Last week, I had the opportunity to present to more than 500 members of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion about religious inclusion in the workplace. I think the interest in the topic demonstrates a growing commitment to including religious literacy in DEI initiatives but also, perhaps, a bit of uncertainty about where, exactly, to start.  We aren’t comfortable talking about religion in the places where we work and volunteer – and that is to our detriment.

Like race, religion is central to our identity. It can shape our worldview, guide our moral and ethical choices, and affect how we share ourselves with the world and how others perceive us in our workplaces and communities. But until very recently, religion was often left out of DEI initiatives. Ironically, I came across research that showed even on organization’s DEI webpages, religion is rarely mentioned. We cannot create and support diverse and inclusive workplaces if we are leaving something so significant out of the conversation.

Some leading organizations are already on board and fully supportive of expanding their DEI initiatives to embrace religious literacy. Some might need to see the business case for opening these conversations at work. Thankfully, there is a growing body of research about the economic impact of an inclusive workplace. Here are some facts to consider:

  • 39% of religious minorities in Canada report feeling uncomfortable speaking up at work (link). This number is higher than for women or racial minorities. Consider what great insight and ideas your organization might be missing out on.
  • Harvard Business Review found diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture a new market (link). Diverse staff, especially ones empowered to contribute, can open the door to new opportunities.
  • 2/3rds of job seekers report that a diverse workforce is an important factor in evaluating job offers and organizations (Glassdoor – link). If you want to attract and retain top talent, diversity, in all its forms, needs to be a priority.
  • Forbes reported a study that showed inclusive teams make better decisions 87% of the time (link). Diverse experiences, and a culture of inclusion, can result in more perspectives being offered as teams make decisions.
  • Hate crimes, specifically religiously motivated hate crimes, have surged in the past few years. Your employees may be dealing with fear, apprehension, and concerns about their safety, perhaps even within the workplace.


How does talking about religion in your workplace help?

It can change your culture.

  • It signals to your religious staff that they are seen and can bring their whole selves to work.
  • It educates your workforce and sensitizes them to different perspectives.
  • It helps create more authentic relationships within your team, with your customers, and within the communities you serve.
  • It aligns with other DEI initiatives and goals in your organization and lends them more authenticity.

So where do we start? We offered a few ideas in a previous blog post. While the basic principles of effective DEI initiatives apply to incorporating religious inclusion, there are also some unique nuances to consider as organizations get started. At Encounter we are developing some new training programs for organizations including The Religiously Literate Leader, and Religious Inclusivity and the Welcoming Workplace, to respond to the growing interest in this topic. We are grateful to our colleagues at CCDI who have started this conversation with their members, and we look forward to sharing more with the organizations that work with Encounter. Stay tuned for more details.

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