Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion

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What Faith-Oriented DEI Contributes to “Belonging”

4 Apr, 2024

By Kent Johnson | See more at Authenticity & Connection

The now-widespread focus on “belonging” as integral to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a signal that the time has now come for religion to be included as a full-fledged part of DEI.

Beginning around 2019, “Belonging” emerged as a hot topic in DEI circles. Many leaders began wrestling with the fact that some DEI programs can have a tendency to alienate employees to the point that they feel unwelcome; that they don’t “belong.” This warrants more thought.

Here’s a common Venn diagram from Krys Burnette that seeks to illustrate the interrelations between DEI and Belonging:

The lower center section highlights an important insight, that emphasizing equity and diversity WITHOUT a corresponding emphasis on “inclusion for all” causes disengagement and low retention. If the overall message is perceived as pushing cultural assimilation – a melting pot that disregards distinctives – many employees will feel excluded, diminished and alienated.

Often in the DEI world, “inclusion” is measured predominantly to ensure that people in recognized diversity categories are represented in management, salary scale and “seats at the table” in numbers that mirror the ratios their categories bear to the general population of the community, the country or the world. If a DEI program is seen as mainly dedicated to achieving that mathematical outcome, it can appear to pit employees against one another. It feels like a zero-sum game; “them” against “us.” The “ins” versus the “outs.” Without a concurrent focus on “belonging” for all, the benefits to be derived from proportional representation tend to get lost in the math.

DEI’s adoption of the goal of “belonging” begins to address this matter. Unlike “inclusion,” which often is treated as a fact corroborated by mathematical ratios applied to specific groups, belonging entails a highly subjective element. And it begs a key question: “Belonging to WHAT?”

In this context, I suggest that a concerted focus on RELIGIOUS diversity, done well, can mitigate a zero-sum-gamed ethos and strengthen the sense of belonging for everyone in the organization, without compromising traditional diversity goals.

Over 80% of the global population identifies as “religiously affiliated” and this number is projected to increase to over 85 percent by 2050. It’s clear that the overlap between religious diversity and traditional diversity categories is huge. Many people across the diversity spectrum are religiously affiliated. The reach of religious diversity is even greater if one applies the following common sweeping definition of religion: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Especially with that definition in mind, a concerted focus on religious diversity avoids the exclusivity of many other diversity categories. It speaks to all of us.

Religious diversity doesn’t seek to advance one group in relation to any other. Its goal, instead, is to serve other celebrated goals of DEI: to free employees, first, to “be themselves,” second, to openly share their richly diverse business-related ideas, views and philosophies, and third, to advance a culture of “full engagement” of all. A purposeful focus on religious diversity promotes meaningful and warm connections across all diversity categories.  It welcomes people of all faiths, atheists and agnostics, for the specific purpose of promoting a culture of listening, mutual respect and cross-cultural friendship. And, importantly, belonging.

As can be seen in the following linked summary, companies across the spectrum of industries have eagerly embraced religious diversity, with powerfully positive results. Employee resource groups (ERGs) representing specific beliefs (and atheism) have sprung up, leaving the door open for additional beliefs. In some companies, faith-oriented groups fall under an umbrella diversity category referred to in various ways including “Interfaith,” “Inter Belief,” etc.

Many of these faith-oriented ERGs offer informational sessions to all interested coworkers, describing the relevance of their respective religious views and practices to their work. These sessions often feature multiple faiths, and include discussion of unifying themes, including values they hold in common. These ERGs also engage in joint projects to help communities with food banks, tutoring, elimination of human trafficking and many other positive outreach works. All these activities strengthen participants’ sense of belonging and connection, across sectarian lines. More information about faith-oriented ERGs is available here.

The result is a deep and wide sense of BELONGING – not just belonging to particular diversity groups (though that is important), but, profoundly, belonging to the entire enterprise – the whole of the company’s work.

HR professionals: This is worth pursuing.

Women leaders bring together Jews and Arabs to re-ignite the Abraham Accords

2 Apr, 2024

By Loureen Ayyoub

As war wages from Ukraine to the Middle East, Shirin Taber,  Iranian-American woman, refuses to allow the inevitable strife of conflict stop her from building bridges of peace.

