them with their equal pay practices and recognize excellence in pay practices by businesses. It would also get rid of rules imposed by employers that prohibit workers from talking about their salary, so women are permitted to ask how much their coworkers are making and find out if they are underpaid.

This legislation is a leap forward in closing the persistent and woeful gender pay.

Statistics show that although more women, nationally, are receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees compared to men, and are equally qualified for the work as their male counterparts, they continue to receive about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color earn even less (e.g. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar and Hispanic women earn just 54 cents for every dollar). At this rate, without any affirmative or proactive changes, it will take another 51 years for women to catch up to men's wages.

In Texas, the outlook around women's pay and the gender gap is grim.

According to the Texas Women's Foundation, in Dallas County, women made almost 93 percent of what men earned, compared to just about 70 percent in Collin County and a little more than 76 percent in Denton County.

According to the American Association of University Women, women are losing $500 billion each year because of the gender pay gap. U.S. corporations suffering those kind of financial losses would send shockwaves through our economic system.

If women made the same pay as men, they would not only be able to better care for their families, but put aside more money in their retirement or pension funds, pay off college loans and mortgages, and enjoy better healthcare and a healthier lifestyle. Research by the Texas Women's Foundation has shown that if working women in Texas were paid the same wages comparable to men, the poverty rate would be reduced by 51 percent.

Companies should not just support the Paycheck Fairness Act, but also become assertive about equal pay and gender diversity, and treat them as an integral part of their business strategy. In order for businesses to truly benefit from the myriad of backgrounds and experiences in our global economy, we must ensure a level-playing field for women and other underrepresented employees. Then and only then will our nation's workplaces and businesses truly thrive. Mr. President and senators — let us pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.

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Mandy Price is the CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based Kanarys Inc., a web platform that incorporates data and AI to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.