Diversity in the Workplace
Gucci is a prime example of why diversity in the workplace is important…
This month, three years ago, you may remember the infamous sweater Gucci release that received a lot of backlash. The sweater appeared to be a play on Blackface, the practice of wearing theatrical makeup to portray a caricature of a dark-skinned person of African descent. Blackface gained its popularity during the 1800s until the mid 20th century and was used by performers of non-African descent. As we all can imagine how painful it would be to have your natural features mocked and ridiculed, this practice is still used to offend those of African descent. So it was shocking, to say the least, when Gucci’s sweater was released.
Gucci’s sweater displayed the same features used to portray Blackface. Whether the design was intentional or not may be questionable to some, but what is not questionable is this is a great example of why diversity, inclusion, and equity are so important when building your company. Gucci is not the only company that had to learn this the hard way. Companies such as H&M, Adidas, KFC, and more have received major backlash for pushing racist stereotypes in their advertising.
How Can We Be Better?
So how do you avoid making the same mistakes these companies have made? And if your company has already made similar mistakes, how do you avoid them in the future? Well, one way to start is by being intentional about having a diverse staff. Diversity in the workplace is more than a numbers game. Some companies hire enough diverse people to meet a quota. But if you care about diversity, you are going to have to do quite more than that.
According to Scott Dust, an associate professor of management at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and chief research officer at Cloverleaf, companies who are intentionally seeking diversity should focus less on demographics and more on psychographics. Focusing more on psychographics will help companies choose people based on their individual beliefs, values, aspirations, and other psychological criteria. This also helps aid better human connections. And it avoids seeing diverse people as labels and a means to only meet federal quotas for workforce diversity.
Creating a Safe Environment For Your Employees
Before hiring a more diverse staff, there is still a need to create a safe environment for all staff. Creating an environment where each employee regardless of their age, gender, race, etc. feels valued and heard is essential. Having a diverse staff in all departments who feel their work environment is a safe space for them to speak up can deter mishaps companies such as Gucci experienced. It also allows your company to grow and attract top talent from different backgrounds.
Creating a safe space for your employees to be heard means you have to be intentional about hearing them. We must recognize we all have unique life experiences, and we are all not culturally the same. So if an employee reports a problem or brings up something that may be offensive to them, listen. The worst thing you can do is brush their feelings off even if you do not see an issue.
For example, if an employee has an issue with something another employee said and you do not see a problem with the dialog, it is important to recognize it is not up to you to tell your employee how they should feel. Sometimes we say things like, “Oh, I’m sure they did not mean it that way. Let’s not make a big deal and move on.” Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn and understand your employees’ perspectives. You may even discover their experience is shared among other employees. It is important to be open and unbiased. After all, no matter the age, race, sex, etc., we all just want to be heard.
Diversity in the workplace is an important aspect when building the foundation of your company, but sometimes we do not know where to start. If you are in need of help strategizing implementing a more diverse atmosphere, as always, Guide to HR is here to help.