Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


As Biden takes oath, Corporate America models religious inclusion

20 Jan, 2021

Corporate America offers a compelling model of religious inclusion as the Biden-Harris administration emphasizes diversity

by Brian J. Grim

Corporate America offers a compelling model of religious inclusion as the incoming Biden-Harris administration emphasizes diversity, including “building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity.”

For the World Economic Forum’s 2020 annual meeting in Davos, I contributed a piece titled “Diversity is top of the corporate agenda. Why doesn’t that include faith?” In it, I summarized our data showing that the majority of Fortune 100 companies fail to mention faith or religion as part of diversity efforts.

Indeed, faith and core beliefs are taboo topics in many workplaces. But that is changing. In the wake of the pioneering religious diversity work of companies like American AirlinesAmerican ExpressTexas InstrumentsIntel, Target and Tyson Foods, more leading companies are realizing that people’s diverse personal faiths and beliefs give meaning and purpose to their work. They are also realizing that including religion as part of their other diversity and inclusion efforts not only strengthens overall inclusion, but it is also good for the bottom line.

This can bee seen in this week’s blog from Salesforce’s 360 blog by Miranda Dafoe, 4 Ways To Ensure Faith Inclusion in the Workplace. She notes that with 77% of the U.S. population identifying as religious, an inclusive workplace makes space for employees of varying faiths to feel welcome.

Increasingly, workplace leaders are realizing that their most powerfully impactful “products” are not limited to the products they make or the services they provide. They’re seeing that through their day-to-day operations, they can also export a culture of respect, compassion and freedom – a different kind of “product” that both enriches the entire world and increases brand warmth.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index spotlights a diverse spectrum of companies where people are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work — including their faith. It’s not just confined to the early pioneers. It is also happening in companies like Google, Apple, SalesforceAccenturePayPal, and Walmart where faith-oriented employee resource groups (ERGs) are proliferating.

Workplace chaplains are another visible symbol of this movement, not just in workplaces such as the military, hospitals, athletics, the US Senate, but also in Fortune 100 companies, with Tyson Foods leading the way.

What is at the root of this burgeoning movement?

The short answer is that businesses are recognizing that for many people, trying to separate their faith from them while at work is as difficult as expecting a person to separate themselves from their race or gender or age. Their faith is as baked into their personhood as these other characteristics, and for some people, even more so. As Julia Oltmanns of Zurich America puts it:

“Over the years, the companies I had worked for had recognized my identity as a woman, but my identity in my faith is more important to me than my gender. Once the organization recognized that importance and supported my expression of my faith at work, I felt encouraged to be an integrated, aligned, values-driven leader in the company, allowing me to reach my full potential.”

Join us Feb. 9-11 for the (virtual) 2nd annual national Faith@Work conference to learn more – register today!