Shirin Taber, founder of Empower Women Media and Abraham Women’s Alliance, coordinated an executive forum at the United Nations Plaza in New York, bringing together interfaith leaders of Arab, Jewish, Muslim and Christian backgrounds to share their stories and peace building solutions.

Taber was raised by Muslim and Christian parents, and is a longtime advocate for women led reconciliation. “As we know, women are often the first responders to conflict, and we knew that if we could get women in the room together, mothers, sisters, daughters, that we could actually activate peace and re-ignite the Abraham Accords,” Taber explained.

From the painful dialogue around the Israel-Gaza conflict, to the ongoing hate crimes affecting nearly every people group in the United States, the gathering included panels, short films and experiential presentations. One such presentation included a spoken word poem written and presented by CBS reporter and poet Loureen Ayyoub, entitled “What If:” a rhythmic reminder of the sacred value every human equally carries, regardless of one’s cultural background.

One of the several films featured included a Jewish woman and a Palestinian woman openly sharing their pain from the conflict with one another. Taber believes having the uncomfortable conversations is the critical step needed for peace-building.

“I believe women have to keep contending for peace and multi-faith societies, because if women don’t, who else will do it? As Michelle Obama said it could take 300 years to empower women. We think it could happen sooner. And we think where the world is at today, where there is so much division, that women could actually drive that change,” she explained.

A study from the International Peace Institute found that peace agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years when women are involved in the negotiation process.

Abraham Women’s Alliance plans to host an executive forum for Arab and Jewish leaders in Dubai in November 2024. The two-day leadership event will include workshops, practical tools, women’s films and an excursion to the Abraham Family Center in Abu Dhabi.

“Unity is possible; it’s getting people in the room together, who are normally perhaps back to back, getting them face to face, having those conversations, building trust, and creating a path forward.”

And forward is the only direction, Taber hopes, such efforts, will take the world.

For more details about the Abraham Women’s Alliance and upcoming events, contact: Shirin  at Empower Women Media

 

Building Peace Through Religiously Inclusive Workplaces

2 Apr, 2024

Peace is being built by millions of people daily through company-sponsored, employee-led faith and interfaith workplace initiatives. Join Dr. Brian Grim to learn about this amazing movement for peace occurring in Fortune 500 companies as diverse as Google, Salesforce, DELL, CVS Health, American Airlines, PayPal, and more!

Religions for Peace (RFP) USA is the largest and most broadly-based representative multi-religious forum in the United States, with participants from more than 50 religious communities, representing each of the major faith traditions. The organization identifies shared commitments among religious communities in the U.S., enhances mutual understanding among these communities, and facilitates collaboration to address issues of common concern. We envision a nation and world in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating pathways to peace and justice

Sponsors for Faith@Work ERG Conference Growing

1 Apr, 2024

We’re pleased to announce that corporate sponsorships are open for Dare to Overcome (DTO) USA, our 5th annual national conference for Fortune 500 faith-oriented ERGs, hosted by the Busch School of Business. Platinum sponsors include: DELL Technologies, American Airlines, and Coca-Cola Consolidated. Diamond sponsors include Equinix, PayPal, and BYU Wheatley Institute. Gold sponsors include ServiceNow.

Get in touch if your corporation would like to be a sponsor. We also have supporting sponsors that include Chaplain Care, Interfaith Photovoice, and True Summit.

Sponsor Packet – National Dare to Overcome 2024

Is religion at work legal?

27 Mar, 2024

How faith-friendly workplaces increase recruitment, retention & revenue

Many think that “separation of church and state” applies to the public sector. In fact, by US, UK and other laws, religion is a protected characteristic that must be accommodated in the workplace.

Join me on April 12th (details below) as I discuss how faith-friendly workplaces increase recruitment, retention & revenue. Such workplaces may have prayer/meditation rooms, chaplains, and/or faith-oriented employee resource groups (ERGs). REGISTER HERE.

In this holy season when Muslims are observing Ramadan, Christians are in Holy Week, Jews just celebrated Purim and Hindus Holi, etc., accommodating various faiths is a business imperative. (See Faith calendar from our friends at the Thanks-Giving Foundation.)

And if you can, please also join us in Washington DC for the 5th national Faith@Work conference, May 21-22!

