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The benefits of diversity and inclusion at the workplace

This year for Black History Month, we’re publishing a series of blogs by members of the RDG’s minority ethnic network, Embrace.

This blog was written by Cassius Morrison, Accreditation Analyst and Co-Chair of Embrace.

Last week, we explored a few of the pioneers of Black origin within the rail industry who struggled but stood strong in the face of overwhelming odds to improve diversity and inclusion. Their struggles have not been forgotten and their work has allowed for those who have come afterwards to progress further within their careers in rail, helping to improve diversity and inclusion.

Organisations provide an opportunity for people to work together towards common purposes and goals, often with people they may not otherwise engage with. As such the workplace becomes the perfect place to celebrate and explore diversity, including race, gender and several other protected characteristics. Some of the benefits of diversity are explored below.

Keeping up with the changing global population

Changes in the global population and dynamics represent an ever shifting, more integrated and connected world. In 2015, 19% of the World’s youth was in Africa, but the UN estimates that by 2030 this figure will increase to 42%. Analysis of the US economy since the 1960s has attributed 25% of growth per capita to the empowerment and increased employment opportunities to women and those of black ethnic origin, according to a Harvard Business Review article. Even investment opportunities are dramatically more profitable where people come from different backgrounds.

Acting now to improve diversity is key for businesses’ long-term survival and relevance. If companies are unable to connect and relate to their customer base, they will be outcompeted by those that can.

Improving the capability of the workforce

Problem solving and finding creative solutions are key for businesses to grow and thrive. A variety of perspectives are essential for this, with different lived experiences and backgrounds increasing creativity and productivity.

Employees need to be in a safe environment and genuinely feel included as part of their team to offer new or different ideas and improve performance of the team. This can be shown in simple steps such as respecting everyone, treating everyone equally, giving everyone a chance to speak, listening, eliminating micro aggressions, trying to understand and relate to their life experiences as well as empathy, among others.

In addition to improving the current workforce, diversity increases the reputation of a company within its industry and wider society allowing it to attract the best minds and people.

What can you do?

Everyone can play a role to improve diversity and inclusion. This could be as simple as trying to find common ground with your colleague such as shared interests, making a fellow employee feel welcome, saying hello or good morning, standing up for someone, or calling out improper behaviour. It is not simply the responsibility of a few, but one for each and every one of us.

William Sloane Coffin was from a white privileged background, yet he was a friend and ally of Martin Luther King and took part in the Civil Rights movement struggles. He wisely said: “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

Next week we will be looking at the progress RDG has made with diversity and inclusion.

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