Diversity in the workplace is a phrase used to describe the types of different people in an organization. It’s a concept that’s vital to your success as a company.
Workplace diversity is about valuing every employee as an individual. It’s about creating a company culture where everyone feels comfortable being themselves and has an opportunity to succeed. Organizations that value diversity understand that having a team of diverse employees with different viewpoints and backgrounds can strengthen their business. They know that diverse teams are more innovative and better able to solve complex problems.
A study found that diverse teams have a 60% boost in decision-making skills. Another found that the most diverse companies consistently out-earn and out-profit the least diverse businesses. Diverse companies also understand that employees who feel valued and included are more likely to be engaged in their work.
But diversity isn’t just having an even mix of men and women or multiple Baby Boomers working with Gen-Zers. True diversity in the workplace goes many steps beyond into the realms of ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and more.
Before we get into different types of diversity that will make the workplace better for everyone, let’s dig further into why diversity is important.
Why is diversity in the workplace important?
A diverse workforce can bring different perspectives, experiences, and skill sets to the table, leading to more creativity and innovation. It can also help a company better reflect the demographics of its customer base, improving customer satisfaction.
Diversity in the workplace is not only a source of strength for the company but also of benefit to employees. By promoting all types of diversity in the workplace, employers can help create an environment that is more accepting of different cultures and backgrounds. This can lead to increased productivity, improved communication, teamwork, and an increase in retention.
Types of diversity in the workplace
Insight Global believes in looking at diversity in multiple tiers, not ranked by importance, but organized based on three primary dimensions: internal, external, and organizational diversity.
Within those dimensions, we’ll look at 23 different types of diversity you should be mindful of in the workplace. While this may not tackle every end of the diversity spectrum, this should give your company a good starting point of different ways to look at what diversity looks like.
Internal Dimensions of Diversity
These are types of diversity are part of an individual’s core identity.
Race is, as defined by the NIH, a “social construct used to group people” based on their “physical appearance, social factors and cultural backgrounds.”
Examples of this in America are White, Black or African Americans, Asians, American Indians, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, and more.
Ethnicity is different from race in that ethnicity “refers to the identification of a group based on a perceived cultural distinctiveness that makes the group into a ‘people,'” according to Britannica. It’s more broad and encompassing than race, which most often is attributed to one’s physical appearance.
Members of one race can have different ethnicities. One white person can have Scottish ethnicity while another can have South African ethnicity. While they may physically look similar, their cultural experiences, dialects, upbringings, and more can be quite different.
In today’s workforce, there is an increasing focus on gender diversity. This term includes employees of all genders, including those who identify as men, women, transgender, non-binary, or another gender.
Gender diversity can bring many benefits to a company, including improved communication and collaboration, greater creativity and innovation, and improved cultural intelligence.
There can be challenges surround gender diversity, like some employees having different comfort levels when sharing personal information or discussing sensitive topics. In addition, there may be differences in how employees of different genders communicate (preferred pronouns) and collaborate. But it is up to companies to understand these differences and put policies and practices in place.
4. Physical/Mental Abilities
Employing people with differing physical and mental abilities can benefit a company. For example, employees who are wheelchair-bound or need to walk with assistance often have unique perspectives that can help to identify potential improvements or solutions to problems. The same goes for those with various unique mental abilities, such as those on the Autism spectrum.
A workforce that includes employees with a wide range of physical mental abilities can provide a more well-rounded perspective when considering new diversity initiatives or projects.
Another type of diversity is the diversity of age and generation.
People of different ages have different life experiences, typically grouped by generations like Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Z, and others. They also may different physical abilities. For instance, people over 65 might not be able to lift as much or be as physically active as a 25-year-old male.
6. Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation is a type of diversity in the workplace that keeps in mind that not everyone identifies as a straight, heterosexual person.
Other types of sexual orientation include:
- Sexually fluid
These are vital to keep in mind, especially when it comes to assuming an employee’s partner’s gender is of the opposite sex. (It’s also best to not assume an employee has a parter at all, but we’ll get into that more in a moment.)
External Dimensions of Diversity
External diversity types are ones that influence who a person is are not ones that they are born with.
