"I want to play": Diversity vs. Inclusion

Blog Post created by 1006531 on Aug 7, 2017


Remember as a child when all the kids in the neighborhood would get together and play.  It may have been kickball, softball, badminton or football, whatever the event, it was always fun.  Well, for most of the kids.  There was usually at least one awkward neighborhood kid, either too skinny or too fat, too short or too tall, just different from the norm, and trying to find his way.   Because all the children had grown up together, or because someone’s mom said “you kids go outside and play,” the awkward kid was invited to the play outings.  But, he was generally the last one picked for teams, if picked at all.

This image comes to mind as I consider the difference between diversity and inclusion.   Workplace efforts to address diversity have come a long way, from legislated changes to the acceptance that a diverse workforce is good for business.   But in many regards, underrepresented individuals are still “the awkward kid on the playground, hoping for a chance to play.” 

A Diversity program alone is not enough to truly allow women, LGBT people, and people of color to achieve their full potential. An Inclusion initiative is one that not only addresses numbers, but ensures continued growth and opportunity. Shirley Engelmeier, the CEO and Founder of InclusionINC, defines inclusion as a call to action within the workforce that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize business success. 

Here are a few steps employers can take to move the needle from diversity to inclusion.

  • Get commitment from the top. Senior leaders should embrace and support the efforts to create an inclusive workplace. Open support of the initiative through newsletter articles, discussions during employee meetings, etc. helps encourage all leaders to follow suit.
  • Evaluate your organization. Does the C-suite mirror the front line? Do individuals from underrepresented groups have leaders that look like them to inspire a sense of advancement opportunity? Which departments have the largest disparities in minority leadership?
  • Measure progress. Incorporate new metrics, % individuals from underrepresented groups that advance to leadership roles, average length of time for individual from underrepresented group to obtain a supervisory role, % leaders from underrepresented groups compared to total number of employees from those groups
  • Encourage sponsorship. Back in the 90s when I graduated from Business School we newly minted MBAs were all encouraged to seek out a mentor as soon as possible after securing a position.   A mentor was supposed to be a senior level employee who could help you navigate the ins and outs of advancement with the company. This concept is still very relevant for minority “fast trackers,” often a sponsor/mentor is able to get the protégé’ in front of the right people and provide the opportunities for the minority employee to showcase his skills.


bottom line, a focus on diversity is not enough. Once on the playground, we all want to play.

For more information on Diversity and Inclusion programs contact your Advice and Resolution team.

 Related resources:

Becoming an Inclusive Leader

Inclusion: the New Competitive Business Advantage