Ontario Wooden on the Importance of Building Diversity and Uplifting Inclusion During These Times
Organizations, institutions, and businesses have become increasingly global. Building meaningful partnerships and relationships with people who may speak a different language, celebrate different holidays, or have different ideologies can not only help us thrive but help us build diverse and inclusive communities. As the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success at North Carolina Central, Ontario Wooden understands how impactful diversity and inclusion can be to resiliency. Passionate about helping low income and first-generation college students, Ontario Wooden wants to start a conversation about diversity and inclusion as a response to the current social climate.
Diversity and inclusion are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but Ontario Wooden stresses the importance of defining them individually. Diversity refers to the individuals in a space — who are recruited, hired, attending, involved, etc. Diversity is a range of traits and experience’s in an organization or institution. These characteristics include race, gender, physical ability, religion, age, socioeconomic status and others. Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to how people feel in a space. While individuals at an organization or institution may be diverse, they may not feel welcome, valued, or safe. Ontario Wooden explains that true inclusion should make people feel valued, respected, accepted, and encouraged.
Diversity in Education
From an educational perspective, Ontario Wooden shares that the benefits of diversity are wide-ranging and varied. Diverse and inclusive environments can maximize talent and productivity, enhance decision-making skills, and aid in team performance. Likewise, organizations that engage in these practices are more successful at recruiting and retaining talent. There is no shortage of evidence to support the benefits of diversity and inclusion in an organization. According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. In addition, a 2018 by Harvard Business Review found that the most diverse companies were also the most innovative.
For institutions or organizations looking to boost their diversity and inclusion program, Ontario Wooden has a few suggestions on how to get started. First, focus on fairness and respect. Wooden suggests frequently checking in with employees or students, through surveys or interviews, to validate any new policies or guidelines that promote inclusivity and diversity. Second, focus on value and belonging. Providing employees or students with appreciation and recognition for their efforts is crucial to fostering an inclusive environment. Lastly, focus on confidence and inspiration. Being an inclusive organization means creating opportunities for individuals to speak up confidently about their personal and professional needs to succeed.
There has never been a better time to focus on diversity and inclusion. Just last year, in a survey conducted by Gallup, 45% of American workers experienced discrimination or harassment. In addition, only 40% of women felt satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization, which can lead to poor employee retention and job dissatisfaction. Ontario Wooden concludes that as conversations about racial tension, inclusion, and equal representation are at top of mind as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is an excellent opportunity to encourage these types of conversations in your community.