Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter in the Workplace
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are important to a positive workplace. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Victoria Mattingly about what employers can do to foster workplace inclusion through allyship and measurement. Together we discuss:
How to define diversity, equity, and inclusion
Why inclusion is important to having a successful organization
How to address diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
The importance of allyship
The intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion and the future of work
By implementing tactics to address diversity, equity, and inclusion, companies of all sizes can achieve high employee satisfaction, better retention, and reduce burnout.
Our health isn’t just determined by the medical care we receive when we’re sick. There are many other external factors or social determinants of health, that can often explain why we get sick, how long we’re sick, and what we do to get healthier. Read our blog post, “Social Determinants of Health: Why They Matter to Your Workforce” to discover the top social determinants of health and why they’re important.
In This Podcast
Dr. Victoria Mattingly, PhD
Dr. Victoria Mattingly, PhD, is founder and CEO of Mattingly Solutions, a woman-owned DEI consulting firm. She holds her PhD in organizational psychology and has been providing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and management consulting services to businesses and non-profits for over 10 years. She has built and implemented DEI & allyship solutions with companies such as Intel, American Eagle Outfitters, and Amazon.
Hey everyone! Welcome back and thanks for joining this episode of For Your Benefits. I’m Meghan Henry, Director of Marketing for SentryHealth, creators of WellOnMyWay, a leading employee health and wellbeing solution. We’re excited about today’s guest Dr. Victoria Mattingly. Dr. Mattingly is the CEO and Founder of Mattingly Solutions which is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm.
Today we are going to chat about why diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is important and what organizations can do to better address them. Victoria, thanks for joining our podcast today.
Thank you for having me, Meghan.
So let’s start off by learning a little bit more about you. Can you tell us about your background and what you’re up to?
Absolutely. So, I hold my PhD in Organizational Psychology, meaning that I was trained to use data and science to understand the human experience in the workplace. I’m currently CEO and Founder of Mattingly Solutions, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm. I’m based here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but our team is distributed all over the country, so we have clients ranging from energy companies to tech companies from Chicago out to LA and here to Pittsburgh.
Before I started Mattingly Solutions I worked in a variety of external consulting roles really serving as a subject matter expert for all things inclusion and allyship. I did my dissertation on an executive training program that asks, can we help advance women in leadership, gender equity initiatives, by engaging male executives as active allies in these efforts, and the TLDR s is that they did have an impact. Leaders that were trained to use allyship behaviors they had more engaged female direct reports and we’re hoping to go back to do some longitudinal data to see if we’re actually moving that needle and seeing more women in leadership roles as a result of that training program.
I’ve worked at companies including Amazon. I’ve consulted for Intel, HPE, Mine Safety Appliance and am super thrilled to be an active participant in this space and especially now that diversity, equity, and inclusion is really having its moment. But I argue it really is a movement to do this work right. It’s longitudinal. It goes on and on. And it needs to be a sustainable strategic effort. I’m super excited to talk to you about this today.
Defining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Victoria, the workplace in our world is changing at a rapid pace as you know, so a lot of company leaders have their work cut out for them when it comes to creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable and appreciated in their roles. So as we’re talking about, at the forefront now is diversity, equity, and inclusion. So I think to begin I’d love to talk to you a little bit about what that means and how it relates to today’s companies. How should companies be defining DEI?
This is such a great question and I feel like my background in organizational psychology really brings a lot of value to this area.
The field of DE&I started as diversity management then we added on the inclusion at some point because we realized, it’s having a diverse workforce you don’t get the benefits of that unless there’s an inclusive culture and inclusive workplace to maximize those benefits and then the last few years we added equity to the acronym so really getting at what differential support we can provide to close gaps in the workplace.
When I first started my company, we’re relatively new, we started in August 2019. When doing my market research and talking to DEI leaders I realized there is a lot of construct confusion around what these individual terms mean. Everything’s just kind of getting lumped together and we know that diverse representation matters, we know that culture matters but really getting at how to operationalize these terms. I feel like there is a lot of work to be done in this space and so in short in Mattingly Solutions we like to say diversity is how we see each other and inclusion is how we treat each other. Specifically, inclusion are the behaviors that result in others feeling valued, respected, seen, and heard.
