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Diversity & Inclusion for Leaders of Tomorrow

Business leaders send a powerful message when they make a commitment to diversity that goes beyond rhetoric. It is key for leaders to dedicate time to work personally on diversity initiatives. However, this begs the question: What motivates leaders to promote diversity and inclusion, and how should they actually create inclusive cultures?

What is an Inclusive Culture and Why is it Important?

For many organizations, an inclusive culture is one in which employees can contribute to the success of the company as their authentic selves, while the organization respects and leverages their talents and gives them a sense of connectedness.

“In an inclusive culture employees know that, irrespective of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, and physical ability, you can fulfill your personal objectives by aligning them with the company’s, have a rich career, and be valued as an individual. You are valued for how you contribute to the business,” - David Thodey of Telstra

An inclusive culture is not only displayed in how individual employees feel about opportunities for growth but also in how teams operate and decisions are made. In an inclusive culture, we create and support heterogeneous teams, because their decisions will be better informed.

Persistent Institutional Barriers

While several women have risen through the ranks to become leaders of multibillion-dollar corporations, the statistics are grim overall. Only 4% of companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list are led by female CEOs. As such, it is important to analyze what is perceived to be the greatest obstacles to women’s advancement in their own companies and industries.

Although there are many reasons behind these obstacles, one of the biggest and most discussed barriers is the exclusion from networks and conversations that open doors to further development and promotion, otherwise known as “social cliquishness”. We often find that this kind of discrimination is often unintended and unconscious. Even leaders passionate about building inclusive cultures can inadvertently allow unconscious biases to shape their behavior.

Eight Best Organizational Practices for Instilling Diversity

  1. Measure diversity and inclusion: Metrics are key because what gets measured is what gets done. Additionally, using questionnaires, employee engagement surveys, and diversity-and-inclusion indexes help companies determine if they are doing well and what can be improved on.

  2. Hold managers accountable: Having incentives for managers and including diversity and inclusion goals as a part of weekly tasks is a very effective way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

  3. Support flexible arrangements: another method is offering benefits that help employees balance their professional and personal commitments—such as flexible hours, on-site child care, and onboarding support after a leave of absence.

  4. Recruit and promote from diverse pools of candidates: Workforce diversity begins with the search for talent. For many organizations and HR, having quotas for underrepresented groups during recruitment can promote more diverse groups of workers.

  5. Provide leadership education: Another key practice is providing leadership development opportunities for women at the lower levels of the organization, which tend to be more diverse. Providing leadership education is able to include candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds into the company, and provide them with an opportunity to rapidly promote many of the workers by gaining more in-depth knowledge.

  6. Sponsor employee resource groups and mentoring programs: offering less structured professional development opportunities to various subgroups of employees is yet another method of promoting diversity in the workplace.

  7. Offer quality role models: Diversity at the top promotes diversity throughout an organization. A varied array of leaders signals an organizational commitment to diversity and also provides emerging leaders with role models they can identify with.

  8. Make the chief diversity officer position count: having this new position institutionalizes the process and the intent, and it establishes a formal means by which companies can develop programs as well as metrics to track progress.

Lead by Example

“Diversity itself is about the mix of people you have, and creating an inclusive culture is about making that mix work.”

Overall, it can be seen that diversity and inclusion is a crucial consideration as society and the workforce evolves. Lead by example is arguably the most effective way to include these concepts. By dedicating time to work personally on diversity and inclusion initiatives, leaders are able to set an example within the community and further promote the ideas of diversity and inclusion.

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