Checking the Box on Diversity and Inclusion


I keep hearing the buzz word that people are “woke,” but employers really need to wake up and figure out that by just saying you want to be more diverse, or because you hired “that one woman supervisor,” that doesn’t make you inclusive, that might just mean she was the “token woman” and now you can check a box. Is this inclusion or tokenism?

Tokenism is the result of diversity without inclusion. In my own business, when we say to our vendors, partners and clients that we prefer to work with diverse organizations and their first response is “We don’t have a problem with hiring women or African Americans”…this tells us that you actually might. Those of us who educate others understand all the differences that make us diverse, but not everyone in the workplace does. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is so much more than employing one gender or race over another. And with regards to diversity, there is a variance in tolerating vs. celebrating, allowing vs. embracing.

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When you open your hiring process to people from all communities, you then must make a hospitable and respectful work environment for them internally. In the restaurant and bar business, we often hear that finding the right talent is difficult, employee turnover is high and hiring managers have to “lower” their standards to fill roles. I challenge you to take another look at your standards and see how they are aligning with your purpose, your mission and values, and your community. We’ve surveyed numerous organizations and asked their staff if they can be their “true and authentic selves at work,” and overwhelmingly most respond negatively. How will you respond to this as a business owner?

What are you doing to celebrate diversity in your workplace to source and keep the right talent around? When you state in your employee handbook that only “natural colored hair” is allowed at the host-stand or front desk, what defines natural? My hair color isn’t my natural color (shocker), but since I am Caucasian and blonde, do I get the job? Does your job advertisement state “hostess” rather than “host”? Are you looking for a “waitress” rather than “wait staff” or “servers”? Ever wonder why one gender over another is applying for your company’s open positions? Check the language in your job posting — chances are the wording is more biased toward one gender than you realize. Male Bias: “Strong Candidates.” Female Bias: “Polite and Pleasant.”

Talking about D&I at work can be uncomfortable for some, but a smart person once told me that if you aren’t uncomfortable then you likely aren’t growing and changing. The hospitality industry traditionally has better diversity statistics than other industries, but here are some tips to continue that trend:

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  1. Make more connections with potential employees in diverse communities.
  2. Change up your recruiting process and stop posting jobs on the mainstream job sites that pull from the traditional demographics.
  3. Develop internal practices to celebrate your employee’s uniqueness.
  4. Train your employees and managers on conducting a respectful workplace.

In summary, all industries, not just hospitality, should be as diverse and inclusive as the communities they serve. Perhaps then we can begin to make a difference.



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Amy B. Bakay, SHRM-SCP, is the Owner and Principal Consultant for HR NOLA, a Human Resources Outsourcing and Consulting firm, head quartered in New Orleans. Amy is also an Adjunct Professor at Tulane University Law School where she authored and currently instructs a course in the Masters of Jurisprudence in Employment Law program. She is a certified member of SHRM and will serve as 2019 President-Elect on the local Chapter’s Board of Directors for NOLA SHRM. Amy’s passion is solving people-problems, and joins other successful women at the American Business Women’s Association in their mission to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations for opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

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