Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment

3 Steps to Identify and Eliminate Bias in the Workplace

Diversity is a multi-faceted topic and an important aspect of that topic is inclusion. Working towards understanding diversity and promoting inclusion is an active process and requires a real commitment to change. To genuinely understand, it is essential to invite input from people with many different experiences and backgrounds. So what do we mean when we refer to diversity and inclusion? Basically, diversity represents all the ways people are both similar and different whereas inclusion primarily speaks to access and opportunity. A diverse and inclusive work environment includes one where:

  • Every employee is respected and empowered
  • Everyone contributes equally
  • Every team member is supported with access to the same resources and opportunities

These conditions should apply regardless of individual demographics or differences which create diversity within an organization or group. There are several factors which contribute to diversity and these can be broken down into the following elements:

  • Personality. This is the foundation for all other elements of diversity and encompasses characteristics, traits, behaviors, extroversion/introversion, values, communication style, decision-making process and approach to life.
  • Static. These conditions are not by choice and are transpiring, such as age, generation, race, abled/disabled, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry and gender identity/expression.
  • Dynamic. These are matters of choices, circumstances and opportunities including family, marital status, education, personal habits, kids/no kids, income, religion, career, union, politics, social habits, military, appearance, places lived and skills/abilities.
  • Organization. This is with respect to business aspects such as title/role, location, department, tenure and experience.

All of these factors contribute not only to how we each see the world but how the world may see us and this may impact opportunity. Access to opportunity and resources can fall under three different scenarios:

  1. Inequality. Inequality exists when there are people who seem the same, but because of diversity have different access, meaning some are competing at a disadvantage. In cases of inequality, those in positions with advantage either do not see or refuse to acknowledge the imbalance.
  2. Equality. Equality occurs when imbalance is noticed and resources are distributed equally to everyone. This improves the position of the person who is disadvantaged but does nothing to solve the imbalance that exists.
  3. Equity. Unlike equality, equity is attained when resources are distributed in such a way that everyone has equal access to opportunity. This usually means the resources are not distributed evenly but instead those who are most disadvantaged receive more resources than those who have the greatest advantage.

Ideally, we can work to remove the barriers to opportunity to give everyone full access. To do this, we need to recognize the systemic inequality that has existed historically and still has influence today. In this country, systemic inequalities have caused black households to be impacted disproportionately by the following:

  • Wealth Gaps
  • Unemployment Rates
  • Education
  • Lack of Medical Insurance
  • Home Ownership

It is important to be aware of these inequities so we can move towards making change and eliminating inequalities. The journey towards inclusion occurs along a continuum. With any issue, you can identify where you are on the continuum and easily measure your progress. The continuum follows these steps:

  1. Unacceptance. Disagreeing with an issue you do not understand. You are unmoving and will not accept or allow for this issue.
  2. Tolerance. You’ve learned more about the issue you disagree with and you’ve decided you will allow for its existence while maintaining your discomfort with the issue.
  3. Acceptance.  You may still not understand or agree, but you know enough to give credence or respect to the issue.
  4. Appreciation. You begin to understand, and you extend recognition and value to the issue.
  5. Inclusion. You allow yourself to become involved and empower discussion and resolution of the issue.

The first place to start on this journey is a commitment to action. You can become introspective and look for opportunities to work towards inclusion, especially in the workplace. To do this, you can contribute a diverse and inclusive work environment by:

  • Identifying employees who may be underrepresented
  • Enlisting supporters
  • Opening lines of communication
  • Broadening the talent pool
  • Becoming more adaptable to change
  • Being an ally and advocate

Remember it is not your job to speak for others but instead to open the door to opportunities and empower people to speak for themselves. Recognizing key elements for a diverse and inclusive work environment and working to resolve and overcome inequalities is a goal we must work together to achieve.

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Contributed by:

Kathy Vance
Property Management Content Strategist – Ellis Partners in Management Solutions, Edge2Learn

Kathy is an independent coach and consultant. Her career spans over 37 years in the apartment industry where she held roles onsite in leasing and management, as a regional manager with a portfolio of over 2300 apartment homes in 4 states, and in human resources supporting learning and development for over 1000 employees. Kathy has been a CAM instructor both in the classroom and online since 1999. She has a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Dayton and is a graduate of Accomplishment Coaching, an affiliate of the International Coach Federation. She currently works with Edge2Learn as the Content Curator – providing insights to make course content relevant to the industry. 

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.