Workplace Diversity

"When everyone is included, everyone wins."

Jesse Jackson, American Baptist minister and politician
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This Business English lesson plan on workplace diversity has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Diversity is the buzz word in every boardroom around the world. A diverse workforce leads to better ideas, and therefore to more success for a business. But despite this, workforces across the globe continue to lack diversity, and any commitment to boosting diversity all too often appears to be nothing more than lip service to deflect criticism. In this Business English lesson plan on diversity in the workplace, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the advantages of diverse teams, workplace discrimination and why there is resistance to diversity at work.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

CNBC | Silicon Valley’s Achilles’ heel threatens to topple its supremacy in innovation

The article talks about the lack of diversity in big tech companies and how this could affect their recruitment of the best talent. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TEDx Talk by Arwa Mahdawi called “The Surprising Solution to Workplace Diversity” in which she talks about her own experience with diversity and how companies can become more diverse.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how businesses can increase their diversity, whether or not companies are just paying lip service to diversity and diversity training.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with workplace diversity such as unconscious bias, microaggression and affirmative action. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about diversity at work. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why diversity results in lower staff turnover, problems a diverse team may face, and whether discrimination in society is to blame for a lack of diversity in companies.

HOMEWORK

After the class, as the HR manager, students will write a business case to the CEO outlining how the company could become more diverse and what benefits this would bring. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.

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