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Inclusion Isn't a Quota System

As the business world is increasingly recognizing the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace – both in terms of corporate image as well as concrete business advantages, quotas have become a popular means of achieving that goal. Writing in the Wall Street Journal and focusing specifically on the hiring of women, Rachel Feintzeig says, “Realizing that simply voicing support for diversity initiatives won’t lead to meaningful change, big companies are setting discrete goals for hiring and retaining women. These include mandating that diverse candidates are interviewed for jobs, and ensuring that new hires get interviewed or vetted by someone other than white men.”

Even when not mandating hard numbers, many companies place a strong emphasis on hiring diverse employees. Speaking specifically about Intel in an article for Quartz, Alice Truong writes that, “the company doesn’t mandate specific quotas, but continues to emphasize diversity with hiring managers and will enlist the help of recruiters to fill these slates too.”

Some commentators, however, point out that quotas alone won’t solve the problem, and that they are often used to promote diversity for diversity’s sake. Writing for Forbes, Glenn Llopis notes that, “workforce representation, as it is usually defined, solves for quotas, not growth – it solves for diversity but rarely solves for inclusion.” Llopis gives a hypothetical example of a non-California business looking to expand into that market and focusing on an Asian-American target market. Given the choice between an Asian-American unfamiliar with California and the California Asian-American market and a Caucasian who has spent years living and working with the target community, Llopis says that over 80 percent of senior business leaders will choose the former.

Diversity is not an end-goal. Checking a box is not the same as including diverse viewpoints that drive business results. Inclusion, we've been saying for years, is a business imperative! Companies that focus too much on having a diverse-looking corporate photo or an about-us page with a diverse-sounding set of names is missing the point.

“The right solve is to embrace inclusion as an enterprise strategy that places all people (and their unique differences) in the center of where growth lies – in corporate strategy and transformation,” says Llopis. “That’s the foundation for inclusive workplaces filled with inclusive leaders who are aware of how all employees and customers can influence the future of the organization and want to be served.”

Diversity can be a sound goal for many companies, but it is only a means to an end. As we’ve said time and again, diversity is only one half formula for business success. Inclusion is the other half. Be inclusive!

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