Companies that embrace and promote diversity tend to be more successful, says SJSU Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau). She leads the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with the goal of creating a welcoming, safe climate for everyone in SJSU’s community. “Having demographic diversity isn’t enough,” she says. “You have to address policies and processes, not just the numbers of diverse individuals.” The Job Maestro interviewed Wong(Lau) to find out what it takes—and what individuals can do—to create an inclusive workplace.
What is equity?
When most people think of equity, they think of fairness, justice and respect. In general, in an equitable workplace people want a fair chance, to be evaluated on what they bring to the table, and the freedom to make mistakes and to grow. From an organizational standpoint, equity also means that we provide opportunities and structure, so that all employees can participate, contribute and thrive.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is the practice of trying to create an environment and operations that make people feel invited to participate, learn and contribute at a level where their needs and perspectives are essential to the organization. It means that you feel your identity, your history, your cultural capital and your perspective don’t work against you, so you’re not excluded from an activity, an opportunity and the day to day business of the organization. In the end, inclusion produces equity.
What does an equitable, inclusive culture look like?
We can’t possibly have everyone at the table every time. But people who are missing in a meeting or decision-making group need allies who can speak to their perspective, asking “whose perspectives are we missing?” One part of the chief diversity officer role is to help people feel a sense of orchestration, that there are good practices and thoughtfulness. When we are making choices in an orchestrated way, I know that if I’m not able to serve a particular group and they have a need, I can reach out and coordinate with somebody else who might be able to help or who might already be covering that group.