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Embracing DE&I At The Workplace – #1 Back To The Basics

Figuring out the ins and outs of as broad a subject as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) can be tough. You could be chasing the wrong goals too. And as someone who has worked at places that had zero education and sensitization on this subject, I know firsthand the hit their workplace culture would take.  

I am passionate about creating awareness around diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is why I am very vocal about my learnings on this journey. While there never is a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem, there are some actionable hiring tips to ensure that DE&I at the workplace is a priority and also that it is done right.

Here’s my take on how best to embrace your journey with open arms. #DEI 101, let’s go!

7 step framework for DE&I at the workplace


Diversity Statistics Infographic

  • Breaking the stereotype for DE&I at the workplace

Going back to the basics, diversity refers to building a multicultural workplace with people and minorities from different backgrounds. You foster inclusion by making people feel like they belong and that they can bring their whole self to work. Simply put, diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making that mix work.

Equity recognizes that the needs of different people are different and focuses on providing opportunities and resources for equal participation without bias, harassment, or discrimination of any kind.

In 2021, it is high time we break the stereotype that hiring for diversity where there is a visible representation of minority groups will naturally ensure that inclusion will follow. My personal learning – don’t run behind the mix. Make your workplace culture inclusive for the people inside your organization. It’s basically about providing a space of ‘psychological safety’ for people. Diversity of thought will organically follow.

  • Embedding inclusion into the DNA of your company

The first step in your DEI journey is to understand if your company needs it or not. And then go on to the ‘how’ of it. Some food for thought –

  1. Why are you doing this: What makes you want to be diverse & inclusive?
  2. Inclusion is personal: What does I&D mean personally to you, as a company?
  3. Analyze your I&D growth so far: Where do you stand today?
  4. The desired goal of your strategy: Where do you want to be? Visualize the end outcome & state.
  5. Final question: Ah, do you still want to do it?

I think the message that I’m trying to leave you with, is that it’s important to spend time on exactly why you want to do this. And to check in with the above questions and see if you still want to do this. If you’re choosing to be inclusive, then make it impactful, genuinely, not just for the sake of it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

  • HackerEarth’s DE&I strategy is a must-have. Not a to-do

At HackerEarth, we believe inclusion is personal and start the dialogue from there. It’s not something we do as a one-off on special days – we invest in giving our people the correct language to use; we ask them to call out behaviors that are not ok, and educate and sensitize others towards these behaviors. We believe in educating people on ally-ship and support – and not educating them only on the marginalized groups.

 In this company, inclusion is everyone’s responsibility – not just a mandate for HRs, or the top management. With my experience, I can tell you that it is possible to build such inclusive workplaces, but it needs heart. And a lot of effort. And nope, there is no one size that fits all.

Recommended read: How To Build Safe And ‘PROUD’ Workplaces – A Personal Story

  • Measuring your DE&I efforts at the workplace

Targets and metrics for your DEI  journey can make for great indicators of progress if used wisely. The minute you look upon them as your be-all and end-all, your journey can become severely crippled.

I’ve personally seen metrics limit people from creating a larger impact. People get hung up only on meeting those numbers. What you end up doing then – creating a diverse team, on the short term and miss creating an inclusive culture, for the long term.

  • Key to an inclusive leadership

What is the role of a CEO and any company’s management team on this journey? They play a significant role in making their employees feel like they belong. That they are respected and treated fairly. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, a leader’s awareness of personal and organizational biases is the most important trait in generating a sense of inclusiveness at the workplace. Read more about the signature traits of inclusive leadership and how leaders can put these traits into practice in this insightful article.

I’ve been a firm believer of not holding only the ‘leaders’ responsible for anything and everything in a company. I strongly believe that inclusion is something that will fall flat if the CEO/leaders/ of a company do not visibly and authentically commit to and be a role model for their employee to follow suit.

HackerEarth has an inherently non-judgemental culture, which appears as if it is entirely natural without too much work going into it. That is not the case of course. Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do as a company; we have expanded our umbrella over time to touch upon topics that most of us were taught to shy away from. 

It is not a one-time activity to do and then dust your hands off but more of a process that needs to be carefully woven into the threads of your company.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to keep an open dialogue going to exchange thoughts, opinions, and ideas from different perspectives on my LinkedIn channel. Now that you have an initial framework for your DE&I strategy to work with, let’s talk about positive discrimination next. Watch this space for the second part of this blog series.

Diversity & Inclusion Talent Assessment

'Cultural transformation' and 'Inclusion' are a few of Swetha's favourite topics to talk about. Her personal style and approach come from the interest and passion that she shares for art and various forms of mind-body expression. She strongly believes in challenging the status quo, whether it is by standing on her head once every day (read yoga), or by leading an LBTQ+ support group in Bangalore (India) for the past 10+ years.

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