There is no doubt that conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have gained huge momentum in the United States after George Floyd’s murder in Spring 2020 and in light of so many similar stories of racial violence and systemic injustice making headlines across the country. As such, the DEI industry in America has quickly exploded, and many organizations — eager to attract job candidates, improve brand perception, and strengthen workplace culture — are now understanding DEI as a business imperative for the first time ever.
A DEI Resurgence in the American Workplace
Conscientious companies in the U.S. and abroad are learning as much as they can about the business case for diversity and inclusion and integrating full DEI programs as a way to meet market demands, stimulate innovation, and strengthen their bottom lines. As studies show, committing to diversity is a critical part of recruiting and retaining today’s top talent to avoid becoming obsolete or irrelevant in the modern market.
In fact, in its report on Workplace Trends 2021, Glassdoor asserts that “employees expect progress, not just pledges, on corporate DEI” and that the recruitment and hiring of DEI specialists is likely to spike in the coming year as companies seek to modernize their cultures and attract new employees. Today’s job seekers simply will not work for companies that don’t appreciate and mandate diversity and inclusion. In response, many global organizations are investing in sustainable DEI initiatives that will activate the value of diverse teams and lead to a more inclusive workplace culture.
Continuing the Conversation Abroad
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, American discussions about the value of diversity at work have the power to heavily influence similar conversations abroad, especially within international offices, multinational organizations, and American companies who rely on global supply networks. In the same way, foreign-owned companies, which account for 5.5% of all U.S. private sector employment, can use their influence to push for stronger DEI initiatives in American businesses.
In some ways, the U.S. is seen as a global leader in DEI discussions, as it works to align democratic values with an increasingly diverse population. In other ways, we fall behind, especially when compared to those nations with leading practices to manage diversity at work, like the Nordics. Our neighbors in Canada also offer a strong example for how to drive change, both as one the most diverse countries in the world and considering their renewed focus on inclusion as a government imperative in 2021.
European DEI Sentiments
To oversimplify, just for a moment, the state of DEI in most of Europe is similar to that of the United States. Many European nations have expanded their definition of workplace diversity beyond race, ethnicity, and gender identity to include sexual orientation, disability, religion, generation, personality, thinking style, and acquired experiences. However, racial and ethnic minorities, in particular, continue to suffer socially and economically throughout most of the continent.
At the 2019 “State of Diversity and Inclusion in Europe” hearing, Representative Gwen Moore cited the “numerous reports from Europe of hate crimes and acts of extremism, racial profiling in cities and at borders, and discrimination at work and in the schools.” Government committees are trying to move the needle, but discrimination and harrassment remain widespread, with far-right movements gaining strength across the continent. DEI conversations are happening, but little change has occurred so far.
DEI in the Asia-Pacific
Conversations around DEI are similarly booming in the Asia-Pacific. For example, LinkedIn reports that senior leaders’ diversity posts in China have increased 122%, while posts from senior leaders in the Philippines are up 76%. Not only is the mention of DEI increasing, but so is the active engagement with such posts. LinkedIn data shows that posts on diversity garner, on average, 125% more engagement than the average company post, with Australian members particularly responsive to content about diversity. In fact, Australians boast an engagement rate of 208%. Across the region, posts about women, teams, unconscious bias, and equality share the spotlight, with posts about International Women’s Day taking center stage.
It makes sense that many of these countries would share America’s interest in diversity and inclusion, as they are mostly democratic in governance (China being the notable exception) but what about the parts of the world who do not share those democratic values? The hard fact is that many countries lag significantly behind in how they value individual identity. Racism and ethnocentrism are pervasive across the globe, and many countries still criminalize people in the LQBTQIA+ community.
Globally in fact, we can point to 13 countries that specifically criminalize transgender people and 72 jurisdictions that criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. To make matters worse, even in countries were being transgender or identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not criminalized, it is still actively discouraged, and those identities are actively discriminated against. Additionally, when we look at countries that do criminalize LGBTQIA+ identities, we see 11 jurisdictions in which the death penalty is imposed or at least a possibility for private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity.
Implementing International DEI Initiatives
In light of these global perspectives, how can multinational and global organizations move forward with their DEI initiatives while remaining mindful of international employees whose belief systems often differ from their own? The first step in implementing an international DEI initiative is to understand your organization’s cultural competence. There are many online assessments in the market today, including the IDI Culture Meter. Alternatively, you may also consider hiring objective, external consultants to conduct listening sessions and assess cultural competence more qualitatively.
Whichever direction you choose, it’s important to recognize that cultural competence can be improved. As explained by CultureSync, “Much like other skills (math and language) the capacity for interculturally competent behavior is developmental and can be strengthened through learning, reflection, and practice.” Thus, it is important first to understand an individual’s or group’s overall cultural competence and also to understand why their beliefs are what they are.
Invest in Education to Improve Your Cultural Competence
Once you have assessed your company’s current cultural competence and identified potential gaps, it’s time to invest in ample education. The truth is that many people, regardless of their nationality, may be ignorant about different cultures, religions, ethnicities, or identity descriptors such as cisgender versus transgender. Meet people where they are in their DEI journey, and educate from there. As our Head of Consulting, Florence Holland, often says: “it’s important to emphasize that we’re not asking people to change their personal beliefs but to use inclusive behavior and actions in the workplace.”
The drive to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world is certainly not unique to the United States; it’s an urgent human need all over the world. Hence, a global lens to these conversations is crucial for any modern business that strives to remain relevant, agile, and competitive — especially those that operate in multiple countries or that draw on global supply networks.
When you’re ready to move the needle in your organization, The Diversity Movement is here to help. For more information regarding our consulting and assessment services, contact us here.