How Leaders Can Create a Culture of Diversity

At a time when the world is speaking up against racism, and in light of pride month, it is important to reflect on issues of unfair treatment, racism, and bias that exist in the workplace. Keeping in mind that actions speak louder than words, as a leader your actions and behaviors have the power to create a culture that encourages diversity and feels inclusive to all employees. Here are some ways you can create this culture:

Pay attention to & react to incidents of unfair treatment

By paying attention to issues of unfair treatment towards underrepresented groups, you are communicating to your team that these issues are important. It is essential to react in a way that results in bad outcomes for those who perpetrate these behaviors and good outcomes for those who report it. By doing so, you are holding your employees accountable, conveying that this behavior is not tolerated, and showing that it’s safe to speak up. Essentially:

  • Reward accountability

  • Do not tolerate unjust behavior

  • Don’t sweep incidents under the rug, discuss them head on

Make sure underrepresented groups are given opportunities

Some companies are currently being called hypocrites because they are donating money to nonprofits, yet have very few people of color in high level positions. It is important for underrepresented groups to be selected and promoted to leadership positions, but how do you do this without engaging in tokenism? Here are some suggestions:

  • Prevent unconscious bias in the interview process to hire a diverse staff

  • Involve underrepresented groups in the decision making process

  • Assure all employees are given serious and challenging assignments that can get noticed by higher-ups

  • Avoid unfairly assigning “office housework,” since research shows women and people of color are more likely to be given tasks such as organizing the office and planning parties

  • Watch out for bias in mentorship opportunities, as mentors might gravitate towards choosing mentees that are more similar to them

Speak up

It’s not just what you do that has an impact on workplace culture, but also what you don’t do. If leaders try to ignore conversations about diversity and inclusion, this can be interpreted as apathy. This can also make employees feel less comfortable speaking up, holding others accountable, and even discussing the topic at work. As millennials and generation Z employees continue to enter the workforce, this new generation expects their company to be involved in current events and make an effort to progress into a more fair workplace. Here are some ways you can speak up not only with words, but also with actions:

  • Bring up issues of diversity and inclusion when making decisions, holding training and development sessions, and whenever relevant. This should be an ongoing conversation, not a taboo one.

  • When large current events take place, such as what is occurring now with the protests, make a statement at a meeting or through an email to let your employees know where you stand

  • If you have influence in allocating funds at your organization, consider donating to a nonprofit or investing in initiatives that really work

#inspiringleadership #organizationalculture #diversity

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