An important perspective for Inclusion champions and Inclusive management to be familiar with are the concepts of homogeneity and heterogeneity.

By simple definition, homogeneity is the quality of being similar or uniform. In D&I terms, such an understanding of homogeneity in a certain minority group helps to identify the needs of this certain diverse group, which will be completely unique to them. 

For example, maternity leaves and maternity support will be applicable only to a female employee. Or infrastructure and accessibility options will be made available to persons with disabilities. A sex re-assignment surgery leave is relevant only to a trans person.

This is the part that is easily understood. Organisations that are keen on creating inclusivity within, often begin their journey by addressing these unique needs and put in place relevant policies and support interventions.

However, oftentimes, it stops with just addressing the unique needs of the diverse group and putting them all in the same bracket.

The existence of heterogeneity within the homogeneous group is missed and even overlooked more often. Due to this, similar behavior patterns are expected from the entire minority group. For example, in case a returning mother decides to take a longer duration break from work for her child, a supervisor may conclude that all women going on a maternity leave will have a change in their priority.

Such overlooking of the heterogeneity within the homogeneous groups may be seen in statements such as:

“Geeta (fictitious name) worked right through her pregnancy and was even following up on closures while being wheeled into the labour room. I don’t see a similar commitment from Saumya. I think it will be better to find a back-up replacement for her.”

The homogeneity: women taking maternity leave. The heterogeneity: Geeta and Saumya may just have their own unique ways of expressing commitment to work and family.

Or consider this example:

“I had a gay person on my team once. And he was very creative. So, yeah, when I need creative work to be done, I will for sure be happy to hire a gay person on my team.” 

Well, obviously, the point here being that not all Gays are creative. Each person will have his own unique talents, and creativity may not be the top one. It just might be driving the bottom line!

“I hired a person on a wheel chair, believing he will be here for the long haul. But he left within six months. I am not very open to hiring people with disabilities. They just leave. And I don’t even know why.”

Can one person within a diverse group really be the spokesperson for the rest of the group? Need I go on with more examples?

The key point that I do wish to leave you, the reader, with is this: homogeneity needs to be considered to create the relevant policies. However, a pure focus on the homogeneity will impact the uniqueness of the individual, taking away their authenticity, which will in turn impact the productivity. Both need to be understood and be placed in the appropriate perspective for longer term benefits. 

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