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Representation meaning: what is representation?

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Representation definition

When we speak about representation in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we’re most often referring to whether an organisation or institution is truly reflective of the many diverse people that make up society. For many organisations, representation refers specifically to whether the organisation contains a proportionate number of women or people from black, Asian or otherwise minoritised ethnicity backgrounds, at all levels and reflective of society. 

The term refers most often to our personal views on whether we as individuals see people who are “like us” in positions of power or influence, or in senior leadership positions within an organisation. Representation is also important in the images that we see in advertising, on our television and movie screens and in magazines and other forms of media. Representation is important for our own sense of self-esteem and self-worth, as it allows us to see opportunities and possibilities where we may not have otherwise seen them, reinforcing that we truly matter and are included in society. 

A good example of the power of representation is where people from otherwise minoritised groups are appointed into senior or leadership positions, maybe for the first time in an organisation or institution’s history. This allows those people from similar backgrounds or identities to aspire to comparable success, knowing that achieving such success is possible. 

Another good example of the power of representation can be seen where otherwise excluded groups are included, catered to, or seen for the first time in some otherwise long-standing exclusionary practice. One powerful example can be seen where the first black or Asian toy dolls are produced after a long period where only white-skinned dolls were available previously. For young black or Asian girls, this would be the first time that they saw a doll that “looked like them”, giving them a powerful message that they are being represented and that they belong.  

Real-world context

  • Recruitment: Your company will never be equitable if its talent pools aren't varied. Talent acquisition and HR teams must work consistently to diversify talent pools. They must examine hiring procedures to eliminate any queries or requirements that might be biassed. Job listings and recruitment marketing campaigns are to be disseminated through many media in order to attract a broad range of potential candidates. 

  • Internal Talent Development: HR directors should make sure that internal applicants have the opportunity to apply for new positions within the company in addition to working to broaden external talent pools. A growing number of team members prioritise internal mobility, as according to a research by Lever, 67% of workers stating they would quit their company if it wasn't provided. Leading companies are using talent marketplaces—which match workers to projects, jobs, and full-time roles based on their talents, experiences, and goals—to activate internal mobility. 

  • Mentorship Opportunities: When compared to other strategies like job tests and training, mentoring has been shown to increase representation among managers in the workplace. While workplace mentorship programmes are beneficial, not all strategies are created equal. Skills-based plans match mentees to mentors based on shared career goals and related expertise, rather than letting seniority level or role dictate mentorship pairings. To maximise the success of their mentoring initiatives, many leaders are using workforce intelligence to serve as a single source that sheds light on the knowledge and competencies within their organisations. 

Related services

To continue reading about FAIRER Consulting and our DE&I consultancy services, please see some of our related pages here:

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