Diversity is a fact, you can look at your HRIS data and not just at the whole workforce as a whole but across leadership roles, across business units, look at those demographic variables: gender, ethnicity, maybe some things that aren’t typically measured like caregiver status, working parent, LGBTQ status, that’s diversity. It is what it is and people have goals and metrics behind it but that’s the fact. Inclusion is really the behaviors that we could be using whether as peers, as leaders, to actually result in the culture that we are hoping to see in which everyone feels like they have a place, they can bring their authentic self to work every day and they feel valued, respected, seen and heard.
So, diversity is the fact, inclusion are the behaviors, and then belonging is honestly the outcome. And I feel like this gets all kind of clumped together. Something that we do with our measurement workers, we try to parse these different variables apart because you can only manage what you measure and so actually measuring them at their behavioral levels, at the factual levels, at the sentiment levels, then we can start seeing where that baseline is and then start making data-driven decisions and strategies to track that change over time.
So, it sounds like you can have a diverse organization but if you do nothing with that, or you do nothing to promote that, or to support that, then you’re not looking at that inclusion component. Is that correct?
Absolutely. And actually, I was working with a Fortune 10 client a few years ago and they had that exact scenario go down. They had some really aggressive diversity goals in place. They wanted X percent of women and people of color in leadership roles by the year 2020. They hit those goals two years ahead of schedule, which is phenomenal. But what they didn’t do is bring inclusion along with it and so people that were being placed in roles were feeling like they didn’t belong there. There were elements of tokenism going on. There were perceptions in the organizations that people are being chosen for who they are and not what they are qualified to do, which is actually typically not the case.
Those who belong to unrepresented groups tend to be higher performers because of the additional barriers and challenges they’ve had to face to get to that career and so we had to come in and do a lot of inclusion work with this company to figure out how do we really address the problem that they were facing, cause what happened as a result, all that diversity that they brought in, they had very low retention, a lot of high turnover and also not the culture that contributes to those benefits of diversity. Which is better decision making, more innovation, and just better communication and so we had to go backward and do the inclusion work.
That’s why I always recommend whenever you are doing DEI right, you have to address it from not only the diversity standpoint but also the culture, the behavioral standpoint, and also the systems, where are the policies, practices, and procedures, that’s where equity comes in.
Why DEI Important and How Does it Benefit Organizations
You would agree that probably now more than ever it’s important to make sure that everybody knows that they matter, all employees matter. I read a recent study that found that highly inclusive companies are more likely to hit their financial target goals by up to 120% so I think there is a financial benefit to that.
But in terms of where you see, why is DEI so important and how does that really benefit organizations?
Yeah, the research just gets stronger and stronger every year. So McKinsey does a diversity study every year and it shows exactly those outcomes that you were saying. Financial performance of ethnically diverse leadership teams and gender diverse leadership teams — they outperform their competitors financially. There are also benefits to engagement so more inclusive workforces are a more engaged workforce.
We see outcomes related to innovation. Also, as I mentioned before, better decision making, better communication. And one reason that happens, especially when it comes to that team level, when we talk about communication and decision making, whenever we have a bunch of people who are just like us, you know in a meeting or in a group, we tend to subscribe to groupthink and we think that these people think like me, they’re like me so I don’t have to further explain where I am getting at. I can just assume that they just agree with what I am saying or what they’re saying. And so when we have diversity, where we go that extra effort to go the extra mile to really make sure that everyone is on the same page, that we communicate better, we make better decisions.
And the research is so apparent, so out there, and yet whenever we take this research into our client organizations, a typical pushback we get is “Well, not here,” or “Prove it here.” So we’re always looking for new innovative ways to get data from our client organization to show them that your more diverse business units, your more diverse teams, more diverse leadership groups are out performing those who have more of that home ingenuity.
