Human diversity is a direct reflection of an organization’s culture as well as its teams, tech, and tools.
In order for technical teams and leaders to successfully adapt and react for digital transformation, a diverse culture must be intentional. Intentional diversity is preceded by acceptance, respect, nurturing, equipping, and promoting diverse talent in order to adapt and build a resilient business.
The standard definition of diversity refers to the existence of variations in different characteristics in a group of people. These characteristics consist of everything that makes us unique, from our cognitive skills and personality traits, to aspects that shape our identity (e.g. race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and cultural background). The most forgotten diversity categories are:
- Cognitive diversity. The inclusion of people who have different styles of problem-solving and can offer unique perspectives because they think differently.
- Identity diversity. Inclusion based on the way individuals and groups define themselves and how they are defined by others on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, language, and culture.
Diversity is belonging
Belonging supports recruitment and retention efforts, and grows the talent pipeline. It looks like a homogeneous workplace where every voice is heard and supported to reach its full potential, regardless of a person’s identity. Building and repairing a culture of belonging requires empathy, and a community that gives its members permission to bring their whole, healthy self to a socially safe culture that inspires differences within common goals and objectives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion without belonging encourages a “camouflage culture” and is unsustainable.
Disability is diversity
To understand disability, it must be defined, understood, and included in diversity targets and milestones. A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. The Disability Services Act (1993) defines 'disability' as meaning a disability which is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments. One in every four individuals has a disability. As such, members of a digital team, pipeline talent, and product consumers may have a visible (physically/visually apparent) or invisible (unknown/unseen) disability. Fewer than 50% disclose disability for fear of workplace discrimination.
Disability inclusion involves the full integration of employment, customer service, and marketing, with the full engagement and support of senior leadership, into an organization’s culture. This allows prospective employees, consumers (and their families) to apply for job openings, make purchases, or use services.
A study from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that a significant portion of the white-collar workforce has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity: 30% of a nationally representative survey of 3,570 white-collar employees. Employees with disabilities comprise a large talent pool, which is also remarkably innovative: 75% of them report having an idea that would drive value for their company (versus 66% of employees without disabilities).
The social resurgence and attention on inclusion has triggered the significance of digital diversity within corporate structures. To some, this may seem like an entirely new way to innovate but it’s been built into the corporate mission, vision, and beliefs. Cultivating a culture of empowerment for inclusion requires that an organization arrives at digital diversity through an ecosystem of ethics, integrity, and morality within a conscious corporate culture. This is what that looks like in action:
- Corporate Code of Ethics (beliefs) in the workplace that is regulated by HR and management, but is also sought after during the interview process. Its behavioral criteria seeks to address the interaction with others when conducting business, general practices, and collaborating in day-to-day business activities.
- Corporate integrity (mission) is the outpouring of its values: encouraging employees to bring their whole, healthy selves to an internally consistent workplace. An environment where self-awareness, accountability, honesty, and responsibility are rewarded.
- Diversity is not just a business imperative but also a moral imperative (vision) – not just of gender or race, but also of ideas and personalities. It invests in human potential and is a value embraced by the younger generation entering the workplace.
Citizenship within a digital community occurs in the workplace when delivering technical or digital products. According to the Digital Diversity Network (DDN), it is about advancing diversity, creating access, and fostering inclusion within the digital and technology sectors. DDN’s vision is for people of color to fully participate, compete, and benefit as the inventors, creators, producers, and users in the innovation economy. It also refers to ‘everything digital in variation; by way of production, usage, consumption, users, the services provided, and interactions within.’
Intellectual capital begins with the human capital within an organization, which includes and respects the intersection of identity across the entire workforce. This ensures that we learn from each other, but also build products that can be used by all. Historically, building solutions with diversity in mind has developed disruptive innovation and inclusive AI that respects and remains mission-focused.
The DDN works to ensure that the hi-tech producer/earner economy mirrors the demographics of key consumer and user groups. By providing resources and opportunities for career and business development i.e. recruitment, retention, and networking, as well as reward and recognition programs for industry professionals, DDN helps to retain and grow the existing pipeline of diverse tech talent. Thereby accelerating and sustaining diversity.
In conclusion, statistics prove that inclusive companies outperform homogeneous ones, are 1.7x more likely to be innovation leaders, and are 70% more likely to capture new markets. More importantly, 67% of candidates want to join a diverse team and/or company. Digital diversity is just as much about who is engineering, developing, testing, and consuming technology as much as it is about the scaffolding of inclusion within scalable technology sectors around the world.