Getting past the challenge of driving REAL diversity

3 minute read, posted on 12/21/2018, by Heidi Solomon-Orlick

Photo of two smiling VXI employees in the foreground with other staff members in the background

As I referenced in my earlier post, Why diversity isn’t just another box to tick – let’s talk ROI, research shows that diversity in the workforce has a clear and positive relationship to an organization’s ability to innovate and drive revenue.

Yet research has also found that most diversity programs are failing to make headway – with some even increasing bias among individual employees.

“Despite a few new bells and whistles, courtesy of big data, companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s—which often make things worse, not better.” – HBR, 2016.

One problem is that, particularly in hiring, every individual has inherent biases or underlying factors or assumptions that skew their viewpoints. So diversity programs often focus on the consequences of not changing behaviors – rather than engaging employees in conversations about the challenges and opportunities diversity affords.

What you can do now, as an individual

In my role at the IAOP Women Empowerment, Leadership and Diversity Chapter, during a seminar on gender empowerment with leadership development expert Jolynn Shoemaker,  I gathered some excellent tips on what individuals can do to work towards gender equality in the workplace. Here are a few quick takeaways that I think can be applied toward the challenge of fostering diverse workplaces as a whole:

  1. Start talking about it. This can start with ANYONE. Whether it’s a brown-bag lunch or a formal event, encourage the discussion – not just among those most affected but across the organization.
  2. Look at the data. Talk with the decision makers in your organization. How are you collecting data on what’s happening with diversity within your organization? How can this be improved, and used to increase diversity going forward?
  3. Use the power of mentorships. We tend to gravitate towards mentoring those most like us. Be active in seeking out mentorship opportunities for those underrepresented in the organization. You don’t need to be part of the C-suite to mentor; it can stem from any experience level from the assistant mentoring the intern, right up to the managing director mentoring the mid-level manager.

While support (including funding) for diversity programs must come from the executive ranks, there are so many ways to work toward increased diversity. Which leads me to a question I believe we should all be asking ourselves: How can you work to increase the diversity in your organization?

Please share your stories of what has and hasn’t worked!

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