Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are much more than just a simple buzzword. It’s a conceptual framework that intends to promote the fair and equitable treatment of every person in the workplace. DEI includes everyone and fully encompasses important traits such as gender, background, disability, and any other characteristic that may help uniquely represent an individual’s identity.

In addition to the benefits of creating a more equitable workplace, there is a strong business case for promoting DEI within a company. For example, according to a 2019 McKinsey study, “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.”

This article will explore a few resources from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Emory Executive Education and will share some strategies for building a more equitable workplace.

Andrea G. Dittmann
Andrea G. Dittmann

Why Social Class Should be at the Core of Your Diversity Strategy

Andrea Dittmann, assistant professor of Organization & Management at Goizueta, joined a recent podcast episode of the Goizueta Effect, to share perspective on how social class affects career success and team performance, as well as insight into how to consider its role in establishing a more equitable workplace.

Dittmann points out that while DEI has encouraged employers to incorporate gender, race, and other identities into their diversity strategy, it has largely ignored the context of social class. Although social class is not as inherently visible as other identity characteristics, it does not undercut its importance within a comprehensive diversity strategy. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that social class transcends other identity traits such as gender or race.

In fact, “people from working-class backgrounds are less likely to receive a callback for an elite job, less likely to advance to a leadership position once they’re in a job, and on average are earning about 17 percent less than their counterparts from middle-class backgrounds,” Dittmann says.

In order to build a successful diversity strategy and a truly equitable workplace, employers need to remove barriers for working-class employees. Dittmann promotes the inclusion of the identity of social class into any company’s definition of diversity because it is an essential perspective that promotes interdependent approaches and teamwork.

Harnessing Collaboration to Reduce Social Class Inequality in the Workplace

Collaboration is a critical process in successful companies. In fact, according to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP), companies that encouraged collaborative working were nearly five times as likely to be high-performing organizations.

In a recent, Business Over Breakfast episode, Dittmann expands on how organizations can shift their culture to both reduce social class inequality in the workplace and help all employees perform to their full potential as a team, particularly those who grew up working class.

Dittmann shares how people from a working-class background are much more likely to have an interdependent perspective or understanding of self and behavior as connected to others and social contexts. This type of perspective ultimately encourages a stronger ability to work with others to achieve a common goal.

Although many organizations desire to encourage collaboration, the people who are most likely to express this type of behavior are less likely to get hired or promoted as opposed to other individuals from a middle-class background. In fact, people from working-class backgrounds are 34 percent less likely to advance to leadership positions.

However, by removing barriers of entry for working-class employees, organizations are simultaneously able to create a more equitable workplace and improve the performance of teams by fostering a collaborative culture.

Three Actionable Strategies for Organizations to Build Collaboration & Equitable Workplaces

Dittmann shares three important strategies that organizations can implement to encourage collaboration and establish a more equitable workplace.

1. Add Social Class to Your Company’s Definition of Diversity

This means intentionally seeking out employees from working-class backgrounds and ensuring that they have a career path within your organization.

2. Train All Employees on How to Work Together Effectively

While people from working-class backgrounds may be more naturally inclined towards teamwork and collaborative practices, all employees must be trained and encouraged to embrace this perspective.

3. Shift Organizational Cultures To Authentically Value Collaboration

Organizations need to ensure that espoused values such as mission statements or core values align closely with the lived experiences of their employees, with particular emphasis on teamwork.

Goizueta develops business leaders of today and tomorrow with top-ranked undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and a portfolio of non-degree Emory Executive Education courses. Together, the Goizueta community strives to solve the world’s most pressing business problems.