American businesses have been focusing on diversity for some years now. The laws are in place, and businesses have made public commitments to increase diversity in their workplaces. What has emerged is a new vocabulary of subtle bias in the workplace: covering, authenticity, the glass closet.
These more subtle forms of bias may have only occurred because the overt forms of discrimination have been outlawed by federal law, and there is social pressure in America to at least give lip service to the values of fairness, protection against discrimination, and opportunity for all.
What we are seeing instead is “covering,” a self-modifying behavior where people try to fit into the overall corporate culture by hiding parts of themselves that could be sources of discrimination or could be seen as limiting opportunities. So gay people go back in the closet, and racial minorities are careful to not socialize too openly with other minorities, and mothers never mention their children.
Authenticity is seen as too expensive and dangerous in a competitive workplace. Enormous energy is spent trying to fit in and trying to keep the true self, in all its beautiful colors, quiet, discreet, and wearing navy blue.
But the energy spent on trying to fit in and not attract the wrong kind of attention is creative energy that could be spent on building a better world. Paradigm is a new business that is addressing the issues of diversity, inclusion, transparency, and authenticity using behavioral science, education, and consulting to develop models for individual businesses.
Consulting with an individual company on issues of diversity and inclusion starts with a thorough and detailed assessment of both company policy and informal culture, and looks at data related to the “employee lifecycle”–from attraction and hiring to the development of an employee’s career to attrition. Data analysis and focus groups show areas for improvement, and an individual action plan is developed. Two specific types of workshop training provided in workplaces are unconscious bias training and growth minded workshops.
This detailed initial consulting on inclusion and diversity is work that is probably only going to be successful coming from outside an organization. It is difficult for people to admit to unconscious bias. It’s too close to our self-image, how we see ourselves as people. The work of trying to change a behavior and attitude that is deeply seated in culture, family, religion, and informal workplace social behavior is a daunting one. But this work is critically needed for American business to reach into the future, and not waste the creative potential of its workforce.