Diversity in the workplace: ideas and strategies for 2021 and beyond (2023)

By DeVry University

August 25, 2021
20 minutes of reading

The US is predicted to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043, and by 2060, 57% of the US population will consist of racial ethnic minorities, according toDicefrom the US Census Bureau. This means companies, business leaders and organizations must create effective solutions to recruit, support and retain a more diverse workforce. While many business leaders may already realize the importance of these population shifts, some companies still struggle to understand the best methods for achieving diversity, how to properly define diversity in the workplace, or why diversity is so important.

Diversity and end result

In addition to demographic changes, diversity directly impacts a company's financial future, saysmeredith morales, Senior Manager of Inclusion Recruitment Programs, Innovation and Solutions at LinkedIn. As a diversity and inclusion consultant, Morales has mentored many well-meaning leaders who often want to improve diversity in the workplace but may not fully understand the value that diversity brings to their organizations.

Diversity in the workplace: ideas and strategies for 2021 and beyond (1)

"Including people from underrepresented groups is an added value. It has an impact on the bottom line."

meredith morales
Senior Program Manager for Recruitment, Innovation and Inclusion Solutions at LinkedIn

“I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say they want to focus on diversity because 'it's the right thing to do,' but that's not what it's about,” says Morales. “Including people from underrepresented groups is an added value. That has an impact on the bottom line.”

In fact, a Boston Consulting Groupvoteof employees at 1,700 companies found that, of the companies surveyed, those with the most diverse management teams earn 19% more innovation revenue than their less diverse competitors. Seventy-five percent of employees surveyed at these same companies, spanning Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland and the United States, also reported that "diversity is gaining traction in their organization." workplace continues to shape business. decisions within the US and in global markets.

ONEMcKinsey and companyThe report echoes similar findings that, of the companies surveyed, those with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers in profitability. Likewise, companies with greater gender diversity among executive teams generatedmore profitability and value creationthan companies with fewer women in executive positions.

“Diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual and corporate portfolio levels and overall fund returns,” Paul Gompers, economist and professor at Harvard Business School, and writer Silpa Kovvali.explained in an articlepublished by Harvard Business Review.

Over several years, Gompers analyzed data from venture capitalists and investors to find that "although the desire to associate with like-minded people... for investors and companies leaves a lot of money on the table." In other words, leaders who don't diversify their business practices or partner with people who are different from them miss out on revenue and opportunities for growth.

As diversity emerges as a key indicator of business performance, organizations around the world are embracing the value and urgency of honoring difference; realize the undeniable importance of diversity in the workplace, according to Vijay Eswaran, CEO of QI Group:

“In this age of globalization, diversity in the business environment goes beyond gender, race and ethnicity,” he said.wrote in an articlefor the World Economic Forum. “Companies are discovering that by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they reap benefits that go beyond the optics. The need to establish a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, becomes more compelling every year. The moral argument carries enough weight, but the financial impact, as demonstrated by numerous studies, makes this a no-brainer."

Benefits of a Diverse Company

In addition to generating profit for companies, diversity in the workplace generates substantial benefits for an organization's culture and employees. As the executive leader of a diverse team,elise awwad, COO of DeVry University, testifies to the daily value that diverse employees bring to innovative business problem solving and solutions.

Diversity in the workplace: ideas and strategies for 2021 and beyond (2)

(Video) Modern strategies to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in today's workplace

"Diversity allows companies to have a different perspective to solve challenges, manage the organization and keep it strong."

elise awwad
Director of Operations at DeVry University

“Diversity allows companies to have a different perspective to solve challenges, manage the organization and keep it strong,” says Awwad. "If you have a lot of people thinking the same way, you don't really grow or innovate."

Awwad says diversity has also helped his team improve:

  • Creativity:Instead of relying on a homogeneous group for input, when it comes time to solve problems, Awwad taps into the unique perspectives of the people on his team. “I respect their opinions,” she says. “The best part of working on a team with people representing different ages, personalities and backgrounds is the mix of ideas they bring to the table. I see our team as a melting pot of ideas where each person offers a different special ingredient.”
  • Customer service:“Diversity is not just about how people look, but also about skills and experience, which can really affect how teams serve their customer base,” says Awwad. "Because DeVry's student base is so diverse, it's important to serve and support them by being diverse."
  • Professional development:“This is yet another unexpected but noteworthy benefit,” adds Awwad. “I don't think I would be as successful in my career if I didn't surround myself with people with perspectives and ways of thinking different from mine. Because my team is so diverse, they challenge me to think outside the box. I am able to grow in new ways. I learn from different people on the front lines of my team to my senior leaders.”