The business case is so clear, and quite honestly it’s just the right thing to do. It’s also a talent acquisition strategy. Research is showing that millennials want DE&I, Gen Z is demanding it, and in previous generations where we had things like pensions and retirement plans that get people to come and stay in an organization. Now what we have are people wanting to stay in an organization that aligns with their values and those that they will be doing meaningful work and they can bring their authentic selves into the workplace every day. People are choosing where to work based on companies that offer these ongoing DEI initiatives, programs and just really put their money where their mouth is when it comes to advancing DEI at that organization.
So really if you’re looking to attract and retain top talent you have to have these sort of programs, discussions, and initiatives.
Absolutely and to keep them once they’re there, like the story I shared earlier.
How Technology Impacts DEI in the Workplace
All right let’s talk technology. When the first generations were in the workforce, a lot of people didn’t even have computers at their desks. Now we have millennials, Gen Zs…everybody’s entering the workplace and they’re pretty much expecting it, even in manufacturing, they’re still working with technology. Nobody really doesn’t work with technology these days so with technology playing a role in just about every area of business how does that impact DEI in the workplace?
There are so many opportunities to be more inclusive and technology gives a lot of opportunity for that.
So for example, going back to talent acquisition, there is technology where you can run your job description and job ads through software to see, is it being more gender-neutral or is it using terms that will resonate more with some groups over others? So using it to know how do we get more gender-neutral language when it comes to how we communicate using technology so seeing things like in Zoom where it auto transcribes conversations live.
But, I had pushback to that the other day, I was mentioning that to a potential client and they said maybe in our entire workforce maybe one or two people need these types of services, and I mention that inclusion benefits everyone and if we all had a document after the meeting that showed those notes then I can then spend the meeting engaging and paying attention to non-verbal cues and really having a deep conversation as opposed to frantically taking notes, we’re all going to benefit from that.
Technology also can be an equalizer in some way and we know from a ton of research there is a lot of bias in how decisions are made, so using technology to blind some of that decision-making process, so we don’t see names that might signal what a person’s gender or ethnicity is, we can strip away things like that. Schools even, and knowing that someone has the skill set and the experience and education,that should be enough for them to make a sound decision about the qualifications of the applicant. What happens is whenever we see our university, our Alma Mater on a resume or on a job posting then we’re like “Oh this person is like me so I’m more inclined to hire them.” So we can use technology to help systemically strip out bias.
On the flip side of that though, when you think about algorithms we think about, a friend of mine has a story where he is a person of color and he was at a tech company, one of the Big Four, and he was in the bathroom trying to wash his hands and it wouldn’t pick up his skin color on the sensor. So, if we have people building technology that don’t come from a diverse background or thinking about the whole spectrum we are going to build bias into our technology. This is very common in algorithms and AI and some of the echo chambers we find ourselves in and social media which leaves to divisiveness and not inclusiveness.
Technology can be used for good or for evil and it’s just a great example on why having a DEI led, in everything not just the human capital part of the workplace but everything we do, that’s really the best way of reaping the benefits of having a DEI perspective and a true DEI strategy that touches every aspect of a business.
Yeah, and I think there are so many organizations that don’t think about that. They think about, like you were saying, “We have a diverse group of employees, we’re good to go.” But really thinking about everything they’re doing, and the software they’re using and the programs they’re using I wonder how many folks really do think about all of that.
DEI, COVID & the Future of Work
Talk to me a little bit about how the pandemic and future of work intercepted with DEI.
Absolutely, so I feel like DEI right now, especially over the last year, there’s been a lot of emphasis on anti-racism work and DEI from an ethnicity and race perspective. Gender is also commonplace for companies to get started with DEI but the way that we talk about DEI is so much broader than that and so it really gets down to how we bring ourselves to work every day. What the pandemic has done, it has brought work into our homes every day, right? But that’s also given us an opportunity to advocate for things like work-life balance, more support for working parents, also things like mental health and worker wellbeing.
For a lot of people, we just went through societal trauma, and no one is really talking about it in these terms but what we just went through was pretty intense, people literally lost family members and loved ones. The stress of dealing with all the life changes we had to experience in the pandemic, I feel like what’s done, doing DEI right, you’re really understanding the whole human experience and then providing resources to accommodate those needs and I feel like the pandemic has given a lot more platform to the unique needs that people experience in the workplace.
