Should Inclusivity be the path for Collective Growth of a Nation?

Inclusivity means the quality of trying to include many different types of people and treat them all fairly and equally. Over the past decade, nations have worked hard to create diversity within their population and government. Diversity can bring many organizational benefits, including greater customer satisfaction, better market position, successful decision-making, an enhanced ability to reach strategic goals, improved organizational outcomes, and a stronger bottom line. Diversity is about differences. It’s the understanding that each of us is unique and bring our individual personalities and ideas to everything we do. Inclusiveness is about working with these differences to achieve better business results.

However, while many nations are better about creating diversity, many have not yet figured out how to make the environment inclusive—that is, create an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities.

Minorities want to experience the same sense of belonging that the majority does to the group. Indeed, dating back to 1890, William James noted that human beings possess a fundamental need for inclusion and belonging. Research has shown that inclusion also has the promise of many positive individual and organizational outcomes such as reduced turnover, greater altruism, and team engagement. When people are truly being included within a work environment, they’re more likely to share information, and participate in decision-making.

There are many reasons that inclusion has proved so difficult for most nations to achieve. Broadly, they tend to stem from strong social norms and the failure to gain support among dominant group members. To understand these issues better, it is useful to look at four dynamics that frequently work against inclusiveness in many nations.

Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.

Jesse Jackson, Politician and Civil Rights Activist (Source: Crain’s)

People gravitate toward people like them. We’ve long known that similarity makes people like and identify with each other. In nations, leaders often hire and promote those who share their own attitudes, behaviors, and traits. Thus, many nations unknowingly have “prototypes for success” that perpetuate a similarity bias and limit the pool of potential candidates for positions, important assignments, and promotions.

Subtle biases persist and lead to exclusion. When minority-group people are hired, they may experience more subtle forms of discrimination such as being excluded from important conversations, participation in a supervisor’s or peer’s in-group of decision-makers and advisers, and may be judged more harshly. I recently read a study, for example, demonstrating that individuals who were racially different from their supervisors perceived differential treatment in the forms of discrimination, less supervisor support, and lower relationship quality. The findings also suggested that dissimilarity might lead supervisors to favor people who are similar (in terms of race, gender, etc.) and demonstrate bias against people who are different. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “subtle bias,” which is often a result of unconscious mindsets and stereotypes about people who are different from oneself.

To neutralize exclusion, leaders need to proactively review the access of all groups of employees to training, professional development, networks, important committees, nominations for honors, and other opportunities. Often, people who differ from the group in power must satisfy higher standards of performance, have less access to important social networks, and have fewer professional opportunities. A recent Monster poll showed that eight out of ten female respondents “believe that women need to prove they have superior skills and experience to compete with men when applying for jobs.” Leaders may need to invest in training to reduce the subtle biases of the workplace.

Often as a coping strategy, those who are different from the majority will downplay their differences and even adopt characteristics of the majority in order to fit in. Female attorneys, for example, might adopt masculine behaviors to foster others’ perceptions of them as successful. But when unique employees move towards the norms of the homogeneous majority, that negates the positive impact of having diversity within the group.

To reduce conformity, leaders need to talk authentically about the issues, seek out, and encourage differences. Leaders should ask important questions such as “What is it like being the only African-American repesentative?” or “What has your experience been as a female minister of parliament?” “How can we leverage your unique perspective more effectively?” While the key is asking the right questions, it is also important to listen to the responses and not react negatively if the leader does not like what he or she hears.

Inclusive growth is a concept that advances equitable opportunities for economic participants during economic growth with benefits incurred by every section of society. Sustainable economic growth requires inclusive growth. Maintaining this is sometimes difficult because economic growth may give rise to negative externalities, such as a rise in corruption, which is a major problem in developing countries. Nonetheless, an emphasis on inclusiveness—especially on equality of opportunity in terms of access to markets, resources, and an unbiased regulatory environment—is an essential ingredient of successful growth. The inclusive growth approach takes a longer-term perspective, as the focus is on productive employment as a means of increasing the incomes of poor and excluded groups and raising their standards of living.

Inclusive growth entails comprehensive growth, shared growth, and pro-poor growth. It lessens the fast growth rate of poverty in a country and upsurges the participation of people into the development of the country. Inclusive growth infers an impartial allocation of resources with benefits incurred to every section of the society. But the allocation of resources must be focused on the intended short and long term benefits of the society such as availability of consumer goods, people access, employment, standard of living etc. Rapid and sustained poverty reduction requires inclusive growth that permits people to contribute to and benefit from economic growth. Rapid growth is necessary to reduce poverty but for this growth to be sustainable in the long run, it should be broad-based across sectors, and inclusive of the large part of the country’s labour force.

In India, governments have introduced several projects, such as Jawahar Rozgar Yojna, Integrated Rural Development Program, Rural Housing Scheme, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana and Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to promote inclusive growth. Nonetheless, to boost inclusive growth in a country with the scale and size of India, private sector involvement is equally important. The private sector has started contributing with initiatives, such as the ICICI Foundation having been established with the purpose of promoting inclusive growth. The government and private sector both have imperative roles in driving inclusive growth. There is a need for the public and the private sector in India to have a combined approach towards how they can extend, innovate, and cooperate in innovative ways to enhance inclusive growth.

The majority of whom live below poverty levels, are undernourished and just survive. It is this population, very nearly forgotten by the power brokers, who need to be brought into the development scheme. They must be given the option of living and working on jobs in non-agricultural sectors, jobs that guarantee the basic subsistence for themselves and their families. Simply transferring resources from one head to another, which has been done, cosmetically sometimes, by politicians has not changed much. The reality remains that the fund is limited. Even if national funds distribution is perfect, it will not reduce poverty level in country.

Literacy levels have to rise to provide the skilled workforce required for higher growth. Even though education plays a key role in inclusive growth, it is not the sole element required for it.

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