While there are many conversations happening about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, few of them focus on what companies can actually do and how to get that work done. Without clarity on why diversity matters for businesses, it’s no surprise that many of these conversations feel unproductive. Even for those having the conversation, it’s often difficult to take action. One study found that while 60% of men at startups believe that diverse teams are better at innovation and problem solving, only 41% supported company-wide hiring practices aimed at increasing diversity.
I think it’s time we talk about diversity in a way that makes it approachable and actionable. Without identifying this, diversity is a goal than can seem abstract and utopian. Concrete reasons result in actions that can be prioritized.
Why diversity matters
Diversity is not the end goal, but a means to a more inclusive, more just, and more effective workplace. It’s becoming increasingly clear that having a diverse team creates a better company.
But creating a diverse team can’t all be done at once, so we accomplish it by breaking it into smaller pieces. Identifying specific themes can help promote diversity work, and show the impact on your company. Here are a few areas that resonate with me.
A better hiring process
Focusing on diversity inside your hiring process can inspire changes in how you evaluate potential employees.
If any step of your hiring process disproportionately cuts out marginalized groups, you’re probably doing something wrong. Adjusting your processes to be as inclusive as possible will lead you to be more thoughtful about how you assess candidates, and improve the quality of all your hires. Plus, considering what’s going to make your team more diverse will lead you to make hires that complement your existing team.
Attract more people
Diverse groups are a sign of a healthy and inclusive culture. Prospective employees really do notice your company make-up when they’re deciding where to work. They’re looking for what feels like a place they can fit in, even if you don’t hear them say it explicitly.
A more welcoming workplace
Being a part of a minority or marginalized group in a non-diverse workplace can be isolating. For example, I find it really distracting when I’m the only woman in a conference room full of men. Diverse companies let their employees direct energy toward being their happiest and most productive selves.
Spark creativity and empathy
Diverse teams bring the collection of their experiences and are less likely to practice groupthink. Plus, for companies making customer-facing products, it’s important to have a team that represents the people your serve.
You can’t fake it
Hiring from marginalized groups simply for the sake of diversifying your company is insincere. No one wants to get a job because they’ve had disadvantages, and no one person can be diverse in isolation. People deserve to be recognized for their potential contributions and how they will contribute.
Identifying what you want can change how you interview all candidates,. Can you test for all the things you’d like in an interview, and are you doing that yet? There are lots of valuable skills beyond technological skills, like user empathy and product sense—many of which are even harder to teach.
Get internal support
It’s vital to get the whole team behind inclusion. Otherwise, the work falls to whoever feels most passionately about it, or worse, to those perceived to be the most passionate about it, often by their own minority status. Executive support is especially crucial to show, without ambiguity, that diversity work is on par with the rest of scheduled programs.
Diversity is not the end goal, but it is a means to a more inclusive, more just, and more effective workplace.
The most important way a company can recognize that working towards diversity is vital and long-running is to hire a full-time diversity lead. If you’re not ready for a full-time role, start with a part-time role, either in recruiting or HR. We learned a lot at Asana even while interviewing for the role, and I’m really excited about what that hire represents and how it will help us grow.
From why to how
I’ve found that making business cases for diversity have let me become a vocal advocate. Without that shift, it’s unclear how diversity should be prioritized inside a company when other social justice issues aren’t. I went from thinking that diversity was something I wanted from the workplace, but couldn’t necessarily expect, to realizing that investing in diversity is part of investing in a company built to last. Investing in diversity builds and grows the strongest possible team—and finding the details of how to invest in diversity can let you get that work done!
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