Maybe you’ve noticed. Pandora’s box has been opened, and no matter how hard they try, CEOs and other executives leading large organizations just can’t seem to keep a lid on diversity, equity and inclusion conversations.
Are We Doing This Right?
Training on ways to make the workplace more inclusive has been happening for decades. Still, we can’t ignore the facts: Women currently earn 81.6 cents for every dollar men make. And for all the talk we heard from big brands this summer declaring Black Lives Matter, they’ve done little to demonstrate that they actually do. Is now a good time to mention Black CEOs account for only 1% among leaders on the Fortune 500 List? Training may make us feel like we’re making progress; but often, we’re not.
What gives? Apparently – not much.
Are big brands attracting the best and brightest? Or are they stuck in their silos with little representation and even less inclusion? Maybe someone should tell CEOs, according to one study, 70% of job seekers are looking to find their place at companies who openly commit to diversity, equity and inclusion. And for good reason. Research suggests diverse teams are more innovative, more productive, and earn 19% more revenue than homogenous teams. Diverse and inclusive teams also tend to make better decisions and more accurate predictions. How? By exposing the blind spots majority culture teams often miss.
So, how do you know if a company is serious about celebrating diversity, encouraging inclusion, and making equity a priority? Here, four ways to tell if your employer is serious about creating a culture of belonging – or just wants to seem like it.
D+I Is Embraced at the Top, First
How many diversity, equity and inclusion workshops has your employer hosted? How many where your CEO was sitting front and center? Although it’s usually middle management who’s doing all the heavy lifting, a culture shift only really takes root when the captain of the ship leads.
One way to gauge how committed a company is to its D+I strategy is by looking at what the top tier is working on. If unconscious bias has never been brought up, if “diversity” is literally left out of the discussion – it’s fluff. Plain and simple. CEOs serious about understanding why representation is important will be working on themselves too, not just handing down D+I marching orders from on high.
There’s an Actual Strategy – and You’ve Seen It
Did your employer roll out a plan on how to create a more inclusive workplace? Ask to see it. Transparency is key when addressing D+I in the workplace. Secrecy only breeds doubt, so if your employer is already fighting to prove it’s working on building better relationships with marginalized communities, they should be able to show their plans for improvement. The proof is in the pudding. If your employer tells you its methods are “top-secret”, you’re right to wonder why.
Calling for Backup
Is your employer calling in the experts on D+I, or has the entire “program” been reduced to a book club where everyone is forced to read “White Fragility”?
While books about social justice are useful, without team members who understand this work, things can go really bad, really quickly. Your HR department may be made up of really smart and compassionate people, but D+I work takes someone with experience. If your CEO put the freeze on funds, and won’t loosen the grip so your team can get the resources they need for this challenging discussion and the work that follows – they’re probably not as serious as they say.
The Learning Never Ends
Some CEOs fool themselves into thinking they’ve done the work and can proudly proclaim themselves “experts” after attending a workshop or two. But anyone serious about creating a strong, diverse workforce knows the commitment to embracing diversity is a lifelong journey towards learning about others. Workshops are good. But so are books, podcasts, documentaries, and best of all – real-life relationships that teach us about empathy and understanding. If your employer makes a show of company-wide workshops, but doesn’t show much personal growth, it’s probably an act.
Diversity is about everyone. Inclusion is about individuals adapting to ensure there’s not only representation in the workplace, but those represented are included in the important day-to-day decision-making and more. Equity is about eliminating the bias that keeps underrepresented groups, well – underrepresented. All three need serious consideration when building inclusive teams.
If you’re ready to take your executive team to task and hold them accountable for their promises of a more inclusive workplace, use these four points as a guide. These conversations take courage, and those up for the challenge, professional titles no matter, will be doing the real work it takes to build the diverse, inclusive and innovative teams of the future.