Pride week is over, but companies continue to work with diversity and inclusion
Pride week is over, but the work continues. It is no longer enough for companies to stick rainbow colours onto their logo once a year. The work on diversity and inclusion is an ongoing effort and it is here to stay.
"There is a clear development here. The rainbow flag contributes visibility, but the bar has been raised. D&I is no longer nice to have, it has become a need to have. It has become what you could call a ‘hygiene factor’ in the workplace; an expected minimum just like proper pay and terms of employment.”
These are the words of Jannick Friis Christensen, Postdoc at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, who does research on diversity management.
The large multinational companies back Christensen. Recently, representatives from Google, Coca Cola, ISS, Danske Bank and A.P. Møller - Maersk met at Copenhagen Business School during Pride week to share experiences on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
"People need to be seen for who they are whether they are employees or customers. So, there is a need for us to address unconscious bias and create a safe and inclusive work environment," says Wallace Wang, Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Partner at A.P. Moller - Maersk.
Why it matters
Today, 88 percent of large Danish companies report working with D&I in some capacity, but what does it even mean to work with diversity and inclusion and why is it so important?
"In Denmark, 30-40 percent of LGBTQIA+ people have still not come out at work.”
“And it can be difficult to control when or how it happens. If colleagues assume that you have a heterosexual relationship or another gender, will you then have to come out or do they consider it a lie if you do not and they find out later?" asks Jannick Friis Christensen.
These are the kinds of dilemmas LGBTQIA+ people face in workplaces with traditional norms, and they can lead to unnecessary stress, an ultimately poor well-being and lower productivity at work.
10-15 percent of LGBTQIA+ people report to have experienced discrimination in their workplace, and according to an analysis by DM from the beginning of 2022 homosexual men earn 15 percent less money than their heterosexual counterparts with comparable education and experience.
Jannick Friis Christensen, Post doc, Department for Management, Politics and Philosophy.
Employee groups can create security and openness at work
In other words it is clear that work needs to be done when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But what can be done if the workplace is very traditional, and its norms make some minorities feel unwelcome?
If workplace joking constantly affects minorities, minority people may become unsure if they can be open in their workplace. Employee groups as a means to ensure a safe forum for sharing can prove to be a very useful tool," says Jannick Friis Christensen.
Employee groups are in fact one of the tools that many companies make use of. One of them is A.P. Moller – Maersk, says Wallace Wang.
"We have a grassroots approach, where employee groups have a central role, but where managers also help break down the barriers to support them. We also use data to keep track of people lifecycle movement, as well as questionnaires asking whether the employee has good friends at work and whether they are comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings with their colleagues," he says.
At Danske Bank, leveraging the strength of employees passion, knowledge and networks, is an integrated part of the D&I strategy. Employee groups, like 'The Rainbow Group', are vital to the ecosystem they are building in which diversity not just comes to life, but sustains in an inclusive work environment, states Astrid Balsink, Chief of D&I at Danske Bank. And that is hard work because if we are not consciously including, chances are, we are unconsciously excluding.
"In this hyper connected world, the informal hierarchy is growing stronger. These networks are tremendously powerful because people connect from the heart and as such there is instant trust. If we link their knowledge and networks to that of our senior managers, it creates new insights and energy that ensures our strategy is and stays on par with what our employees –and the customers they serve- need.
Pinkwashing can discourage companies from contributing
Something that may deter companies from participating in Pride initiatives or investing in diversity efforts is the fear of being shamed for pinkwashing, which means joining a good cause to score cheap PR points without really wanting to change – just like 'greenwashing' where companies cash in on the consumers’ interest in climate and environmental cases.
According to Martha Ivester, Group Brand Marketing Manager at Google, as many as 61 percent of their advertisers are afraid of getting bad press from LGBT+ campaigns.
But according to Jannick Friis Christensen, the fear of pinkwashing should not refrain a comßßßpany from contributing, and Astrid Balsink from Danske Bank agrees:
"We should not be afraid to make mistakes. We are all very human. If the intent is authentic, mistakes will be forgiven. We are all learning in this field. This work has evolved, and it keeps evolving – it is about progression not perfection," she says.
Wallace Wang, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Partner at A.P. Møller – Mærsk.
A great opportunity to share experiences and inspire young people
The companies that have turned up for the Pride event at CBS seem to agree that diversity and inclusion have become important among their colleagues and leaders. But how do they benefit from showing up at CBS?
"It is very important that companies work together and not compete on this subject. Let us be open about our problems and solutions so we can help each other. This is not some product to show that you are doing better than other companies. This is working together towards a larger cause," says Wallace Wang.
According to Astrid Balsink, it is also an opportunity to share her experiences with young people:
Coming to an influential university like CBS gives us opportunities to share our learning and inspire young people. Inclusion starts with ‘I’ and we all need to play our part. We hope to inspire some young minds to start thinking about how companies work on this," she says and continues:
“In reality, this is about being able to be ourselves and be open at work. It is inclusion that fuels the businesscase for diversity which is the hardest but also to most rewarding part.”