Quotas: a way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?


As diversity and inclusion are becoming a “prerequisite” to a healthy and modern corporate culture, more and more companies are taking steps towards diversity and are walking on the path of inclusion. To show their values and their interest in DEI, several corporate job descriptions now include phrases such as :

We are committed to creating an inclusive environment for our employees in which everyone’s backgrounds and ideas are taken into account. We aspire to diversity and aim to hire people regardless of their place of birth, their ethnic or racial origin, their gender identity, their sexual orientation, their beliefs or religion, their age, their marital status, or their family situation. We encourage all types of profiles to apply for this position.

Moreover, in recent years, many studies have shown that diversity simplifies decision-making, boosts creativity, fosters innovation and improves companies’ growth overall. However, which strategies have companies adopted DEI actions, and how are companies accommodating to diverse profiles within their ecosystem?

How do we measure diversity and inclusion?

Quotas are targets/sets of numbers set by governments, companies, and other organizations to raise the number of people from underrepresented groups in the working world.

In numerous countries, initiatives such as quotas have been put in place by governments and/or corporations to ensure diversity in expert panels, boardrooms, and corporate teams among others. In Belgium, a law (the 28th of July 2011 law) exists voted in favor of gender quotas. This law aims to guarantee the presence of at least one-third of each sex on the boards of directors of autonomous public companies, the National Lottery, private companies listed on the stock exchange, and on electoral lists as well. And a quota to ensure the employment of people with disabilities in the federal public service was also voted.

Quotas have been the heart of flaming debates. Contra-quotas think such initiatives are discriminatory and are box-ticking options to stimulate diversity in the workplace. People in favor of these quotas firmly believe that such measures could make recruitment more inclusive, as studies have shown that people with migrant backgrounds are less likely to be selected.

What about other forms of quotas?

In Belgium, laws on ethnocultural quotas don’t exist, but positive actions have been established to ensure that candidates with foreign ethnocultural backgrounds have the same chances of being hired as their Belgian counterparts.

Indeed, discrimination based on race and culture is striking. In Belgium, according to the 2019 socio-economic monitoring by UNIA and the Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, the median duration of search for a first job is, on average, 2 times longer for young candidates of middle-Eastern origin than candidates of Belgian origin.

What about inclusion?

In regard to inclusion, the metrics are different. Counter to diversity, inclusion is subjective and not measurable per se. The feeling of inclusion in a group is unique to each individual. Surveys and personalized questionnaires could be used to “measure” a person’s sense of belonging. However, quotas in themselves are linked to numbers correlated to diversity, not the sense of inclusion. Numeric parity doesn’t mean inclusion. Quotas in public services, boards, or even panels don’t guarantee that the people who have been recruited to meet these quotas will feel heard, seen, or even acknowledged. Quotas could reflect diversity but could neglect inclusion.

Quotas and the feeling of inclusion

Numeric parity doesn’t mean inclusion. Quotas in public services, boards, or even panels don’t guarantee that the people who have been recruited to meet these quotas will feel heard, seen, or even acknowledged. Quotas could reflect diversity but could neglect inclusion.

The difference between diversity and inclusion

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance” — Verna Myers

Diversity in the workplace refers to the number of diverse profiles. A diverse group includes individuals with different characteristics such as gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or education.

Inclusion is the state of feeling like a member of a group, a team. A team where people can work together and feel at ease with who they are within the group. Inclusion ensures that everyone feels valued for who they are and the expertise they bring to the table.

Hiring diverse profiles to meet quotas could be as harmful as not hiring diverse profiles at all. Why? A few diverse profiles in a company can’t fix the overall company culture. If talents from underrepresented groups don’t feel heard, valued, or do not feel safe expressing their viewpoints and expanding who they are, they are likely to leave. A study conducted by COEQUAL called “Being Black in Corporate America” sheds light on the fact that Black employees are 30% more likely to intend to leave their job than their White counterparts because of microaggressions among others.

Quotas can be performative, and talents from underrepresented groups could be used as a token and put forth whenever it is necessary to prove that a company has a diverse workforce. Hence, quotas work as means, not ends.

Quotas aren’t the end all be all of DEI actions, they’re a temporary solution to a long-lasting and structural issue. Quotas are a part of the solution, but not the solution itself, they are here to correct an imbalance, not to transform systemic inequalities altogether. In order to assure more diversity and ensure inclusion, company culture should also be considered. Hiring talents from underrepresented groups should be included in a larger strategy to ensure a holistic and flexible approach to DEI actions.

In order to start off with the right tools, create a list of set points and questions to analyze the priority of your company, such as :

  • What does success mean to you, what does it look like?
  • In regard to your company vision and values, what do you do to push it forward?
  • What do you want your team to do, and what should an ideal team look like for you?
  • Why are quotas important to my company (or not)?

More should be done in order to effectively diversify and lean towards inclusion in companies than reaching a target number, however, quotas can work as a catalyst of change. Furthermore, awareness isn’t enough, accountability is needed to break the pipelines that have pushed underrepresented groups to the bottom of the ladder. As long as racism, sexism, and ableism will exist in the workplace, quotas won’t be effective unless the structural change occurs.

“Realizing the benefits of diversity requires more than quotas”. — Randall S. Peterson

At Begreator, we can help ensure talents’ voices are heard and actioned. We help you optimize your processes and enable a recruitment strategy aligned with your DEI initiatives. Top companies start with a well-defined vision for what success looks like in the context of their business. Together with your company, we can help you articulate a clear and compelling business case to set your company for a real culture shift and encouraging outcomes.

Interested to see how we could help you take concrete DEI actions and help you hire and retain diverse and skilled talents? Visit our website and fill in our contact form and tell us more: https://www.begreator.com/consulting.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post