Redefining diversity in the workplace

Before launching a plan to improve diversity in the workplace, it's critical to understand what diversity really means. Is diversity a policy, a program, an intent or a combination of the three? Many companies struggle to answer these questions in the early stages of creating diversity initiatives, according to Morales, who has organized diversity training workshops for dozens of companies and professional associations. For some companies, promoting diversity in the workplace becomes "hidden code" for filling quotas or creating HR policies that feel mandatory rather than relatable, sincere and authentic, says Morales. In workshops and coaching, he's noticed that some leaders struggle to understand diversity beyond generic terms like "inclusion" or "equity," which don't fully capture the complexities of bringing dynamic people together.

3 ways to define diversity

To create a more inclusive and modern workplace, Morales recommends that companies define diversity in the workplace around three key concepts:

  1. To belong:“I think the way people conceptualize diversity and inclusion often lacks a component of belonging,” says Morales. “While equity and inclusion are certainly important, what companies should really be aiming for is creating an environment where people feel like they belong. This is what this work is about. If you have a culture where people don't feel as belonging, connected, or successful as themselves, your company will have an employee population that won't do their best. They won't produce their best work and you'll have a retention problem, so it's really important to focus on making sure people feel like they belong."
  2. Celebrating the difference:"No one is homogeneous, we are all unique", says Morales. “Most people have at least one experience in their lives where they recognize differences, so it helps to think of diversity as another way to recognize and celebrate our individual characteristics.” This is an idea most people can relate to and understand. Celebrating Difference delivers a positive message about diversity that teams can harness and support in action.
  3. Improve rendering:Morales recommends avoiding using key phrases like "close the gap" or "improve equity" when discussing diversity initiatives at your company. These terms are often corporate and meaningless to employees. Instead, be very clear about the type of people your business wants to attract, and structure the conversation to improve representation among underrepresented groups.

“When business leaders talk about diversity as a code, instead of being honest about representation issues they want to improve, they risk losing white men and women who can be allies in this work, which is why I think organizations can really benefit from simply calling attention to diversity for what it is. is: a way to improve the representation of people from underrepresented groups,” says Morales.

This is a more effective way to discuss diversity in the workplace because improving representation offers a cause that all employees can support, whether they are members of an underrepresented group or an ally.

How to promote diversity in the workplace

Creating a more diverse workplace requires strategic action, especially if your company is in the early stages of creating diversity campaigns and initiatives, such as aCouncil for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion🇧🇷 If you're a diversity and inclusion manager, recruiter, business leader or diversity advocate, try one of these expert strategies for creating a workplace where employees from underrepresented groups feel valued, seen and heard.

Strategies for Business Leaders and Organizations


Traditionally, the way organizations have organized recruiting teams has required the recruiter to focus entirely on networking and building relationships for diversity recruiting on its own. But that's not the most effective strategy for driving company-wide change, Morales explains.

"Every recruiter should be a diversity recruiter."

meredith morales

Rather than assigning diversity recruiting to just one recruiter in your department, take a creative turn: "Every recruiter should be a diversity recruiter," recommends Morales. Supporting diversity in the workplace starts with collaborative, team thinking, a mindset Morales has refined over 12 years of consulting with organizations on diversity and hiring strategies. To make diversity recruiting more inclusive, encourage companies to develop their teams' cultural capital and skills. What it means in practice: "Business leaders need to train recruiters and hiring managers in culturally competent practices," he says, referring to training exercises, workshops and organizational programs. “It helps recruiters develop the skills and competencies to authentically connect with people from underrepresented groups and community organizations.”


The goal of professional groups for women and diverse employees should be twofold: build community among people from underrepresented groups by offering them the culturally competent support they need to succeed.

This is exactly what Awwad had in mind when she co-founded EDGE: Empowerment Diversity Growth and Excellence, a network of academics and practitioners dedicated to supporting women in leadership that has since grown to include 23 chapters around the world. As Executive Sponsor of the EDGE chapter of DeVry University, Awwad helps provide opportunities for her peers to learn more about leadership and feel empowered enough to take on roles of greater responsibility.

