2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Announcement Event

How Can Diversity Management Measure Religious Inclusion?

How does religious inclusion fit into diversity management? Can it be represented/highlighted as a primary metric in an overall diversity assessment?

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How Can Diversity Management Measure Religious Inclusion?

Photo by Shutterstock

Diversity-Management Question: I am the chairman of a religious group at my company. I am working with key business partners in our headquarters city to move forward with a strategy that involves transformation [to a religiously inclusive workplace]. Will you share your vision as to how religious diversity can be represented/highlighted as a primary metric in an overall diversity assessment of the companies you speak with?

A. We’ve assessed best practices for diversity management and religious inclusion for several years, including religious resource groups, which generally follow two models—all-inclusive of many religions or a focus on individual religions (American Express, No. 14 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50, is the leader in this with Christian, Jewish and Muslim resource groups).

The key to all those resource groups’ successes is that they are inclusive (anyone can join, including people not of that or any faith) and they are educational, with a primary goal of educating employees about the religion and its members. They cannot ever proselytize or promote anything that is exclusive of anyone else (this primarily surfaces with some religious groups arguing against the inclusion of LGBT people). Read Starting Religious Employee-Resource Groups for more.

Outside of the groups, DiversityInc also measures in the DiversityInc Top 50 survey whether companies make religious accommodations for employees (usually in the form of hours and dress but also including prayer rooms) and whether they allow employees time off for religious holidays. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding (www.tanenbaum.org) has a lot of information on this and on national trends around the issue.

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One comment

  • I’m glad this topic was discussed. While the company I work currently does not have any religious groups, I feel strongly that it should be a part of diversity and inclusion training overall. Case in point from my own experience, I was selected to work in the area of D&I in addition to my normal 9-5 job for my office of 150 people. During my 2.5 years in this role, I dramatically increased participation from less than 50% to 98% participation in D&I events. I increased D&I groups from 1 to 5 active groups. A survey was taken of our D&I efforts amongst employees of several states. The responses from the office I led, was so favorable that it moved the entire index several points. I was recognized for my work and my D&I model was requested and adapted in other offices in an effort to increase their D&I efforts. This in turn led to an opportunity to interview for a top diversity position. Sadly, due to my personal religious beliefs, the LGBT/LGBT Allies groups here strongly opposed me even though I have never expressed them at any job related function including any of my D&I efforts. They opposed me based on their “assumptions” of how I “might” use my Christian beliefs not to support their community even though my past record gave no indication of that. They ignored the fact that I worked in not only their favor but of all people with differences thereby gaining the results that I did. They acknowledged my D&I record but felt a higher position was not something a “Christian” should have and voiced their concerns to me directly and to the leaders who were over the selection process. Needless to say I was not selected for the position and was told pretty much that was why I didn’t get it (and yes, I had an awesome interview). I felt hurt and discriminated against based on an “assumption” and felt that D&I did not apply to anyone with a religious belief and that, in fact, if you had a religious belief you were “excluded” instead of being “included”. This unfortunate incident was several years ago when we were learning how to be more diverse and inclusive. Today, we have grown as company and I believe we are ready to embrace the religious communities as part of our overall D&I structure and I hope to see it come to fruition in the near future. After all, we need understanding and compassion too.

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