You better believe that if I’m bringing work into the home then there should be a conversation on how work can accommodate my personal life as well and I feel like I am seeing these conversations begin, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to really addressing whole human needs, whole worker needs beyond just the typical benefits package or the employee assistant program.
Once again, it’s a retention strategy, it’s a talent acquisition strategy, and having healthy employees, having engaged employees lead to more productive and innovative employees. And so I feel like COVID has really made a strong case for how we need to provide these wrap-around services as much as we can, because people are hurting right now and DEI is a way to talk about the importance of the individual experience in the workplace especially when it comes to vulnerable groups and working parents is one of them. I feel like that’s come to major crossroads because of COVID.
What Companies Should Do Now
Victoria, you previously mentioned a lot of really good reasons why organizations should elevate their DEI initiatives but let’s talk about how they do that. What can companies do to better address DEI?
When it comes to getting started with DEI or leveling up from what used to be “check the box” or a once-a-year training, it really has to start at the top so getting that executive-level sponsorship buy-in and most important commitment to DEI effort. This could look a variety of different ways, so bare companies can bring on a Chief Diversity Officer and have that person directly report to the CEO. The DEI should not just live in HR. As we mentioned before it’s so much more than just the human aspect of work, it’s how we are designing product, how we are using our technology, how we are doing operations.
Right, how we’re talking to customers and clients and partners.
Exactly and so that’s why the person responsible for DEI, whether a Chief Diversity Officer or someone who is paving the way for that eventual hire, that person needs to report to the CEO to make sure that DEI has that reach across the entire organization. It requires sometimes bringing in external support, like companies like mine, to provide that consultative and best practices. Also measurements, how do you even know where you are starting? And what’s surprising is that when it comes to diversity data, as long as you have a HRIS system, the data is there but I’ve been shocked by is how hard it is to get that data out from HR to then use in DEI strategy work and so by having that direct route to the CEO you can get that data probably more easily.
So once again, diversity data is just one piece of the puzzle. How are you serving your employees, understand what their experience is, how are you measuring behaviors and then embedding behaviors into performance management and evaluation systems? But just to get started, to answer your original question, really starting at the top and building DEI is an ongoing strategic plan that touches every area of the organization.
Excellent. Are you saying companies are investing more time, money, energy into DEI than they were maybe five, ten, maybe even two years ago? Is that more of a stronger initiative for companies now?
Absolutely, this space has definitely blown up over the last year. Especially since last summer with all the protests, after George Floyd’s murder, all the commitments companies have been making especially to anti-racism work which falls under DE&I. I’m seeing a lot of DEI counsels, and workgroups, and task force being formed. Seeing this interim role of someone leading efforts internally to eventually hire the Chief Diversity Officers. If you go on Indeed, Glassdoor, and Linkedin you will see so many advertisements for internal DEI roles. Consultants like myself, I’ve seen Nat Space really blow up over the last year, especially.
What I am hopeful and optimistic for is to see how this space looks two more years from now. And so how can we build upon this momentum and help equip these DEI leaders with the data, with the strategy, with the approach that they need to integrate as an ongoing process. I like to acquit it to leadership, like a company would never say “Oh we’re done with leadership development. All our efforts are done. You would never say that, you’d be dead in deep water, same with DE&I and so I am excited to see how the space continues to grow. But it has absolutely exploded over the last year.
Allyship: How it Helps Organizations With DEI Efforts
Talk to me a little bit about how allyship and how it drives or supports DEI efforts.
Allyship. We define it as, “using one’s power or status, to advocate and support someone who’s different than you in some meaningful way.” And it’s that difference part that’s so important. I could be your mentor, your sponsor Meghan, and give you a bunch of support and advocacy. But, we’re both white woman, so I’m not an ally, I’m an advocate, a mentor, a sponsor, but I’m not an ally.
