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Why we need to talk about hidden diversity

Why we need to talk about hidden diversity

Tomorrow is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. A bit of a mouthful, perhaps. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: every day should be about diversity and dialogue between different cultures, but regardless, it got me thinking about diversity and inclusion.

At Johnson & Johnson there’s a strong focus on diversity – it’s entrenched in Our Credo – but recently I’ve been thinking about what exactly that might mean when it comes to more ‘hidden’ or not so obvious aspects of diversity. For example, I was talking to a member of my team who is part of the LBGTQ+ community and who was concerned that being gay might limit his career development or mobility due to social prejudices, or even, in extreme cases, laws that would make it impossible or dangerous for him to move to a different country with his partner. Other non-visible aspects of diversity might include medical conditions, neurodiversity, or belonging to a religion, belief or culture, which again, like being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, might not be as apparent as gender expression or ethnicity, and yet could be subject to the same stigma and discrimination. These invisible groups often don’t feel comfortable declaring their difference, even though they need support and to have a voice.

Why is this such a big deal? Well firstly, there’s doing what’s right from a human point of view. As one of the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare companies, we have a duty and opportunity to drive change. And secondly, there’s the business case: research shows that employees who feel valued, respected and like they belong, deliver better outcomes than employees[1] who wonder whether they’re wholly accepted and wonder why they can’t see leaders they identify with. Businesses don’t get good performances from employees who feel insecure, who are questioning whether there might be, after all, a glass ceiling above them.

The best way of reaching our goal at Johnson & Johnson of creating a better, healthier world is by people we work with feeling free to express themselves fully and bring their unique perspectives, experiences, and their authentic selves to work. That’s why we’re trying to empower and unite our employees via six EMEA support networks called Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), two of which represent sometimes less visible diverse communities: the Alliance for Diverse Abilities (ADA) and Open & Out (which represents the LGBTQ+ community), both of which have chapters across the EMEA region. But we need to do more. We need to encourage a shift from passive non-discrimination to proactive inclusion, and to champion and give voice to minorities. Let’s start by discussing how real inclusion means supporting both visible and hidden diversities and ensuring there are communities of support that everybody can connect to.

Because we all perform at our best when we can be our authentic, diverse selves – even when that point of difference isn’t apparent at a glance.


[1] Badgett MVL. et al. TheBusiness Impact of LGBT-Supportive WorkplacePolicies. May 2013. [Accessed March 2022]