There are many companies writing, talking, and working on increasing diversity and providing inclusionary spaces. Some have a long way to go, some are making great strides, and others are somewhere in the middle. The truth of the matter is, as we continue to participate in multi-cultural spaces, this work will never truly be finished. There is always room for improvement, and the best of us have personal and professional hurdles still to scale. One consistent tenet among companies that are on the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion is their commitment to being intentional in their efforts. Ensuring that programs, practices, and initiatives have a clear strategy is essential to creating truly diverse teams and equitable, inclusionary spaces.
Where do we start? At the top, naturally. No organization is going to effectively produce a successful diverse environment if senior leadership doesn’t fully buy in, support the initiatives, and participate—leaders must actively engage with the strategic work, processes, and practitioners. Leadership’s proximity is essential because of the visibility it lends to the commitment. Employees aren’t going to doubt that their leaders want successful diverse environments if they see and hear about those leaders’ activity in the strategic or practical work.
From there, the road map is less evenly applicable to all organizations. Rather, it requires an audit of the organization as it stands and the creation of goals to be achieved. Let’s take the example of a team that suffers from a lack of female representation. The first step is to ask why that is the case. Do women tend to leave the team a lot more often than men do? Has there never been much female representation to speak of? If either of those are true, then we must ask why. Finding this data isn’t easy, but it is essential to get to the root of the problem. Let’s assume women have been leaving the team a lot more often than men. The team’s leader needs to have visibility into the reasons for that. Is the culture a toxic one for women? Providing space for women to share those concerns is a proactive step to deal with that, but retroactively, active measures must be taken to eradicate the toxicity and ensure safe, comfortable places for women to work.
What about hiring? If teams are struggling to attract diverse pools of candidates, then those root causes must be determined as well. People from underrepresented populations need to be able to visualize themselves at an organization. Do the marketing materials show people who present differently? Are there pieces of thought leadership surrounding diversity and inclusion issues? Where are the jobs being listed? Answers to these questions and ideas to improve them are a great first step in improving an organization’s chances of increasing its diversity.
These are but small facets of a more comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy. The comprehensive strategy is paramount, but the drivers behind the small facets are just as important. Teams must be clear about their intentions to improve their cultures and commit to them fully. Being intentional ensures that you stay focused on your goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive environment.
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