It really requires going across differences to understand and partner with someone who’s different from you to center them, leverage your group status, your majority group status, to help advocate and support them in a meaningful way. And to do that, you have to have an authentic ongoing relationship, it’s the same way that you wouldn’t call yourself a mentor if you weren’t actively mentoring someone, working with that individual, right?
Same goes for allyship, you have to be actively engaged with the community, with an individual, to learn about their experiences and then make sure whatever you’re doing as an ally, cause allyship means action, so making sure those actions are aligned with the actual support that individual or group needs.
The term ally has gotten a lot of backlash over the year, and it’s because there’s been a lot of performative allyship out there, meaning people are calling themselves allies, they are posting their things on social media, they’re calling themselves woke or whatnot, but they’re not actually doing the work, and allyship really does require taking action, putting yourself out there, giving up power, leveraging your status, on behalf of others.
I categorize allyship as another behavior that falls under that broader inclusive behavior umbrella, but I love using allyship in the client work I do, because it’s a way of actively engaging senior leaders, which have the power of the organization, and also majority group members, who really don’t see themselves in DEI work. Having everyone involved in DEI, especially when it comes to building an inclusive workplace culture, we need everyone on board, everyone has an important role to play.
So, if you’re a man, how can you be an ally for women in the workplace, if you’re a white person, how can you be an ally for the five types of communities in the workplace. If you’re straight, how can you be an ally for an LGBTQ+, not just in June by the way, but all year long. I feel like allyship is such a beautiful way to get everyone involved, and it’s also, quite honestly it’s a positive take on DE&I.
I feel like a lot of times, especially maybe some of the trainings in the past have been very punitive, here’s all the things you’re doing wrong, here’s all the reasons why we have microaggressions and discrimination and racism and sexism, not to say learning about those things, it still is very important part of the process, you’d be aware of the dark side of DEI so you can fix it. Allyship is what do we do next to fix these things, how can we take a more positive approach to DEI and get people more engaged cause that’s when we’re going to have that critical mass to make the changes and think about when we had more allyship in the example I shared in the beginning of our conversation when it came to that company that met their DEI goals ahead of schedule, if we had more allies on the ground, they would have been welcoming these people from underrepresented groups as opposed to making them feel like “Hey, you don’t belong here.”
Yeah, I mean what an important thing for organizations to talk about, for leaders to embrace. Gosh even as a parent, to talk to our children about that, and as you’re saying, “Not just in June,” or “Not just in February,” “Not just on certain days,” but really living that, I think, is so important, so I think that’s fantastic, I really, really love that. Victoria, I want to wrap up today’s episode with some takeaways that our listeners can use. The majority of our listeners are HR leaders, executives. What do you say to them about what they can do to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. What are some takeaways you can give them?
Absolutely, so I feel like, especially when it comes to DEI, we are so quick to jump into the training, jump into the solution, but what I encourage to all those listening out there, who are wanting to take a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive approach to how they’re leading their organization, is to take that necessary time to figure out where are you starting from, what is the current employee experience looking like at your organization, what is the demographic breakdown of various groups across leader levels, across business units. How can you really understand where you’re starting from, and then taking that time to decide where you’re going.
And so, having that baseline data and then having some good metrics around how do you expect to see that data change a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, having that clear vision of where you’re going. That measurement and baseline assessment will help give you that roadmap to help you get there, I feel like there are a lot of things that are low hanging fruits, or a great PR opportunity, still add, promote, and advertise and be transparent about the work you’re doing, but also think about what’s going to have that long term sustainable impact to make your workforce look and behave in a way where we have diverse representation, our systems are fair, and everyone feels valued, respected, seen and heard.
I want to thank you so much for sharing your insight today, this has been a really valuable conversation, I know that our audience has really gotten some great information from this, and I have enjoyed today’s conversation.
Oh if I could, I could talk about DEI all day, thank you for having me, Meghan.
Well, we appreciate it. That wraps up this episode of For Your Benefits. If you like what you heard today and you want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast, you can find us on our website at sentryhealth.com or wherever your podcasts can be found. Thanks for joining us!
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