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Awareness and Inclusion Around The Holidays

December 24, 2019

Holiday Season: Opportunity for Awareness and Inclusion! 

Holidays! Ahh! The most wonderful time of the year! But wait! Depending on what religion people practice or belong to, or what culture they come from, it might be a completely different month and time for them. For Hindus and people from India and Nepal, it’s Dussehra and Diwali in October/November. For southeast Asians its Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year for a large population of Chinese Americans in January. For Buddhists/Tibetans its Losar its February. For Muslims its Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr in May/June. For people of African origin, it’s time to celebrate Kwanzaa in December. It’s time to celebrate Day of the Dead for the Latino community in November. Many Jews are celebrating Rosh Hashanah in September and Hanukkah in December. 

So “holidays” might mean completely different things to individuals depending on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion and other dimensions of diversity. There is also a commonality. Most of these holidays are rooted in religion, is a time for families to gather, connect and celebrate with food and family time. 

As our population continues to shift, our workplaces become more diverse and our businesses become truly global, there is a huge opportunity for us to incorporate inclusion in celebrating holidays to avoid unintentional exclusion, discomfort, hurt feelings, isolation and worse — a charge of religious discrimination. 

Along with the rest of the country, Iowa has seen a huge shift in demographics and population in the last 10 years. According to the 2016 American Community Survey, Iowa’s white population was 96.6% in 1990 and 90.6% in 2017, and 77% of the population are of Christian faith. This means a considerable 23% of the population practice a different faith or no faith and hence may be celebrating a completely different holiday. 

Growing diversity in the community and workplace also means our companies are increasingly working to make sure everyone in the community and workplace feels included and a sense of belonging. Happy employees are undoubtedly the most productive employees. Inclusive workforces are six times more likely to innovate and have 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period. 

Here are some additional statistics why Inclusion is so important for your business. 

1. The millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse. Any elementary or high school classroom today does not look like the class you were in when you were growing up, not to mention that by 2045 the U.S. will be a majority minority country. Only 56% of millennial and Gen Z Americans are white in contrast to 72% of Baby Boomers. (CNN Money) 

2. A total of 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity as an important factor when considering employment opportunities and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity and inclusion. (Glassdoor) 

3. A total of 35% of diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones. (McKinsey) 

4. Companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. (Harvard Business Review) 

5. According to a 2015 McKinsey report, companies in the top quarter for racial/ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to surpass peers, while those in the same bracket for gender diversity are 15% more likely to do the same. (McKinsey & Company) 

Now, back to celebrating diverse holidays! Here are some tips and considerations. 

- Know who is working for you, what cultures they belong to, what holidays they celebrate and celebrate it with them. Wish them the appropriate greeting (Happy Dusherra, Happy Diwali, Happy Lunar New Year, Happy Losar, Eid Mubarak, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa), make accommodations for a floating holiday, host lunch and learns and invite members of the resource group or outside community partners to learn more about the holiday. 

- Create a list of diversity holiday calendar and share it widely in the organization. Post it on your website and intranet, host lunch and learns to learn more about the holidays and host celebrations. 

- Consider celebrating multi-denominational holiday parties incorporating all the other holidays being celebrated in December and recognizing them. 

- Practice respect for these special dates and plan events and meetings around these holidays. Don’t host huge parties or office get togethers during the month of Ramadan, if a large number of team members are observing Ramadan. 

- Encourage employees to share their celebrations through stories, decorations, food, blogs etc. and celebrate with them. 

- Recognize that not everyone celebrates the same holiday in the same manner and make it optional as well. 

- If you are a global company, know that some offices around the world will be closed for business for more than one day. 

- If a certain team is made up of a majority of a certain culture, discuss time off to make sure business can run smoothly without disruption. 

- On the flip side, having team members who celebrate different holidays might allow you to have workers at a time of the year when majority of people are taking time off to cover shifts and keep the business running. 

Lastly, why celebrate one holiday when we have so many to celebrate! 

**Any holiday that is not mentioned is unintentional.

Sanjita Pradhan

Sanjita Pradhan is the director of diversity and inclusion at the Greater Des Moines Partnership where she leads our internal and external DEI strategies to ensure DSM USA is welcoming and inclusive to all individuals.