7. Geographic Location
Where someone lives influences who they are. You want a diversity of people from various locations to influence your organization. If you are trying to expand into a new market, it’s important to have people from that market informing decisions.
Also, someone who has lived and worked in a specific area of America or the world may have a different perspective on business than someone who has only lived and worked where your business operates.
Income diversity in the workplace is an important but often overlooked aspect of workplace diversity. Not everyone in your company earns the same amount of money, and not everyone came from the same socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s important to keep this in mind as employees of different socioeconomic backgrounds can bring different perspectives and experiences to the workplace.
However, there can also be potential tension between employees of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Employees from a lower socioeconomic background may feel they are not given the same opportunities or resources as their more affluent colleagues, so it’s important to make sure those of all incomes feel supported.
9. Personal Habits
One’s personal habits are things that a person prefers or needs in order for them to operate within a space. These can range from what time of day a person works best, to their dietary preferences (veganism, gluten free, etc.), to having to manage medical conditions like diabetes or sound sensitivities.
These are important to know and keep in mind, because they make the workplace a more inclusive and productive place when they are acknowledged and cared for. For company lunches, you may consider having vegan and/or gluten-free options. If a person expresses they work better between 6 a.m. and noon, consider allowing them flexibility on when they have less meetings and can focus on getting work done.
10. Recreational Habits
Recreational habits are a type of diversity in the workplace that keeps in mind what employees prefer or need to do in their spare time for leisure and relaxation. These recreational habits can include things like:
- Practicing yoga
- Participating in a basketball league
- Leading a trivia team
- Coaching a rowing squad
- Training for a half-marathon
These are important to know in your workplace, because it allows you to offer flexibility among employees’ schedules in or to achieve a desired balance between work and their recreational lives. Having employees with varying interests outside of work gives you a more diversified and experienced talent base.
Religious and spiritual diversity among coworkers is just that: having people who participate in different religions and spiritual practices.
We all have different ideologies and things we believe in (or don’t), which can influence everything from our personal habits to how we approach our work. A mix of ideologies in the workplace can lead to more open-mindedness and creative thinking, as people are more likely to challenge each other’s ideas and assumptions. This can lead to better decision-making and a more innovative and productive workplace.
12. Educational Background
Employees come from all different educational backgrounds, from high school dropouts to PhDs.
Ultimately, it is up to your company to create an environment where employees from any educational background feel respected and have opportunities to advance through the company. By doing so, you can tap into the full potential of their workforce and create a more cohesive and productive team.
13. Work Experience
Similar to people having different educational backgrounds, employees with different levels of work experience can bring a wealth of knowledge and perspective to a company. Newer employees can bring fresh perspectives to how a new social media outlet or program works while veterans in the field have a breadth of experience to make decisions on.
Work experience can also include veterans with military service. Under 6% of the employees in the civilian U.S. workforce are veterans, making this type of work experience something that give you a unique perspective on how organizations run.
By putting high value on work experience diversity, companies can create a more well-rounded and innovative workforce.
Not everyone comes to work in the exact same outfit (for the most part). Even in cases where there are uniforms, some people may have different hairstyles, wear jewelry, or prefer a certain kind of shoe in order to express uniqueness while adhering to certain guidelines.
Appearance can be diverse on the grounds of:
- What one prefers to wear (traditional clothing, preferred styles, etc.)
- Whether one wears glasses or not
- Body type
It’s important for many to have their own style or cohere with religious or cultural norms. People with these preferences only add to the diversity of thought among your workforce, and allowing employees to be themselves promotes an inclusive culture.
15. Parental Status
Parental status is an important type of diversity in the workplace to keep in mind when considering parental policies, flexible schedules, and more.
This varies from person to person. Some employees may be parents of multiple young children, while others of the same age may have high-school- and college-age children. They’re both parents, but they both are at wildly different stages of parenthood and require varying forms of flexibility. Some other may not be a parent by choice, while others would like to have kids but are struggling to do so.
Additionally, ask yourself if you have anyone in your organization who has adopted a child? What did your parental policies look like for them? And how could their experience benefit your company?
All of these perspectives can bring the diversity of thought to teams, leadership, and your customers.