Brian Grim, Ph.D.
President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
Global Chair, Dare to Overcome


In-Person Admission (includes lunch):

– Gold/Silver members – Prepaid (No Cost)
– Students – $15 in advance ($25 at the door)
– Others – $25 in advance ($35 at the door)

Zoom – $10 for MCLE (no cost for Gold/Silver members); Free to observe via Zoom. Email laura.ngarner@gmail.com for the Zoom information, and to pay for the MCLE credit for Zoom attendees.

Location: Chapman University School of Law, 1 University Drive, Orange, CA

Map Link

CLICK TO RSVP

Globally, Restrictions on Religion Reach 14-Year High

21 Mar, 2024

By Brian Grim

Government restrictions on religion globally have reached a 14-year high, according to the annual report released this month by the Pew Research Center.

For example, 92.4% of governments (183 out of 198) worldwide now harass religious groups with no indication of relief, as shown in the chart below.

Indeed, the question no longer is where it is happening but, unfortunately, where isn’t it? Read Pew’s full report here.


This is research I began and led when I was a senior researcher in religion & world affairs at the Pew Research Center. Such trends led me to start the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, looking for new ways to advance freedom of religion or belief for all, including those without a religious belief.

Why does this matter?

Of course, there are legitimate limits to religious freedom, i.e., it does not give liberty to do harm. But, research shows that as governments put more restrictions on the free practice of religion and belief, conflict and violent persecution will be the result.

Research also shows that when the restrictions become harassment and interference, they also become a drag on the economy. However, when restrictions are low, not only is peace and prosperity possible, but also this is associated with a bundle of social goods, as shown in the chart below.


Data and experience show that protecting freedom of religion or belief for all (including those without a religious belief) is both an antidote to conflict and polarization as well as a boon to economies and societies.

But as restrictions rise, what can be done to reverse the trends?

What can be done?

The adage think globally act locally is a viable way to tackle this massive issue. While there are many efforts by advocates and policy makers to address these trends, there is something that millions of people can do each day as they go to work. They can build religious freedom by creating faith-friendly workplaces.

This can be done by helping everyone at a workplace have a sense of true belonging by not only respecting and accommodating their deeply held beliefs and associated practices but also by giving opportunities for people to be supportive of co-workers and team-members through initiatives such as faith-and-belief employee resource groups (ERGs) and other such mechanism.

Workplaces benefit from being faith-friendly in many ways, including by having resources such as ERGs that promote “spiritual health“, one of the four essential pillars of health recognized by McKinsey & Co.’s Health Institute.

As a practical step, please join us in Washington DC for the 5th national Faith@Work conference “Dare to Overcome“, an annual gathering of Fortune 500 leaders of faith-and-belief ERGs. Register today!

 

UK Parliament APPG FoRB Readout

13 Mar, 2024

Business & FoRB Event – Executive Summary

APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB)

On March 5th, the APPG FoRB held an event in partnership with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation focusing on creating and fostering faith-friendly workplaces within the business field to increase social and economic well-being. Speakers included: Ruth Jones, MP; Oliver Pawle, the London based Chairman of Korn Ferry Board Services Practice; Sukie Singh, the vice president of Faithforce at Salesforce; Brian Grim, the founding president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation; Baroness Verma and chaired by Jim Shannon, MP.

What is happening in companies is what we want to have in our societies. Business has led so many things for cultural change. Business was at the forefront of LGBTQ, and they are doing this now by embracing the culture within. FoRB is always a me-story, and indeed there are so many people being killed, churches destroyed, mosques and many more in all countries religious freedom is under duress. But a positive me-story is the way FoRB is expanding in workplace cultures around the world.

For example, Salesforce has implemented robust diversity and inclusion initiatives to uphold this commitment, including their employee business resource groups Faithforce – with a vision of “creating inclusive employee experiences for people of diverse beliefs and worldviews, promoting trust, learning, and religious pluralism,” to advocate for global faith communities.

What steps should business leaders take? They need to encourage active faith networks, and to use national resources to support these workplace Faith networks (just as they have LGBTQ networks), implement proper literacy training for people and leaders and employees to understand different faith cultures and religions.

