Leadership | 07.21.22
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – Pillars
Building a Strategy That Creates a Diverse Culture
Many organizations believe they need either a formal diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program or a checklist, but the best strategy is to simply find ways to weave DEI into existing company culture. Use it as a filter when making organizational changes. To have a strategy that is built to last, consider employees from marginalized populations and how decisions will impact them. An ironclad strategy includes goals pertaining to demographics, hiring and retention. The best place to start is to know the numbers within your organization. This will shed light on areas that may need addressing. Intentionally striving toward a culture with DEI at its core is critical.
Education Is the Way To Bridge the Gap of Understanding
We must commit to an organization that continues to learn. Adding education into onboarding programs, annual trainings and leadership development is key. All employees should understand unconscious biases and how to combat them. Leaders should be well-equipped to handle microaggressions when they arise and have a basic understanding of cultural intelligence. To create a sense of belonging for employees, leaders should be educated on psychological safety and why it matters. For most of us, unless we are personally affected, we may not clearly understand the issues that may exist. Education is key.
The Need To Belong Is What Makes Us Human
Many large organizations have employee resource groups. It is time for mid-size and small companies to incorporate these when possible. Having a safe place for employees who have common characteristics (e.g., LGBTQ+) helps to build winning teams. The best ideas for improvement come from the employees themselves. Creating a culture where everyone feels safe enough to be themselves and receive needed support and attention is not easy, but it is worthwhile.
Tokenism Feels Like Fake Diversity
Finding ways to prevent tokenism from creeping into your organization can be difficult, but it is necessary. Marginalized employees can feel burnout from repeatedly being asked to educate colleagues or promote awareness. Also, it is uncomfortable for employees to feel as if they are just a number or a “diversity hire.” When the correct processes are in place, there is no burden placed on employees.
Representation Is Proof That Diversity Matters
78% of employees who responded to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study said they work at organizations that lack diversity in leadership positions. According to the study, “without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of color are 24% less likely; and those who identify as LGBTQ+ are 21% less likely.” Representation can reduce or even eliminate the pressure to conform. It also increases validation. When employees can see someone with their characteristics in a position of influence, it is empowering and it helps employees to see a path for themselves.
I have not worked for or consulted a single organization that is perfect; there will always be room for improvement. Starting is important. Fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to speak up and understanding that everyone makes and will make mistakes is a step in the right direction. We all just have to start moving in the right direction.