5 Ways Leadership Can Support Diversity and Inclusion
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Inc. here.
Oftentimes leaders think the risk is too great to get involved in the discussion of diversity and inclusion. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.
One danger of having a strong company culture is that it can be far too easy to perpetuate a culture of sameness where culture “fit” is an excuse to hire people who look, think, act, and build products just like you do. The truth is, diverse organizations and teams are not only proven to perform better, but building an environment where everyone, from any background can bring their authentic self to work is simply the right thing to do.
It’s crucial to approach diversity and inclusion (D&I) with humility, vulnerability, and authenticity. At HubSpot, our diversity data shares a snapshot of the composition of our company by gender, ethnicity, and age along with our plans for the future to make the organization more diverse and inclusive as we grow.
When transparency is a core commitment, it’s important that you’re not just sharing what the organization is excelling at, but the harder realities as well. Not only did we find that more and more candidates and employees were asking that we share our work in this space publicly, but we found that when we did, engagement increased. By being transparent and sharing the sometimes harsh realities, our work in diversity and inclusion becomes more inclusive by welcoming input from all.
In order to build a company generations to come can be proud of, diversity and inclusion must be bought in by senior leaders as a business priority. Like with any challenge, leaders must dive in and analyze from a business perspective rather than sit on the sidelines hoping the challenge will sort itself out. What will they find? That the topic is hard, messy, and personal, but imperative, for the success of your business, your brand, and your customers.
What’s important to remember is that D&I isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather an ongoing conversation. Employees aren’t looking for leaders to have all the answers, but rather a clear vision and a plan to build and foster an organization that is truly inclusive of all people and of all backgrounds.
Here are five ways leadership can get more involved in supporting diversity and inclusion:
1. The Power of Listening
What makes the best people in any organization are those who meaningfully add to your culture by challenging the status quo. They ask hard questions on what’s working and what isn’t and aren’t afraid to lead for change. The best thing leaders can do is to listen from the ground up. And, demonstrate a bias for action based on the feedback.
2. Educate and Empower Your Leadership Team
If you were entering a new market or launching a new product, you’d do your homework first. Diversity and inclusion work is no different. There are great books, trainings, and consultants doing work in this space. Earlier this year, we asked Dr. Robert Livingston, a lecturer of Public Policy at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government, to share research and insights on the reality of the achievement gap. The examples were a sobering reminder of how our perceptions of race, class, and gender, impact our workforce, and spurred many of our internal leaders to action. I highly recommend engaging your leadership team in this education early and often.
3. Leading By Example
In order to truly alter the landscape of an organization, leaders must proactively engage and be leaders in diversity and inclusion initiatives – from recognizing the composition of the C-suite, providing budget and resources, using inclusive language, to attending internal events. Often that starts with checking your own privilege and being willing to acknowledge and embrace it – as a leader you have an obligation to make your company more welcoming to others, so learning more about your own perspective and privilege can be a powerful first step.
4. Communication Is Key
You cannot over-communicate early and often enough the importance of your diversity and inclusion efforts to candidates, employees, customers and stakeholders. Employer branding is crucial and one company who has done a great job to broaden the topic of diversity and inclusion is Pinterest, who was one of the first companies to publicly share their diversity data. From implementing the “Rooney Rule” within their recruiting efforts to partnering with outside organizations, such as /dev/color, a non-profit that helps black engineers build and grow their careers, Pinterest’s work has gone beyond just internal efforts showcasing their leadership and commitment in scaling diversity and inclusion.
5. Measuring Progress
Talking about diversity and inclusion is one thing, but walking the walk is the true test. In order to view diversity and inclusion as a business priority, one must measure it as such. Analyzing and dissecting the progress made is important, but equally as important is approaching the future with humility and identifying the areas that need improvement.
It’s not an easy decision, but most important ones in life aren’t.
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