By Wendy Sarubbi | October 24, 2013 4:48 pm

Success in today’s increasingly diverse world requires institutions that tell employees, “don’t be afraid to bring your culture to work,” a leading disability advocate told College of Medicine faculty, staff and students on October 21.

JenniferBrownColorJennifer Brown, founder of Jennifer Brown Consulting, works with companies to create more diverse and enlightened cultures by focusing on the changing demographics of today’s workforce. She spoke at an Office for Diversity and Inclusion lunch-and-learn after giving the keynote speech at UCF’s Diversity Breakfast kicking off Diversity Week.

Brown equated diversity with an iceberg, noting that institutions have made strides in recognizing and including groups that are above the waterline – those of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders and ages. But many organizations fail to be inclusive in areas below the surface, including religion and spirituality, education and sexual orientation.

One of Brown’s areas of focus has been inclusion for the LGBT community, and helping organizations establish practices that keep employees from “scrubbing their full person from their work life” and “leaving your full self at the door.”

A recent study found that 75 percent of workers “cover” some aspect of their identity to their work colleagues. “Covering takes a tremendous amount of energy that could go toward more positive things,” Brown said. And as companies engage in a battle for talented employees, those that have a welcoming, safe environment for diverse workers succeed.

Diversity and inclusion are two different factors, she explained. Diversity is the “who” and the “what,” the measurable mix of people in a group. Inclusion is how an organization’s culture makes that mix work and whether diverse people feel valued, respected and accepted.

The simple choice of words can be a powerful signal about inclusiveness, she explained, pointing out that invitations to bring your wife or husband to an event send a seemingly intolerant message to same-sex couples.

“Diversity makes us better at what we do,” she said. “It offers us the opportunity to come up with more innovative solutions because we have a diversity of thought. Successful companies understand we need a diverse staff to serve a diverse world.”

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