By Naomi Fonseka 26′
The framework of diversity and inclusivity has become more prominent in today’s workplace culture, for many reasons. Most commonly it is used as a benchmark of what kind of importance a professional environment places on actively building a culture that values differences, equality, and a range of viewpoints, experiences, and perspectives. However, the increasing pressure to appear as a “diverse and inclusive” workplace in today’s world has led to unintended consequences, like increased pushback against what many consider to be “workplace wokeness,” employers and professional communities using human beings as a means to fill a quota and reducing individuals to a specific facet of their identity.
These consequences display that identity and inclusivity is being wielded as a weapon of appearance and pressure rather than as the powerful tool for change that it really is. To put it simply, diversity is about ensuring that a wide range of people, experiences, perspectives, races, sexualities, genders, ages, and more are present in society, including the workplace. Inclusivity is about ensuring that each voice within and across those categories and more are welcomed and heard. Therefore, to become diverse and inclusive, we as a society must think outside of the rigid box of numbers and quota-filling. We can consider two frameworks to get us started: The Shaun Harper Anti-Deficit Framework and The TJ Yosso Community Cultural Wealth Model.
The Shaun Harper Anti-Deficit Framework (ADF) challenges deficit-based thinking about individuals from non-dominant backgrounds and emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing the structural barriers that can impact their success. This is important in the workplace because individuals from non-dominant backgrounds may face barriers that limit their ability to succeed and advance in their careers, such as microaggressions, professional typecasting, and isolation. Understanding ADF can help us recognize that even though steps have been taken to improve workplace environments by diversifying the professional community, our work is not yet done. For example, individuals from non-dominant backgrounds may face discrimination, microaggressions, and unequal access to resources and opportunities. By recognizing and addressing these issues, businesses, and organizations can create more equitable and inclusive environments that support the identity and well-being of all employees. After all, an environment is not truly diverse if individuals feel unwelcome and must survive on an uneven playing field.
While the ADF can help make our workplaces both diverse and secure for a wide range of individuals, the TJ Yosso Community Cultural Wealth Model (CCWM) helps us understand diversity and inclusivity in the professional world by teaching us to recognize that individuals come from diverse cultural backgrounds that contribute to their overall wealth of knowledge and experience. This includes their identities, which can encompass race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and more. Rather than viewing individuals from non-dominant cultural backgrounds as lacking in skills or knowledge, the model highlights the unique strengths and assets that they bring to the table. The professional stress to ‘appear’ in a positively diverse light can lead to individuals being reduced to something that makes their workplace look better or ignored because a part of their identity (often one they cannot control) is perceived to be a weakness—the wholeness of individual identity is lost. By applying CCWM to our understanding of individuals both in and out of the workplace we can make our professional world more diverse and inclusive while also prioritizing who we are as individuals.
The success of a workplace is often measured by outputs, productivity, impressions, and, as of late, diversity. But a workplace cannot truly be successful if its individuals are not—and individuals can only be successful if they feel valued, secure, and inspired in their current roles. An individual should feel wholly secure in their identity as a member of a professional community—not like their unique identity is not welcome in the workplace, and not like facets of their unique identity are the only reason they have been included. It is time to stop hinging success on how much a business can produce and how ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive’ it appears, but rather on whether it makes space for its community members to feel welcome, creative, and whole. With these concepts at the heart of our professional communities, we can truly become excellent.
Naomi Fonseka 26′ and Hopkins Connect Intern
Naomi Fonseka is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University studying environmental science and writing seminars. She loves working on her novel, reading, cooking, baking, plants, and music, and working with the life design lab and Hopkins Connect through OneHop mentoring.