“If we want the full benefits of diversity, we need more than one woman — or one person of color or one L.G.B.T.Q. person in the room. Diversity starts with real numbers. And it’s about creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong and can do their best work.” -- Rachel Thomas, co-founder and president, Lean In
Corporate America is often adept at side-stepping the tough issues. In silence, there’s complicity. So, while many are hemming-and-hawing about what to say, how to not offend, it’s time to build a better workplace by becoming a true ally of diversity, standing up, and speaking out. Walk the talk and create mindful practices to build a better workplace for everyone.
1. Diversity is not a political platform. This is a human platform, one that promotes the wellbeing of collaborators, customers, and the organization’s bottom line. We live in an interconnected world in which having an ethnically and gender diverse workforce brings about economic improvements. This has changed the narrative from being not only “the right thing” to do but also the smart thing to do.
2. Diversity is not a quota to fill. This is where the word “diversity” gets a little tricky. It becomes this token “Hey, we’ve got a fill-in-the-blank on board now,” instead of recognizing how people of all colors, backgrounds, and genders are real stakeholders who can be powerful influencers in the organization. Influence, not representation, is the goal. Glen Llopis writes, “Representation is about quotas, not moving all people to the center of our growth strategies – it’s about compliance, not influence.”
3. Institutional racism and white, cisgender privilege are not queer or black people’s problems. They are issues for white, cis people in power. Without having business leaders as true allies, any initiative falls flat. Lack of minority representation is real and problematic. (In 2020 only four black CEOs lead Fortune 500 companies.)
4. Make real change in the organization:
a. Create opportunities for more diverse boards. No more life-timers. Have a two, three, or four-year limit for board members. Create a referral system that is more inclusive. Get smart and start making real headway to a better, stronger board.
b. Educate. Collaborators, managers, senior leaders that have the privilege of being in the majority (usually white male) need to confront their privilege. Time to step up to the plate and start some tough conversations. Bring in a coach or corporate psychologist to talk about white privilege and what a real ally looks and acts like in the workplace.
c. Analyze hiring and promotion policies. What barriers are there to hiring practices. Are you narrowing your pool of talent because of them? Rethink traditional models that ignore the unique experiences of immigrants, people of color, gender-diverse individuals, women, and more. Pay attention to intersectionality and multidimensionality.
d. Analyze corporate policies, language and culture that reinforce exclusionary behaviors. Harassment, bullying, and racism cannot be tolerated, at any level within the organization. Defining these behaviors is essential. Hold training sessions. Bring in speakers. Analyze corporate practices that exclude others from partaking in transactions and real business deals. Being truly inclusive takes work, takes time, takes practice, and mindfulness.
5. Be courageous. Make a stand. Be an ally. Etsy’s response to the protests this past month is a model of integrity. There are many organizations that need support. Look up local and regional community action groups.
Reach out to colleagues, collaborators. Ask them how they’re feeling. Be sincere. Listen. Recognize they might be hurting right now. Make it clear you stand with them. Listen. Read. Listen. Reflect. #DoTheWork. Then ask how your organization can best help and act.
Silence is not an option.