(Video) Diversity & Inclusion 2021 and Beyond: A D&I Expert Panel

“We provide access to career guidance, talks, workshops and webinars on various topics related to women in business,” says Awwad. “We even have a Workplace group where we share information with members, from development opportunities to TED Talks. EDGE's goal is to create a community of women and people from diverse backgrounds who feel connected and understood."


It may seem like a small detail, but the way your job description is written can attract or reject the right candidate for the position within your company.Terri Wallman, Director of Employer Relations and Internships at DeVry University, learned this lesson firsthand while helping recruiters identify women withengineering degreesto apply for an electrical engineer position that his company struggled to fill.

To help properly, Wallman conducted virtual focus groups on four DeVry campuses and asked graduates fromDeVry College of Engineering and TechnologyParticipate During the focus groups, the women reviewed the company's job description, and Wallman discovered an interesting conclusion: Many graduates were turned off by the way the companies wrote the job description for the electrical engineering position. At the end of the focus group, Wallman and the DeVry graduates in the group rewrote the job description to make it more gender-neutral and more appealing to underrepresented candidates.

Diversity in the workplace: ideas and strategies for 2021 and beyond (3)

"A job description can have a big impact on diversity in the workplace because it's a candidate's first impression of the company's culture."

Terri Wallman
Director of Employer Relations and Internships at DeVry University

“A job description can have a big impact on diversity in the workplace because it's the candidate's first impression of the company's culture,” says Wallman. “This particular electrical engineering role required weekend work, long hours and some travel, but the way it was written felt very rigid and hostile towards women. If the candidate was a single parent or had a child, or wanted to invest in her own development outside of work, she would immediately think, "I can't take this job." This would not be a good option for me.”

But after rewriting the job description, adding phrases that focused more on flexibility and a flexible work culture, moretechnology candidatesexpressed interest. “Once we rewrote the job description, it completely changed how the women in the focus group viewed the job,” says Wallman.

Ultimately, the company hired one of DeVry's alumni to participate in the focus group, demonstrating that interactive recruiting that fosters connection, rather than distant apps or online advertisements, can successfully attract underrepresented candidates.


“Having leaders who reflect what the company values ​​goes a long way toward creating diversity in the workplace,” says Awwad. “That's why I take my role as a leader in this organization very seriously. I know other women in there look up to me as an example."

Diversity and Inclusion 2018deloitte reportreinforces Awwad's argument by demonstrating how inclusive leaders play a key role in shaping employee perceptions and productivity. The report's authors found that “Leaders' behaviors can lead to a difference of up to 70 percentage points between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion [of employees] who do not. This effect is even stronger for minority groups,” according to Deloitte.

Strategies for job seekers and employees from underrepresented groups

While many conversations about diversity in the workplace tend to focus on top-down strategies, there are creative ways employees and job seekers alike can support diversity in their careers. Consider one of the following tips to help improve your job search or help you achieve job mobility.


If you're looking for a company that supports your identity and your differences, take the time to ask the right questions to screen employers. Use your interview as an opportunity to discuss diversity-related topics that the average candidate might avoid. “If diversity is important to you, ask about it,” suggests Morales. "Don't be afraid to ask recruiters or the person who interviewed you about diversity at your company, because the question should be well received, and if it isn't, you might have your answer."

Research the company, as usual, but once you've done that, feel free to ask honest questions. “Even during a phone screening, it's okay to say, 'Diversity and inclusion is really important to me. Can you tell me some of the ways it manifests itself in your company? This question can invite an open dialogue about the work culture and the values ​​you would like to have at work,” says Morales.

In addition to preparing personal questions, encourage job seekers to also ask interviewers about their own experiences with gender and diversity in the workplace. As the recruiter shares stories, keep in mind the details you hear and any follow-up questions you'd like to ask. This can give you an idea of ​​what you might experience while working at the company and whether it offers the right culture for you.


“No matter your identity or where you are in your career, you need to do everything you can to build your network, and that doesn't just start at your job,” says Morales.

