Now that more companies and organizations are deciding to prioritize a culture of inclusivity, the latest studies are showing how diversity in leadership can lead to the kind of positive outcomes they’re seeking.
Most business owners and organization leaders are interested in working with a wide range of people who can offer different perspectives, ideas and insights on key matters and decisions.
Despite this desire, less than 20 percent of women hold top leadership positions in our nation’s biggest companies, and the number (11 percent) is even smaller when you consider people of color.
This phenomenon doesn't seem to be for lack of trying, though. Both numbers have increased (by 8 percent and 2 percent respectively) since 2002, yet most businesses have barely scratched the surface of available and talented leadership within these demographics.
So what are the most common leadership hurdles that organizations are trying to overcome when it comes to integrating diversity within their work culture?
The most common leadership hurdles when it comes to inclusivity
Lack of engagement
Often unintentional, some busy executives and top managers may develop a tunnel blindness to their own organization’s diversity practices.
It’s important for leadership to not only stay informed, they must be enthusiastic about the need for inclusivity in order for your organization to thrive.
Lack of priority
Despite the evidence otherwise, many businesses have not adopted an attitude of inclusivity because they do not believe it to be necessary.
Organizations should strive to avoid this mentality, and try to overcome barriers that may strain diversity efforts such as a lack of applicant pool, or unavailable educational and training resources.
Lack of resources
While it doesn’t have to be difficult or costly to restructure your professional culture around diversity, many organizations struggle to find a starting place, usually due to a lack of available resources and data around business outcomes and inclusivity.
Thankfully, more and more research is produced in this area each day, giving organizations of all sizes and backgrounds an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of inclusive company cultures.
While mostly unintentional, these obstacles leave their negative impact throughout our industries, community organizations and schools as most leadership boards struggle simultaneously with all of the issues above, leaving more women and people of color without proper representation.
To prevent your organization from experiencing these kind of setbacks to inclusivity, try establishing a more senior leadership board.
Establishing a more inclusive leadership board, the best practices
Recruiting candidates from underrepresented backgrounds
This can be done by reaching out to a local recruiting organizations, contacting a local women’s college or Historically Black College or University (HBCU), or reaching out to professional associations for minorities such as the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA).
Auditing your internal hiring and promotion tactics for any unchallenged biases
While these kinds of audits are best down by third-party watchdogs to ensure accuracy, you can conduct anonymous, optional surveys for your employees to offer their feedback on the company’s diversity standings, as well as soliciting feedback from your customers or audience. Feel free to also look over your company’s internal demographic data to see which, if any, blind spots need to be addressed and prioritize them.
Creating policies that ensure and protect your organization’s inclusivity culture
Let your employees know that you’re committed to protecting their safety and peace of mind on the job by crafting policies with diversity in mind to keep everyone on the same page.
This can range from anti-harassment statements, to updating your company’s mission statement, to holding a board vote to nominate a Chief Diversity Officer.
If you’re managing a member-based organization, you might consider amending your bylaws to reflect your progressive stance on inclusivity in order to properly set expectations for years to come.
What does all of this have to do with innovation?
On diversity and innovation
As stated above, companies want to present themselves as diverse and inclusive in 2018.
While this is mostly due to changing attitudes and social norms, there’s also data that shows diverse companies are more profitable and innovative than those who chose not to prioritize.
In fact, this recent study showed that out of a pool of 1,700 companies across 8 countries, companies that were ranked highest for diversity standards and saw 45% more revenue from new products or services in the last three years.
This isn’t rocket science. Diversity in leadership tends to foster diversity in thought, which is necessary for organizations that want to stay fresh and relevant in an age of consumption overload.
Your customers and members want to see that leadership is willing to keep trying new ideas, listening for new opportunities and thinking of new perspectives that add value to your service.
When it comes to being innovative and relevant in 2018, it starts by making decisions with the kind of people who can bring a new level of intuition and perception to your leadership board.
Does your board or business need to add a Chief Diversity or Equal Opportunity Employment officer to its executive board? Are you thinking about forming a Diversity Oversight Committee for your organization?
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