One example of businesses making a larger impact for not just their workplaces but increase opportunities for those in need from religious minority communities. In Pakistan, religious minorities are limited in their access to employment. For instance, Christians are limited to sanitation jobs solely because of their religion. This highlights a unique opportunity for businesses continue to implement faith at work by opening the door for these groups to work and provide for their families.

Empirical evidence has shown that religious freedom is highly correlated with socioeconomic well-being. By creating faith-friendly workplaces, employees can work in a safe environment and perform to their greatest measure as motivated by their religion or belief. Such fostering creates a sense of belonging for religious employees thereby encouraging them to continue with the company instead of taking their talents elsewhere.

Businesses have a unique opportunity and advantage in being pioneers as builders seeking to advance the human right of FoRB through social harmony in the workplace.

Recommendations:

  1. (1) Take the formula and actions of the private sector of business and introduce it into the public sector through proper training and accurate information in the media.
  2. (2) Take this message throughout the UK, for example, by holding a Faith at Work event in Newport at the ICC.

Rolls-Royce, Baringa, most faith-friendly UK workplaces

1 Mar, 2024

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: London, 4 March 2024: New study gives first look at FTSE 100’s religiously inclusive firms

London, Salesforce Tower: Today, the two most faith-and-belief-friendly workplaces in the U.K. — Baringa Partners LLP and Rolls-Royce plc — will be honored at the first annual Faith at Work Conference at London Salesforce Tower. They took highest marks in the first UK edition of the corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index and Monitor.

Both organisations have fully integrated religion (including non-theistic beliefs) as part of their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In doing so they have created workplaces where employees of all faiths and beliefs feel a sense of belonging, which is a benefit to retention, recruitment and ultimately revenue.

This inclusive environment related to religion and belief is facilitated by organisational communications, policies and programs. These include:

This inclusive environment related to religion and belief is facilitated by organisational communications, policies and programs. These include:

  • – Featuring religion on the company’s main diversity pages
  • – Sponsoring active faith and belief employee resource groups (ERGs)
  • – Sharing best practices with other organistions
  • – Addressing religion in diversity training
  • – Providing access to spiritual care, including in the case of Rolls-Royce, chaplains
  • – Being attentive to how religion impacts stakeholders
  • – Accommodating the religious needs of employees
  • – Having clear procedures for reporting discrimination
  • – Encouraging employees to attend religious diversity professional conferences
  • – Matching employee donations to religious organisations
  • – Equitably celebrating or honoring holy days of employees

Joining Rolls-Royce on the top ten faith-friendly firms listed on the FTSE 100 are BT Group, Schroders, Whitbread, HSBC, Ocado Group, Phoenix, Anglo American, United Utilities and St. James Place, according to the REDI Monitor. Joining Baringa on the top firms on the UK REDI Index are Ovo Energy, NATS, Thames Water, and Rolls-Royce, which is the first FTSE 100 company to opt in to the REDI Index.

The number of UK companies opting in to the REDI Index survey increased by 150%, from two in 2023 to five in 2024. While newcomers Baringa and Rolls-Royce took the top spots in 2024, OVO Energy and NATS, which took the top spots in 2023, both showed progress, both substantially increasing their scores over the past year. Thames Water, a new participant this year, rounded out the top five companies on the UK REDI Index.

The 2024 UK REDI Index and this first-of-its-kind REDI Monitor study of companies on the FTSE 100 list seek to add to the understanding of how companies are including – or not including – a focus on religion in their overall commitments to diversity.

These top ten faith-and-belief-friendly companies from the FTSE 100 with top scores on the REDI Monitor and the five companies from the REDI Index will all be honored today at the inaugural UK Faith at Work conference, The Economics of Faith & Belief Inclusive Workplaces, held in Salesforce London Tower.

This conference is aimed at senior leaders across business and government to explore the research and best practice which links faith & belief friendly workplaces with greater employee wellbeing and improved organisational performance.

By gathering together leading employers from across the UK, in both the public and private sectors, we will explore how organisations that embrace a faith & belief inclusive culture can gain a competitive advantage in talent acquisition, retention and overall productivity.

REDI Monitor vs. Index

The FTSE 100 Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Monitor tracks the growing movement among companies on the FTSE 100 list that are including religion and belief as a core part of their diversity initiatives. RFBF staff analyse the main diversity pages of companies on the FTSE 100 list, coding up the ways their diversity commitments include – or do not include – religion and belief. This is the first year to monitor the FTSE 100. The US Fortune 100 has been annually monitored since 2020.