There are a number of professional organizations that support women and people from underrepresented groups such asThe National Association of African Americans in Human Resources,Propsanica: National Association of Hispanic Professionals,Alliance of Women Accountants and Financeit's himSociety of Hispanic Professional Engineers🇧🇷 These groups are usually organized by profession, so you should find one that aligns with your career goals and needs.

Also, if you're looking for a job, look for companies that already offer established programs that can help you build your internal network. For example, LinkedIn provides aAllied Academywhich focuses on empowering employees to reduce their language bias and support inclusive partnerships at work. This type of program provides opportunities for underrepresented employees to create new LinkedIn allies and learn leadership skills while strengthening their network.

Whether you're looking for your first entry-level job or planning your next career move, make researching diversity programs and professional organizations a part of your job search or career planning routine. When speaking with a company hiring manager, be prepared to ask about networking groups, workplace diversity, and programs that support your goals.


If you ask someone to guide you, depending on your work schedule and availability, sometimes this request can feel like a long-term commitment that can be difficult to keep. For that reason, rather than asking for extended guidance, Morales encourages employees and job seekers to consider "guidance moments."

“Yes, mentoring is important, but it doesn't have to be just one person,” says Morales. “I focus more on having mentoring moments. This means that when I have a question about a career change or an idea I want to discuss with someone I trust, I call that person in my network and ask them out for coffee. During that conversation, they can coach or advise me, which is a mentoring moment. Strive for those who are in the early stages of their career.”

(Video) Panel Discussion | Driving Diversity & Inclusion Strategies in the Workplace

Awwad also encourages women to seek similar mentoring moments. For example, EDGE members were encouraged to participate ingirls on the run, an event that allows mentors to identify a young woman from the Girls on the Run organization to accompany her during a 5K marathon. Girls and mentors run together during the event where they have the opportunity to interact and learn more from each other.

“It's really fun,” says Awwad. “We ran with the girls and talked about their goals or whatever they were thinking.” Small event-based activities can help promote “orientation moments” that feel authentic and create future networking opportunities.


“Culturally, depending on a person's background, it can be very difficult to talk about their accomplishments and work because some people might associate that with bragging and bragging, but it's not,” says Morales. "Some people are encouraged to lead more with a community mindset that focuses on 'us' rather than 'me'. If a person comes from a culture or background where self-talk is not common, focus on your own accomplishments it may seem unnatural, but it is essential.

To succeed in business settings, job seekers and employees from underrepresented groups need to feel comfortable discussing their accomplishments among business leaders because "this is an essential component of thriving in a business or corporation," says Morales. “Having your head down and hard work won't get you very far, so find someone who can help you expand your work because when you share your work, you find sponsors and leaders who are willing to support you, which is exactly what you want. . grow your career.”

Leadership resources for underrepresented groups

Whether seeking a management position, taking the lead in writing inclusive policies, or starting their own company to champion diversity in the workplace, employees who want to create change in their industry canbenefit from leadership skills🇧🇷 Below, you'll find resources* that can help you develop your leadership skills and connect with organizations that understand the importance of diversity in the workplace.

Women in Leadership


  • Tips for Executive Women — The Harvard Business Review polls female CEOs to learn their thoughts on executive roles and how more women can succeed in leadership roles in the workplace.
  • Foundation for Business Professional Women (BPW) — In the field of business, women are often underrepresented in leadership, particularly in managerial and executive roles. The BPW Foundation supports diversity in the workplace by championing women in business, particularly when it comes to equal pay for equal work.
  • Millions of Women Mentors (MWM) — Mentors play an important role in the lives of young people and new professionals; however, in fields where women lack fair representation, mentors can be difficult to find. MWM is an organization dedicated to connecting girls and women with STEM mentors.
  • National Association of Executive Women (NAFE)— NAFE provides career counseling and networking for female executives. It can also help women who want to take on leadership roles.
  • Women in Technology International (WITI) — Historically, women have been underrepresented in technology fields. WITI aims to provide resources for women around the world to enter the technology industry and connect with their peers.
  • Women + Technology Scholarship Program– DeVry University's mission is to close the opportunity gap for women who want to take the first step in pursuing a career in technology. We are proud to award up to $10 million in scholarships to women in technology who apply and qualify.1



  • Corporate Equality Index— The Human Rights Campaign maintains an index of corporations according to the steps they have taken to ensure LGBTQ equality within their ranks.
  • Movement Advancement Project— MAP maintains an interactive map that tracks LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws by state in employment and other areas of life. Many states have yet to take anti-discrimination measures based on sexual orientation or gender identity, while some are covered by federal court rulings.
  • National Chamber of Commerce LGBT — The NGLCC is an organization dedicated to representing and connecting LGBTQ inclusive businesses, as well as businesses owned and operated by members of the LGBTQ community.