16. Marital Status
Different kinds of marital status include:
- Single/not married
- In a domestic partnership
Having diversity of martial statuses in your organization can help with perspectives of how you word communications with internal and external groups, affordability of various insurance policies, and how decisions made at the executive level can affect various groups of people.
Organizational Dimensions of Diversity
These types of diversity that occur when one is part of an organization (any company that is more than one person).
17. Functional Level/Classification
This covers how employees are classified within the organization and how their job functions within the structure of the company. This may seem self explanatory, but it’s important to have a diversity of positions and job functions.
If a construction company only had trained construction workers, and some were expected to help run payroll and accounting duties, that organization might not be successful in the long run. A company needs functional diversity at the job level to thrive. You want people who identify as accountants to do your accounting.
18. Work Content Field
People are diverse in the content fields they work in, even though they may have the same kind of job title or function.
For example, someone who leads DE&I at a healthcare company will have a different looking job and different experience than someone who has run DE&I at a tech company. While there may be similarities, it wouldn’t be fair to assume either person could do the other’s job.
While the best organizations operate with one shared vision, there are often various divisions or departments that work as individual groups to accomplish these tasks. Membership or affiliation with these various groups mean different things to different organizations.
For example, in a shipping company, people in the operations division or delivery division may take on a different identity at work than those who are part of the IT or payroll team.
Employees within an organization are diverse based on their tenure with the company. If you only had employees who have been there for 10-plus years, you might not have the diversity of thought needed for innovation and fresh ideas. It’s important to have a mix of senior and newer voices in all positions.
21. Work Location
Organizations can have a diversity of work location, too. Think of a pharmaceutical company; they have researchers in labs, sales people on the road, representatives in call centers. It’s important to recognize this diversity and make sure policies are fair and inclusive to people who work in these locations.
There is also diversity among people who work on location multiple days a week and people who work fully remote.
22. Union Affiliation
People can be diverse in their union affiliations. The people within unions are diverse, too, with members of every race, age group, and religion (and just about every other type of diversity we’ve talked about) participating in a union.
Union membership sits at around 10% in the United States, and that varies per industry, with teachers and members of protective services having far higher union rates than those in private-sector jobs. It’s vital to know your peoples affiliations with unions, especially for their experience in providing fair conditions for employees.
23. Management status
Within an organization, people will have different levels of management status. These can range from being a manager or supervisor of a small team to overseeing an entire division or department.
When making decisions that affect people within your organization, it’s important remember the diversity of managers you have and make sure you get input on how these decisions will affect your people. If you’re only asking senior vice presidents for input, you probably won’t truly understand how a high-level decision will affect people with boots on the ground.
Tips on How to Ensure Diversity in your Organization
As a leader within a company, there are a handful of high level things you can do to make sure that there is diversity, from race to experience to personal habits to job function, at all levels of your organization. These include:
- Fostering a culture of inclusion: Everyone needs to feel valued and respected regardless of their background. Make sure all employees have an equal opportunity to contribute their ideas and opinions. Encouraging open dialogue will help to create a more inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their perspectives.
- Recruiting a diverse workforce: Make an intentional effort to reach out to underrepresented groups, using diverse sourcing channels and having blind resume screening. Organizations with a more diverse workforce are 35% more likely to have better financial results than those without. Your company will benefit from this.
- Educating employees about types of diversity in the workplace: Providing training can help your employees become more aware of their own biases and understand the importance of DE&I in the workplace. In addition, you can create a more inclusive environment by ensuring that all employees feel comfortable speaking up about their experiences and perspectives.
- Providing resources and support: This can include training programs on unconscious bias, setting up employee resource groups, and offering mentorship opportunities.
No single type of diversity is more important than the other. When you are executing a high-level diversity, equity, and inclusion plan, you don’t pick and choose one or two of these many types of diversity to focus on and discard the rest. Will there be some focus areas that need extra attention? Sure. But a good plan will set a strategy that allows equity and inclusion to occur across all forms of diversity.
No one person can represent every single type of diversity in the workplace, so it’s important to hire people across all types of diversity. And once they’re onboarded, each individual needs to feel like they can bring their whole self to work without having to be a token that ticks a box on a a diversity initiative.
If you want to learn more about how DE&I efforts can help your company, or you need help finding diverse talent, don’t forget to contact our DE&I consulting division for help.