Diversity and inclusion in organizations

Published on June 29, 2017   31 min

Other Talks in the Series: The Art and Practice of First Level Management

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Hello, my name's Rebecca Mitchell, I'm a professor in Management at the University of Newcastle in Australia. And today I'm going to be speaking to you about diversity, in particular organizational diversity and inclusion.
So if we're looking at our first slide now, you can see a definition of diversity in organizations that refers to the profile of employees. So those individuals employed in the organization across all levels that typically we find some variety between senior management for example and other levels of the organization. I'd like us to think about diversity in a number of different ways. I guess for most of us, when we think of diversity, we think of background diversity or belonging in a particular category. So if we have a look at the diagram on this slide, we can see things like age or maybe ethnicity, national background, and there are also job related categories. I guess the most obvious one is profession. And some of those are immutable, so usually we can't influence our age for example. Some of them like profession are open to our influence and some of them are visible so it might be obvious to some people what your gender is, perhaps, it could be less obvious what your profession is. Some of those things that we previously thought were quite important, whether something was visible or invisible, have been shown not to be as important because characteristics become known quite early in organizational contact. For example, if you're a member of a multidisciplinary team which is often where we experience diversity, somebody's profession can become known before the start of any meetings, simply because that's the reason they're part of the team. So thinking about background diversity, we look at the next level which is experiential diversity. So the idea that if you're from a particular profession, you have a different education, you have a different experience to people from other professions. We could also say perhaps, that if you're from a particular country you might have a different educational experience or a different experience in terms of your work related life than somebody from another country. So that experiential diversity stems from background diversity. But what I think is very important for us to consider is cognitive or thought diversity which emerges from both this background diversity and experiential diversity. And that's differences in the way we think about things, not just our knowledge but our values, our perspectives, our approaches to things. So there are three different types of diversity we can think about when we think about diversity in organizations. One that we often think about is the background or category diversity, but I'd encourage you to think about differences in experience and ultimately differences in cognition or thoughts as particularly important for the organization and we're going to discuss that later.