What is Diversity and Inclusion and Why is it Important?

In recent years, the push for more diversity and inclusivity in the workplace has been a growing trend across the U.S. With 2022 approaching, 89% of businesses have official D&I trainings planned for their employees.

 

How are diversity and inclusivity defined? Diversity involves a wide range of people of different ethnic and social backgrounds. Inclusivity ensures people from those marginalized communities receive equal access to opportunities and resources. 

 

One particular marginalized community that gets overlooked regularly are people with non-violent criminal records. Oftentimes, these are people of color who have been impacted by government policies such as the War on Drugs. “I was given a second chance, and am making the best out of being the Chief Brand Ambassador for 40 Tons,” says Corvain Cooper, who has previously been in prison for a non-violent marijuana offense. “Sometimes all that is needed is a chance.”

 

Vernā Myers is a diversity expert with her own consulting firm specializing in D&I training. She has a great metaphor to explain the concept of diversity and inclusivity. “Diversity is being invited to the party,” she says. “Inclusion is being asked to dance”. It is important to remember these two terms are not interchangeable, but they are 100% interconnected. One cannot effectively function without the other.

 

There is hard proof that companies with diverse workforces reap financial benefits over others. Companies that placed in the top 25% for diverse and inclusive hiring practices had up to a 35% increase in their financial returns. When employees feel valued for who they are, a company’s success will continue to grow. 

What have Companies Done to Incorporate D&I?

There are concrete ways businesses can incorporate practices focused on diversity and inclusivity. Vantage Circle has an excellent in-depth feature exploring these best practices.

  • Education on this topic for leaders within companies is crucial

  • Create a diverse council dedicated to inclusivity initiatives

  • Hiring a diverse workforce should be a top priority

  • Implement a culture add approach within the work environment

  • Open and transparent communication on a regular basis is key

  • Employees at every level should be involved in diversity and inclusivity trainings

  • Check in on the progress toward D&I goals consistently and readjust when necessary

 

In the U.S., the company that ranks number 1 with the most diverse workforce is Microsoft. In total, 39.7% of their board of directors and 49.8% of their employees are made up of people from different races, religions, and sexualities to name a few. Some other companies that rank in the top 20 of diverse workforces are: Target, Verizon Communications, Bank of America, Gap, and Progressive.

 

As white males permeate and stake out their claims in the cannabis industry, ownership by women and minorities in companies has decreased. Minority ownership dropped from 28% to 13.1%, while for women it dropped from 36.8% to 22.1% between 2019 and 2021. Diversity and inclusivity is an issue that is larger than just initiatives and guidelines for businesses to follow. It is a broad ranging matter that impacts entire industries, as well.

 

Loriel Algrete, CEO and co-founder of 40 Tons, is a Black woman in an industry dominated by white men. Her specific experiences as an entrepreneur, both in and out of the cannabis sector, speak to the necessity of continuing diversity and inclusivity training across the entire workforce.

 

“I am just as capable as the next person, but what our people need are opportunities,” Loriel says. “There are many great Black and Brown women that, if given the chance, can perform just as good as their counterparts.”

What is Diversity and Inclusivity Going to Look Like in 2022?

In order to create long-term and lasting change, the work around diversity and inclusivity does not follow a one size fits all template. It is also work that doesn’t stop when a specific goal is met; it continues to evolve and grow. With 2021 coming to a close, there are definitive steps companies can take to keep moving the needle of progress forward. 

 

Leadership that is a visible part of the effort and support behind these workplace initiatives is key. Everything always starts at the top; that support, effort, and enthusiasm trickles down to the other employees. There is a direct link between executive involvement and the success of a company’s diversity and inclusivity strategies.

 

 A report by VentureBeat showed that even though 58% of CEOs were reported as being involved in decisions surrounding D&I, only 13% of them demonstrated visible support to their employees. Leaders need to become more transparent, proactive, and accountable in their efforts around diversity and inclusivity. The best leaders walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

 

“Diversity and inclusion is more than just reaching a quota,” says Brandon Mitchell, Chief Careers Office of Cannabis Hiring Fairs. “It goes so much deeper than that. Equitable employers create trust and loyalty with their employees. When an employee feels like they are understood and respected in the workplace, the results of their performance can be multiplicative.” 

 

Tangible actions businesses need to implement, if they haven’t already, are:

  • Involve everyone, at every level, in discourse around diversity and inclusivity

  • Encourage employees to be their authentic selves

  • Establish a company infrastructure that promotes inclusivity

  • Set measurable D&I goals with company-wide input

  • Hire consulting experts on diversity and inclusivity to help lead the initiatives

 

There are many reputable DEI experts and organizations available to bring into the fold in a consulting capacity. Hiring organizations like 40 Tons to lead company-wide diversity, inclusivity,  and equity trainings are resources all companies should take advantage of in 2022. To competently implement D&I strategies and educational resources, bring in experts to lead the way. “It is important that companies recognize that talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. This is why our company is made up of diverse individuals dedicated to closing this gap,” says Anthony Alegrete, operations director and 40 Tons co-founder. “We work with other brands, businesses, and organizations that are providing opportunities to help our clients effectively incorporate good D&I practices.”

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