Company culture clash with diversity
Can businesses aiming to achieve universal values and thinking through company culture foster an environment of true diversity and inclusion, asks ICAEW Council member for London Jagdeep Chaggar.
I recently caught up with a close friend, who having worked for primarily corporate companies was looking for a change, so she applied to a start-up business.
It’s worth noting at this stage that my friend is female, comes from an ethnic background, and had a very diverse upbringing. Also, as recently as two years ago, the company in question had a workforce that was approximately 70% male, and 90% white.
She unfortunately did not pass the interview. And received feedback that she would not be a great fit with the company culture.
She was very cool about the rejection, palming it off to her lack of small company experience. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of unconscious bias and found myself in a philosophical conundrum questioning whether diversity and company culture are at odds with each other.
In other words, do our differences (aka diversity) move us further away from a cohesive mindset driven by group values and beliefs (aka company culture)?
Now in principle, company culture sounds harmless. Respect, integrity and transparency are values we can all relate. But ask yourself, how many companies do you know where the culture on paper is a carbon copy of reality?
Furthermore, values are not a tick box exercise, they sit on a spectrum. Having worked with colleagues from America, Europe and Japan, I noticed quickly that respect takes many forms in global society. This doesn’t mean one individual has more respect than the other, we just have a different perspective on what it looks like.
Which brings me to my conundrum; if all your employees think and value the same thing, are they truly diverse? And can we be both diverse and aligned with company culture at the same time?
I personally believe in an all-inclusive culture that is dynamic and fluid, which can thrive on diversity. I do believe many companies have come a long way, but they must continue to be better, to ensure the future is inclusive of all our differences and similarities.
And for the sake of many diverse individuals, I hope companies can take a simple step towards change by reflecting on their hiring practices, and put in place diverse interview panels to help tackle the challenges many still face.
Jagdeep Chaggar is a London ICAEW Council member and internal audit manager at Barclays
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