22/03/2021 |

Why we should tackle diversity right now

The Corona crisis still dominates us. Is
now the right time for diversity in the
workplace? YES - and for the following reasons.

diverse people hugging each other
Wherever possible, diverse teams should be created so as not to further fuel the existing imbalance and to level the path to more equal opportunities and less discrimination.

Before we get to the arguments, a very brief discourse on the question, “What is diversity anyway?” There are different definitions, but this one applies well to the world of work: Diversity, which translates as variety, is about recognizing people’s diverse achievements, life experiences and cultural backgrounds, understanding them as potential and using them as such. This leads to more equal opportunities and success.

1. Diversity starts with appreciation: women perform great balancing act in the crisis

Families are known to be the “losers” of the Corona crisis. Many have had to prove how they can reconcile work and childcare. Women, in particular, have had to manage the balancing act between jobs and children, proving once again how multitasking can work. Nevertheless, women are underrepresented in management positions, especially in Germany. The government is trying to change this with a law. The law stipulates that, in the future, at least one woman must be a member of the management board of listed companies with equal representation on the board and more than three members of the management board. This is a good thing, because when women and men are equally represented in management positions, there is more diversity, team spirit and success in the working world. In addition, the equal sharing of childcare between men and women should thus become more of a matter of course that promotes equal opportunities.

2. The gap between “rich and poor” or “powerful and weak” should not be widened further.

I often hear the argument that in the crisis everyone is equal, and yes, everyone can be hit with the Corona virus. However, it is not quite as simple as that, because we have also seen that Corona breaks out especially where many people live and/or work together in a confined space, particularly when sufficient hygienic protective measures cannot always be provided. Again and again, there are headlines where many people have been infected in factories or slaughterhouses. And, those who have to travel to work on a crowded bus are more likely to be at the mercy of the virus than people who have the privilege of working from home. People living in difficult socioeconomic conditions are hit doubly hard by the crisis. That’s why the gap should not widen. Companies should check the opportunities not to further fuel the existing imbalance and to level the path to more equal opportunities and less discrimination.

Diversity sounds nice at first, but for many it can also be a very uncomfortable topic. [...] It can mean having to admit that old, dusty structures have crept into a company.

3. Everything is in a state of upheaval – a good moment to address the topic of diversity, which is uncomfortable for many.

Diversity sounds nice at first, but for many it can also be a very uncomfortable topic. It can mean having to give up existing power relationships. It can mean having to admit that old, dusty structures have crept into a company. The gender debates have shown how exhausting the topic can be for some. Breaking up old structures can mean a lot of persuasion and painful processes. Either way, it’s a process that’s changing for the better. And since we are now already in a protracted process of upheaval through Corona anyway, new ways and patterns of thinking open up; it offers the right momentum for anchoring diversity as a permanent part of the corporate culture.

4. Make possible adjustments now. Compensate for lack of success through heterogeneous teams

Many companies currently see their existence threatened. Some industries, such as tourism, retail and event management, are being hit particularly hard by the lockdown. These industries will simply have to wait it out before they can get back to business as usual. But companies that hire or go through internal change processes can turn the screws that are possible now. It’s always the right time to bring more diversity into the workforce. And in Germany, there’s still a lot of catching up to do: According to Handelsblatt, senior positions in most German companies are still held by German men of advanced age. And this is despite the fact that 70 percent believe that there is a majorly positive impact of diversity management on the economy.

5. Resilience is now more important than ever. Diverse teams are creating it.

Corona shows itself to be unpredictable: Opening strategies are postponed again and again; when we think we can breathe a sigh of relief, the virus rolls toward us in the next wave. Now more than ever, resilience is needed — that is, the resistance a person can develop against unexpected depressing situations. Studies have shown time and again that diverse teams bring greater resilience to conflict situations. Different people have different perspectives and priorities. This also means that they are more likely to compromise on team consensus during conflicts.

So why hesitate any longer with diversity? It doesn't always have to be a quota.

6. It is particularly important now to set a good example.

Especially in crisis situations, it is important to show leadership by example. In this way, many people who are feeling desperate can look to a role model for guidance. If management and HR managers incorporate the topic of diversity directly into their HR strategy and drive this forward by setting an example, more and more employees will become aware of it and recognize the positive effect. The more employees work together toward this goal, the better the implementation can actually succeed.

So why hesitate any longer with diversity? It doesn’t always have to be a quota. A good example of a start on the road to developing a diversity strategy is the OTRS Group’s Code of Conduct. Among other things, this code stipulates in writing that all decisions, especially personnel-related decisions, must be made free of discrimination and that discriminatory behavior based on ethnic origin, nationality, gender, pregnancy or parenthood, marital status, age, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or other reasons will not be tolerated. This is an integral part of the OTRS corporate culture. But not the only one. You can learn more about what makes up our culture here.

By the way, the 9th German Diversity Day, organized by the Diversity Charter, will take place on May 18, 2021.

What are your experiences with diverse teams or diversity in general? Is it a topic in your company that is already being worked on, or is it still invisible because it is overshadowed by the crisis? How socially-oriented should management be? What do you personally think? We are eager to hear about your experiences.

Text:
Photos: fauxels via Pexels

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