Historically underrepresented populations


  • American Indian Society for Science and Engineering (AISES)— AISES is an organization specifically for Native Americans in the STEM fields, where this racial minority is critically underrepresented.
  • Ethnic minority leadership — The American Psychological Association published an article celebrating diverse leaders and the ways in which sharing unique perspectives helps encourage and enrich diverse communities. The article examines Barack Obama's leadership as a powerful example.
  • Latpro— Latpro is an online community designed for bilingual English and Spanish speakers. It matches bilingual professionals with jobs where their skills can be put to good use. Bilingual leaders in the workplace can help connect different groups in the office and ensure that people from diverse backgrounds are represented by leadership.
  • Minority business development agency— The US Department of Commerce provides loans and grants specifically to help minorities enter the business world. They also collect research and data related to minorities in the business world.
(Video) Equality Diversity & Inclusion in 2021 - WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
  • National Society of Black Engineers— African Americans are especially underrepresented in the field of engineering. The NSBE provides leadership training for members, along with other professional development activities, mentoring and job placement services.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from discrimination in employment based on color and national origin, among other identifiers. The act provides legislative support for diversity in the workplace and the rights of underrepresented employees. As a person of color in the workplace, it is important to know your rights and that you cannot be denied career advancement based on the color of your skin.

Veterans and service members


  • Carreira One Stop Transition Center — Career One Stop is sponsored by the US Department of Labor and provides job training, financial aid and other employment resources for veterans.
  • Common challenges faced during reintegration— The US Department of Veterans Affairs Division of Mental Health Services has identified some of the challenges veterans may face when it comes to re-entering civilian life.
  • Resources for transitioning veterans — For veterans, the transition from military service to civilian life can be a difficult process. DeVry University has made many resources available to help veterans with this process.
  • VA Employment Tool Kit — The US Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a Veterans Employment Toolkit, which contains information and links to other resources that can help veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

People with disabilities


  • skill jobs— Ability Jobs is a website that connects people with disabilities looking for work with employers interested in promoting diversity in the workplace and complementing their workforce with the perspectives of people with disabilities.
  • ADA checklist— The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 sets current standards for accessible workplaces. This checklist can help you ensure that your workplace is ADA compliant and welcoming to people with disabilities.
  • Career opportunities for students with disabilities— COSD is an organization dedicated to connecting students with disabilities with employers who value their skills and abilities.

Diversity in the Workplace: A Clear Call to Progress

Regardless of industry, diversity in the workplace will continue to be a key success metric for companies and businesses. Finding new approaches that support women, people of color, and people from underrepresented groups is critical if companies are to sustain a more diverse workforce for decades to come.

“Companies have made strides in diversity over the past 10 years, but they still have a long way to go. There's no denying the importance of diversity in the workplace – it's a valuable business decision and an asset to all employees. Future business leaders can benefit from finding new ways to support diverse candidates,” says Awwad. “As we move towards creative solutions, I am confident that employees from underrepresented groups can thrive in companies where they feel supported in their talents and free to be themselves.”

“There is no denying the importance of diversity in the workplace – it is a valuable business decision and an asset to all employees.”

elise awwad

blog categories

(Video) How to Go Beyond Diversity and Inclusion to Community and Belonging | E'Ula Green | TEDxOU


1. Diversity and Inclusion | Age diversity, Cultural diversity, Gender diversity
(Crash Course MBA)
2. What Diversity & Inclusion is REALLY About | Simon Sinek
(Simon Sinek)
3. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 🔸 Workplace DEI Best Practices 🔸 OPERATOR INSIGHTS
(Ensemble Health Partners)
4. Moving beyond celebrating diversity and towards anti-racist teaching
(Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning)
5. Managing Diversity in the Workplace
6. Going Beyond the Surface to Increase Diversity Within the Workplace
(Increase Diversity by Jenn Tardy)


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