The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Being originally from Nepal, migrating to a new country with a different culture and lifestyle requires the understanding of a new society, new social customs, and a different work culture.  This can be an overwhelming experience at first, filled with excitement, confusion, insecurity and anxiety. Ultimately, what you realize is we are all human beings with same basic needs and values. The differences in perspective and opinions are differences that are instilled within us by the society and the environment we grow up in.

As I adapt to a new society, the experience of observing and absorbing all these differences and similarities has been the most fascinating and valuable learning experience in my entire life. It has molded me into a person that I am and how I view the world today. It has given me a unique perspective on how important it is to have diversity and inclusion at a workplace in this day and age of a converging world.

Initially, my definition of workplace diversity was limited to gender, race, cultural and religious differences only. That would still be the case if I was not exposed to The Forum on Workplace Inclusion at University of St. Thomas. When I worked for The Forum as a graduate intern, I got to learn a lot about diversity and inclusion in the context of workplace and organization. I learned that the term diversity refers to variance from the norm and is not limited to a few labels such as gender, race, culture or religion. In organizational terms, diversity refers to employees who do not confirm to what is expected, reinforced, and rewarded as “successful and desirable” by the organization culture. (Jorge Schmitz, What Diversity & Inclusion is Really About, 2005). I really got to understand the subject matter and how D&I efforts can contribute towards realizing the full and best potential of individuals and organizations.

During The Forum’s annual conference I saw how big and small organizations alike are really trying to incorporate this D&I model into their organization’s culture. Whether or not they have been successful, it is great to see that they continuously try to get better at it in this ever changing global business environment.

As an immigrant myself, it was very encouraging and motivating to realize that leading global organizations today are consciously trying to embrace diversity and inclusion and reduce discrimination. I was also reassured to know that while I am different than the average American, it is not only okay but better in a pro diversity environment.  In a pro diversity perspective, an individual who is different in any way offers a diversity of thought, experiences and perspective which is crucial to challenging the norm and to bring change--change that leads to innovation and growth.

In my experience as an international student and my work experience in various organizations, I have seen different stages of D&I efforts being implemented at different commitment levels. In my personal observation, a diverse environment in an organization definitely promotes a feeling of belongingness among different yet similar people.  When employees feel valued and respected, they are likely to be much more engaged and productive. I think that employees can differentiate between a culture of inclusion from one of exclusion and that is exactly why workplace diversity and inclusive culture is important in any organization for survival and growth in today’s global economy.

Find Your Answer
We invite you to join the conversation. All of the #FindYourAnswer questions have a unifying theme: they address business issues at the forefront of today’s business community that are frequently asked, but rarely addressed. This initiative is part of the Opus College of Business’ new call to action: one that fosters diverse perspectives and divergent views while focusing on practical, forward-thinking approaches to management challenges.