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  • Writer's pictureSertrice Shipley

Is Diversity in Organizations Inevitable?

Recently, I’ve heard from some folks, especially those pushing back against organized DEI efforts, that organizational diversity is inevitable. Simple and harmless right? Or maybe not.   


I think broadly stating that diversity is inevitable is a gross oversimplification that can be dangerous because of some of the assumptions it leads to. For example, “diversity is inevitable, so we do not have to work towards achieving it”. This statement removes the responsibility from the organization to cultivate a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.  



While it may be true that the US population is more diverse than it has ever been and will continue to trend in that direction, that does not mean your organization will automatically reflect said diversity. If your organization has systemic barriers limiting access to resources and opportunities to certain individuals, then that diversity will be hard to achieve. Additionally, just because you can get people in, does not mean they will want to stay without inclusive behaviors and equitable policies.  


On the flip side, the fact that the US population is becoming increasingly diverse is true. In fact, diversity exists in every organization in some way, shape, or form because we are not all exact replicas of each other. This is why what IS inevitable is the need for organizations to continuously consider the environment they are nurturing for diverse teams and their customers and partners. 


I asked my LinkedIn network the question recently and these are the results of the poll: 


Screenshot of a LinkedIn poll with the question "Do you believe diversity in an organization is inevitable?" 17% of respondents voted 'Yes', 70% voted 'No' and 13% voted 'Yes & No - see comment for more'

A couple of important themes emerged from the conversation: 

  1. Diversity encompasses a lot of identities, some of which may not be inevitably present in organizations. 

  1. Diversity doesn’t mean much without inclusion and equity. 

  1. Increasing diversity does not necessarily go hand in hand with decreasing bias. 


Diversity encompasses a lot of identities, some of which may not be inevitably present in organizations. 

When considering the potential “inevitability” of diversity, it’s essential to consider what we mean by diversity. Traditionally, when discussing diversity in organizations in the United States, the focus is on the demographics of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. However, identities are more complex than those facets, so our diversity initiatives must be more encompassing. Demographics such as neurodivergence, caretaker status, and religion might require different efforts to ensure diversity. 


Diversity doesn’t mean much without inclusion and equity. 

In order to have meaningful diversity in an organization that is not only present but lasting, it is imperative that it is paired with inclusion and equity efforts. If the argument is made that diversity in organizations is inevitable, for it to be sustained, initiatives to increase equity and inclusion are necessary to avoid turnover of those with marginalized identities. 


Increasing diversity does not necessarily go hand in hand with decreasing bias. 

While the environment in which organizations operate may be becoming more diverse, in order to ensure that diversity translates to the organizational setting, individuals must work to reduce their biases. Bias is pervasive and often unconscious so to ensure that qualified candidates are being selected and promoted, it is essential to provide training and resources for decision-makers to reduce their biases. 

 

In short, saying diversity is inevitable oversimplifies the conversation. Diversity does exist naturally across different individuals and will continue to increase in society, but for higher levels of diversity, in different forms, and to maintain diversity, organizations will need to take intentional steps to build equitable policies and normalize inclusive behaviors.


Looking to advance DEI through data-driven insights in your organization? Contact us at Plan to Action today to drive meaningful change, together. 

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