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5 Barriers To Diversity And Inclusion Every Leader Must Know

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Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a major concern for companies worldwide in 2022. When implemented with utmost dedication and honesty, a diverse workforce can uplift engagement, company culture, and productivity. But, if companies have failed to implement D&I, it is because of the barriers to diversity and inclusion.

As a leader, have you wondered what barriers could come in the way of implementing an equitable D&I program at your workplace? A company must make its employees feel included irrespective of race, gender, caste, sexual orientation, age, and other underrepresented identities.

But then comes the barriers to diversity and inclusion that affect its proper implementation. Achieving a diverse workforce is not a tick-box task but an intensive approach towards making a safe work environment. But, with barriers, it becomes challenging.

Today, we discuss some major barriers to diversity and inclusion and how it affects employee engagement, company culture, and employee productivity. But first, let’s get to know some facts.

Why Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion Exist?

Two decades people hardly gave importance to the term diversity, but today, D&I has become a major business concern for organizations worldwide. Yet, many companies claim to be diverse and inclusive but have failed because of unconscious bias and dim knowledge.

Diversity in the workplace drives business success, and thus leaders want to achieve it. But, creating a diverse workforce also requires diverse leadership skills, which many organizations fail to achieve because of prejudices and privileges.

According to a McKinsey report, companies at the top for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to gain financial returns on top of their desired medians.

Another study by Federal Glass Ceiling Commission found that companies who invested in glass-ceiling-related issues performed 2.5 times higher than other companies. And according to Forbes, companies with racial diversity generate 15 times more revenue than the ones with the least variety.

These are some amazing facts that attract a lot of companies to achieve a diverse culture, but with half-baked knowledge and not much training, they tend to oversee the barriers to diversity and inclusion.

Despite all the success stories related to D&I make companies get stuck in their diversity mission, primarily because they do not know the difference between “diversity” and “inclusion.”

Diversity refers to inviting people to sit at a dinner table, and inclusion refers to inviting people to help set the table and make the dinner an engaging success. If your human resources program lacks in creating an inclusive workplace culture, you still cannot reap the benefits of D&I.

5 Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion every Leader must know!

1. Selective Mentoring

Sometimes leaders unknowingly tend to invest their interest in someone else’s career development when they see it in their colleagues. As a result, forming informal mentoring relationships becomes challenging when there are differences amongst colleagues.

Informal mentoring is a personal and selective approach, where a senior chooses to guide a junior. Here, trust and inherent is imperative, and the senior leader must care about their juniors’ success. On the other hand, formal mentoring holds good intentions, as they rely on trust and shared interest.

You must challenge your natural inclinations. You must think about a person who adds to the diversity of your team. As yourself, “when was the last time you invited that person for a coffee or handed them a task.” If your answer is “very rare” compared to the rest of the team members, it's time you start treating them equally and get rid of selective mentoring.

2. Responding to Mistakes Inconsistently

Everybody makes mistakes, but responding to them makes the difference. When workers make mistakes in your organization, do you give them a second chance, or do you label them “careless?” And do you consider every worker careless, or is it selective towards underrepresented groups only?

When there are prejudices and discrimination in the workplace, mentors treat mistakes differently. For example, if someone privileged has given a late submission, it becomes the printer’s fault as it was not working. But when someone from a minority group makes a mistake, it becomes a personal flaw. Such unequal responses to mistakes are a barrier to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

3. Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying involves yelling, abusive emails, harassment, and character assassination of a person especially belonging to a gender, racial, ethnic, sexual minority, and much more. Bullies usually target people they think are not good enough to work with them, and this is because of prejudice and social stigmas.

Also, vulnerable workers who do not receive much support from their managers tend to get bullied by their co-workers. As a result, there is a drop in employee productivity and an increase in employee absenteeism.

Managers must end bullying at work as it can destroy the company culture and levels of employee engagement.

4. Insensitivity

Managers might subtly ignore jokes, stereotypical comments, hate slurs, or homophobic remarks, but ignorance is no bliss in this matter. This can hamper your workplace culture, and victims might feel isolated and triggered.

Insensitivity towards such issues is a barrier to diversity and inclusion, and it becomes a source of workplace stress, employee burnout, and low self-esteem.

In the end, insensitivity can lead a company towards employment lawsuits. A manager who is insensitive to complaints is as guilty as the person who commits the offense.

5. Biased Perception

People behave according to their beliefs, which shapes how they like to see the world, including their perceptions about people. As a leader, you are creating a barrier when you tend to look down upon women, LGTB folks, racial and ethnic minorities and think they are less skilled, less qualified, or less talented.

When you have a preconceived notion about a set of employees that they would underperform or fail, eventually, they will not succeed because you’re creating a barrier to their success. As a leader, you must not judge any employee based on their identity or background, and you must treat everyone equally and recognize them duly.

Sometimes talented workers from diverse backgrounds might not get recognized because people will consider the person doing the job and not the job itself. When your biased and subjective perception about workers’ ability comes into play, it interferes with their objective assessment, and eventually, everyone loses.


Next time you think about the failure of implementing D&I in your company, remember to cross-check if these 5 barriers to diversity and inclusion are present in your workplace.

Also, you can take the help of diversity training programs to embrace D&I initiatives at your workplace. An increase in diversity and inclusion means increased employee engagement, higher profits, and great company culture.

This article is written by Gautam Gayan. He works as a Content Marketer at Vantage Circle. Apart from being a passionate content creator for HR services and employee engagement, Gautam is a theatre enthusiast, an avid reader and an aspiring poet. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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