The REDI Index is an opt-in international benchmarking survey that companies use to benchmark their progress in (and be recognized for) including religion and belief as an integral part of their overall commitment to workplace diversity, equity and inclusion. It covers 11 topics, as shown at right.

Comparison with the Fortune 100

About 8-in-10 companies (79%) on the FTSE 100 make some reference to religion on their main diversity pages. Among the US Fortune 100 companies a slightly smaller share (73%) do so.

Both the FTSE 100 and the US Fortune 100 companies are much more likely than the overall US Fortune 500 companies to mention religion, with fewer than half (43.8%) of US Fortune 500 companies mentioning religion in 2023.

A clear indication of the degree to which religion is actively included as part of an organisation’s DEI priorities is whether the company has faith-based or interfaith employee resource groups (ERGs).

Indeed, while most FTSE 100 companies have one or more types of ERGs for race, abilities, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth, fewer have ERGs related to religion or belief. Among FTSE 100 companies, 12% have such ERGs. On this score, a larger share of US Fortune 100 companies (19%) have faith-related ERGs, according to our ongoing analysis of Fortune 100 diversity pages.

“These data, while showing progress, indicate that much more attention needs to be placed on including religion and belief as a DEI focus not only among companies on the FTSE 100 list, but in companies on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Brian Grim, the study’s lead researcher and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Organisations interested in participating in the US and global edition of the REDI Index have until 15th March to submit their surveys. Results will be announced on 21 May 2024 in Washington DC at the Annual Dare to Overcome Faith@Work National ERG Conference.

Bloomberg Law: Corporate diversity now includes religion

23 Feb, 2024

President of RFBF, Brian Grim, was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article on the importance of embracing religious diversity in the workplace. He believes that a community of different identities & views can foster team-building & avoid polarization.

Companies Embrace Religion as New Facet of Diversity Efforts

Feb 1, 2024, article by Khorri Atkinson

From the article …

Forty-three Fortune 500 companies have publicly reported having faith-oriented ERGs, up from 37 companies in 2022, according to a recent report by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a nonprofit that advises employers on religious issues. Their ERGs have members from various faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and even Atheism.

“It’s happening. Companies aren’t necessarily broadcasting it yet because they want to make sure it works and get some track record before they sort of go public with what they’re doing,” said Brian Grim, founding president of the RFBF.

“There’s been a growing recognition of religious diversity in America,” Grim said. “Companies see that the workforce isn’t like it was 30 years ago” because it’s getting more diverse with both workers of minority faiths and those who aren’t affiliated with a particular faith.

A community of different identities and viewpoints can foster team-building and avoid polarization, but without care and sensitivity, these groups can lead to misunderstanding and conflict, Grim said.

“One of the things that many companies have found is that people won’t just join an interfaith group” because there’s a presumption it would “water down our faith,” he said.

“That’s like, well, ‘Do I have to pretend like I don’t believe what I believe and come sing kumbaya?’” Grim said. Instead, having faith-specific groups under an interfaith umbrella are more likely to effectively engage workers while creating opportunities for interfaith collaborative ventures, he said.

Daring to Overcome the Barriers that Divide

20 Feb, 2024

By Brian Grim

I’ll make a presentation, Unity in Diversity: Daring to Overcome the Barriers that Divide. Indeed, polarization is on the rise In countries around the world often fueled by narratives that suggest minorities are a threat to historic majorities. Such narratives view diversity as a liability rather than an asset. What is often overlooked is the economic benefits of engaged pluralism, which we refer to as covenantal pluralism.

In societies where people’s right to belief and behave according to their beliefs are protected and respected, development is much more sustainable largely because such societies are not only more innovative, but are more peaceful – a critical condition for sustainable development. These findings not only apply at the macro level, but at the micro level. Specifically, a growing number of businesses are embracing culturally inclusive workplaces, celebrating the backgrounds and cultural identities of all employees.

Indeed, in a business (or any organization), a culture of belonging and inclusion is associated with high performance, less attrition, better recruitment of talent, and bottom line success. This presentation will give examples from some of the biggest and best global corporations, showing how these principles work and can position any organization, community or country for success.