Main menu


How a Culture of Conformity Hinders DEI Goals

featured image

With DEI, we have focused on diversity and equity. Now we have to work on inclusion.

Many organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of representing people from diverse backgrounds and are therefore making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority. research Diverse teams have been shown to be more innovative, weigh information to make stronger decisions, and be more productive. financial gain.

So far, most organizations are focused on welcoming underrepresented groups at their door (diversity) and ensuring they are fairly rewarded and supported (equity). I’ve been focusing. Unfortunately, many overlook his third prong on his DEI, the inclusion. They expect all employees to adhere to the same prevailing norms, creating an organizational culture that feels small-minded and unwelcome to individuals of varying backgrounds and life experiences.

For example, it is important for companies to recruit and hire more women and people of color, and to receive compensation on par with their white male colleagues. But these employees may not last long when faced with offices without milking rooms and racist policies outlining what hairstyles are considered “professional” and which aren’t. .

People do not do their best or contribute effectively if they are not welcomed, accepted, and valued for the difference they make. Inclusion is often the missing element that prevents companies from reaping the fruits of his DEI efforts in promoting justice and enhancing organizational performance and profits.

As a professor and dean specializing in DEI at the USC Marshall School of Business, I have spent my career researching ways to make organizations more inclusive. It starts with understanding how an organization’s culture embodies values ​​and norms that are different than those brought about by underrepresented groups of people.

fit and stand out

For example, many women Sociable Prioritizing collaboration and teamwork, men are rewarded for standing out in their individual achievements. Both of these different ways of contributing have value, but managers tend to reward employees who speak the most in meetings, ignore employees who listen before they speak, and encourage teammates to come up with ideas. tend to encourage expression.

Similar cultural clashes can be seen among people from different socioeconomic backgrounds.A study I conducted with Nicole Stevens, Taylor Phillips, Andrea Dittmann and others found that employees and university student People from working-class backgrounds are more likely to have interdependent cultural norms that prioritize relationships and being part of a community. They often feel alienated in workplaces and campuses that tend to be dominated by middle- and upper-class norms that emphasize personal success and carving out their own path. Our research found that this cultural mismatch can lead to lower worker retention rates and a student’s her GPA among people with working-class backgrounds.

If you want an underrepresented group of people to thrive, you need to do more than just let them in the door. is needed. Overhauling organizational culture is a big undertaking, but research shows that even small, simple interventions can send a clear signal that an organization values ​​its diverse contributions. By broadening norms, these interventions help make workplaces, classrooms, and communities more welcoming.

An important first step is communicating that diversity is a priority and, in fact, an asset. Difference education promotes the idea that people are shaped by their social and cultural backgrounds and that this diversity is a source of strength. research A study I conducted with Nicole Stevens and Mayam Hamedani found that differential education improved the GPAs of first generation students, making them and subsequent generations more comfortable around people who were different from them. I understand. Even something as simple as having students read a diversity statement that emphasizes the university’s emphasis on multiculturalism lasting profit for student achievement.

Promote inclusion

Another way to foster inclusion is to rethink physical spaces and what they convey about a facility’s culture and priorities.a study A study of high school computer science classrooms found that girls felt a greater sense of belonging when stereotypical objects such as video games and Star Trek posters were replaced with more neutral artwork and plants. , found that interest in computer science courses jumped to the same level as a tech company GitHub We’re moving away from a clubhouse aesthetic for coding buddies to a more welcoming design for women and non-binary employees.

One area ripe for redesign is how organizations structure tasks and performance indicators. Small administrative tasks often done by women to keep the team running are ignored, but are flamboyant individual contributions appreciated? They may be able to get a lot done, but does spending long hours in the office count as a measure of employee dedication?

Managers and professors may wish to include more measures of joint contribution in performance evaluations.Dittmann, Stephens, and I study A study of large undergraduate classes found that first-generation students performed worse than their counterparts in individual assignments. But they did just as well in group projects. These students clearly have something to offer. It depends on how the task is structured and what contributions are rewarded.

You can’t overhaul an organization’s culture overnight, but the interventions above are a first step towards making your organization more inclusive. They reframe differences and change the messages people receive about themselves, others, and how everyone fits into their environment. It’s meant to be a practice. This is in contrast to discrete interventions such as implicit bias training. Systematic institutional change.

It’s encouraging to see the world waking up to the fact that diversity is an asset. However, realizing this idea means creating a space for people of diverse backgrounds to belong and contribute, rather than expecting everyone to follow the prevailing norms. . Inclusion is perhaps the most difficult part of his DEI equation. It is nuanced and nuanced, and more difficult to quantify than simple diversity allocations or standardized pay scales, but without it, the organization continues to fail to meet his DEI goals and increase diversity. The benefits of stay out of reach.

Dr. Sarah Townsend Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Associate Professor of Management and Organization. USC Marshall School of BusinessShe studies the psychological underpinnings of inequalities and cultural divides that arise when an individual’s background collides with the dominant cultural norms of an organization.