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As More Leaders Embrace Diversity, Resistance Still an Issue

June 5, 2018

Diversity and inclusion

Evidence continues to show the value of corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I), and more and more companies are participating in D&I training. “D&I has taken on a new importance in the workplace,” says Patricia Quiddington, founder and CEO of Blue Arbor International LLC, a training company that teaches management of diversity and inclusion, among other business skills.

Not everyone is on board. She’s seen resistance from some leaders who either resent that they’re being ordered to take diversity training or don’t think there’s anything that needs to change in their company’s D&I practices, she says.

So in her classes, Quiddington emphasizes the practical value of having a corporation with a diverse structure, one with mixed genders, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. Companies with a more diverse leadership perform better financially, she says.

Diversity and inclusion benefits

A 2015 study by McKinsey & Company found that “companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.” Some of the reasons cited for this success included:

  • Access to more sources of skilled workers—a competitive recruitment advantage
  • Improved global relevance
  • Increased employee satisfaction for women and members of minority groups
  • Better innovation, since a diverse staff can tap into the needs of a much wider segment of the population

Diversity progresses slowly

Gender diversity has come a long way in the United States, Quiddington says. Most U.S. leaders know what is and isn’t appropriate with women employees, while in some European countries they have “a little more flexibility in how you might address the female population.” Still, these companies are becoming aware of the “U.S. model,” and there’s a shift, largely driven by women, starting to happen, she says.

Europe is a little further along than the U.S. in ethnic and cultural diversity, however, because so many cultures exist near each other and come together frequently, Quiddington says.

Dealing with D&I resistance

Some corporate cultures and individuals still harbor a fear of “the other,” she says. “I had one situation where a gentleman was struggling with some of his team members—the female ones,” Quiddington explains. “He felt they would get emotional.” She was able to start him working on his empathy and active listening, and he eventually could see that the women were not overly emotional and were bringing value to the team’s brainstorming sessions. “He ended up with a very solid team,” she says.

She offers some techniques for working with resistant leaders:

  • Train them in empathy and active listening
  • Help them to see their biases
  • Point out the benefits of a diverse corporate team

For change to happen, people must be open-minded, Quiddington says. But even if a company’s leaders won’t change, “its subcultures, leadership style, and team dynamics will mature, grow, change, and be influenced by these training opportunities,” she points out.

Through her work, Quiddington hopes more people and companies will open their hearts to diversity and inclusion. “This issue is very close to my heart,” she says. “Let’s keep working toward a better future.”

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About The Author

Jan Arzooman is a proofreader, copyeditor, and writer in AMA’s creative services/marketing department. She has worked in editorial for more than 20 years. Arzooman also is a visual artist who enjoys painting, digital art, and photography.

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