The recent propensity among executives and diversity professionals to focus on “inclusion” as opposed to “diversity” ignores the reality that differences do matter. On the surface, inclusive organizations seek to blur, or trivialize, distinctions among people and wind up bolstering the standards and expectations set by the dominant white, male, heterosexual ideology. Even well-intentioned organizations often adopt policies, practices, and procedures that replicate the racism, sexism, and heterosexism manifest in society at large. The consequence is a perception of “normal” and “acceptable” that excludes minorities and inhibits their chances of workplace success.
Organizations that embrace diversity, on the other hand, are more realistic and honest in their outlook and operational structures. They stay ahead of the law instead of merely striving toward legal compliance. They adopt policies, practices, and procedures that shift the power dynamics away from the historically and culturally favored group. If, for example, an organization committed to diversity prefers to promote from within, its policies, practices, and procedures will generate a pool of internal candidates that varies by race, gender, and sexual orientation. Organizational leaders and diversity professionals should be at the forefront of these efforts.