In the era of globalised economy and exponentially increasing market competition, workplace diversity is the only mechanism employers can use to benefit from all of their employees’ potential while also building an inclusive work culture. Although the latter is often considered as a requirement for success, many companies still find it difficult to implement.
Each and every one of us is comprised of various complex identity perceptions that affect not only the way we perceive ourselves but also how others see us. Moreover, an important part of our identity is comprised of personal circumstances which we have no influence over – sex, race, nationality (as well as disability, sexual orientation, etc.). If we feel at odds with the majority of our workplace due to one of these circumstances, it can become a personal issue. A research conducted by Catalyst in the USA in 2014, examining the feeling of otherness and its effect on the opportunities, advancement and aspirations of employees, paints a thought-provoking picture. When a person develops feelings of otherness, their opportunities of advancement and chances of accessing senior-level mentors within the work process (or entering mentorship schemes in general) diminish. Furthermore, such individuals also face the probability of lowering self-expectations and expectations within their workplace. Women participants who have experienced feelings of otherness were nearly twice as likely to have reported a “great” or “very great” negative impact on their career due to the lack of participation in visible projects that would have advanced their career. According to the findings of the research, these women attribute the lack of career advancement opportunities to their personal identity circumstances. In addition, women who felt racially or ethnically different in their workplace were more likely to downsize their career aspirations within a given organisation.
To ensure inclusivity, an employee’s workplace (including their co-workers and superiors) has to communicate two things: (1) that the employee is valued for their unique capabilities and (2) that despite their personal circumstances, they belong in the workplace. Catalyst cites four characteristics that are key for an inclusive leader – EACH (empowerment, acknowledgement, courage, humility). A good leader empowers employees, acknowledging their good practices and encouraging excellency in work; he/she is capable of humility, admitting their mistakes and ensuring they are part of a normal working process. Furthermore, a good and inclusive leader shows courage, performs in spite of all (personal) burdens and obstacles, passing such an attitude onto others as well. He/she takes on new tasks, takes risks in order to achieve higher goals, while at the same time encouraging their employees to do the same. Finally, what makes a good and inclusive leader is the ability to recognize their team’s good work and present it as such publicly.
Due to the
prevalence of organisational culture within most institutions, there is still a
long way to go before inclusive working environments become the norm. In the
process of achieving inclusivity, obtaining and implementing the GEMA certificate
can be of great help to you and your organisation. In order to transform your current
workplace into an inclusive one and your senior employees into inclusive
leaders, you certainly need some degree of courage which will pay off. Implementing
the GEMA certificate will increase your market competitiveness by enabling your
employees to present their new ideas on an equal basis, allowing them to feel
better in their workplace, therefore also working more efficiently. What is
more, the culture of your organisation will change throughout the process as
well. Only such an innovative and dynamic work environment will enable you to maintain
the finest personnel, while also attracting new candidates. Implementing GEMA
brings gender-neutral ways of creating inclusive workplaces, which in turn
enables the improvement of work processes and general mood of your employees.
 The reasearch “Report: Feeling Different: Being “The Other” in the US Workplace” can be accessed at: https://www.catalyst.org/research/feeling-different-being-the-other-in-us-workplaces/.