As the U.S. becomes more diverse, businesses need to not only hire diversely, but also practice real inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion—in the workplace, in the boardroom and throughout the community—are more than trends, they are business imperatives. With the United States increasingly racially and culturally diverse, and equality for LGBTQ individuals increasingly accepted, organizations that persist in affinity-based hiring practices and board choices (where people choose people most like themselves) risk alienating their customers, tarnishing their reputation and negatively impacting the bottom line. 

Two recent studies paint a picture for the future: Pew Research Center forecast in 2016 that in less than four decades the United States will no longer have a single racial or ethnic majority; a Harris Poll (GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance 2017) indicates the majority of persons over age 72 are supportive of LGBTQ individuals, with Millennials (ages 18 to 34) nearing a 90 percent acceptance rate.

Although diversity includes characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation or gender identity, true diversity includes background and experience, which encompasses socioeconomic class, religion or abilities. All of these differences enrich organizations by introducing diversity of thought, which in turn leads to greater creativity and innovation. When the intersectionality of characteristics exists, benefits are magnified (to learn more about intersectionality visit www.PFLAGColumbus.com.

Inclusion goes one step further. While some organizations are intent on “checking off the box” for diversity by, for example, hiring persons of diverse characteristics, they fall short on inclusion, leading to poor job satisfaction and retention issues. Inclusion flourishes in supportive environments that provide mentorship, assign meaningful projects, encourage openness and offer promotion opportunities. In short, diversity is being invited to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance.

What does this mean for organizations in today’s economic and political environment? On Thursday August 17, Central Ohio PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) will address these issues in a luncheon panel presentation: “Diversity & Inclusion: It’s more than HR, it’s PR.” Todd Corley, chief diversity and inclusion officer, OhioHealth and founder of the TAPO Institute; Elaine Roberts, president and CEO, Columbus Regional Airport Authority; and Ani Palacios, Latina author and editor-in-chief of Pukiyari Publishers, will explore these questions as Gayle Saunders, APR, The Saunders Company, moderates. The event is open to the public; register by August 10 at http://www.prsacentralohio.org/event/diversity-panel.

Jaron Terry, MS, APR, Fellow PRSA, is president, Jaron Terry Communications, Ltd. and adjunct faculty at Franklin University where she teaches Crisis Communications. Jaron is vice president of the volunteer board, PFLAG Columbus, and member of the National Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Public Relations Society of America. She can be reached at 614-771-1662 or jaron.terry@outlook.com.