No matter what company you work for or what level you are at in that company, you probably feel like your company could be doing better on diversity and inclusion.
The reason for this is twofold: first, overall as a society and a business community, we are doing pretty terribly on the whole diversity and inclusion front, so it stands to reason that your company is part of this. Second, more importantly, diversity and inclusion are sort of infinite concepts, in the sense that you could always do more. You never achieve a state where you have fully accomplished these goals — “We’re done with diversity, we’ll do inclusion next month and then we’ll be done and take the summer off.”
This landscape presents an exciting opportunity for improvement basically everywhere, and yet many organizations are pretty much stymied at how to make progress. Unfortunately, too often, still, the conversation around diversity and inclusion starts and ends with quantity — specifically the quantity of women and people of color that are employed at a company.
People are focused on the hiring process, on counting the number of people on their staffs who meet these criteria, and they don’t really have a great sense of how to move forward outside of that. Worse, this is the slowest part to change — you can’t just clean house and start over and hire a new staff overnight; it takes months, even years to show any sort of improvement in the diversity of your workforce, and a ton of concerted effort at that. (This is not to say that this isn’t important — hiring is where the rubber meets the road and there is a ton that can, should and needs to be done with that process, but that’s a different matter entirely.)
It’s my belief that there are many things that go into a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy over and above counting the people on your staff. Measuring the diversity of your workforce is actually just the first tiny dipping of your toe in the ocean — it’s the first baby step toward a comprehensive strategy. There are a number of things, in fact, that I think you can and should do right now, today, to begin to immediately produce results and change at your company.
Here are five ideas for things that you can implement right away.
1. Vote with your wallet
Where you spend your money is a powerful indicator of how you feel. So spending your money with organizations that meet your values is a key way of immediately fostering diversity at your company. Food is a great place to start.
At 1871, we launched a program called ChiBuys, which (at its core) is a purchasing power program designed to help 1871 spend its money with women and minority-run businesses, especially when it came to food. Rather than lining the pockets of corporations, we decided to spend the considerable resources that 1871 devoted to buying food to supporting entrepreneurs from around the city.
The result was a profound impact on the diversity and inclusion of our community. These relationships, and the stories behind how these entrepreneurs came into their businesses, became incredible examples of our values and a great way to add diversity to our environment.
Try it — the next time you are buying a birthday cake for someone’s birthday or breakfast for the board meeting, go the extra mile to make your purchase count, and see how it feels. You don’t have to do it too many times before you’ll totally change the environment at your company.
2. Measure something new
One of the huge issues around diversity and inclusion in the workplace is that the vast majority of the conversation happens on a moral, sentimental level. This is, at its core, the focus of my work and the work of Holistic. Challenges that are measurable and actionable are actual challenges. Things that are not measurable, conversations that are taking place on a moral level or an “it’s the right thing to do” bent (even though it is) are not going to help us in our mission.
So, the challenge here is to figure out something new to measure in this space. Some sort of statistic, measurement, or element of what you are doing that will help you have a better bedrock of data as you measure diversity and inclusion. Here are a few examples:
• Diversity of candidate pools for jobs (e.g., the number of candidates who met an inclusion standard who were interviewed for each position, irrespective of whether or not they were hired)
• The number of people who have been promoted internally, broken down by ethnicity and gender
• Diversity in your purchasing (see above)
• Pay equity. For example, measure based on specific level. Do women at the director level make us much as their men counterparts? Or, when it comes to bonuses, were they doled out fairly irrespective of race?
• Promptness of reviews, sorted by gender and race
• Number of employees who take advantage of particular benefits or offerings. How many women in your company have taken advantage of professional development opportunities, like courses, compared to men? What percentage of your 20-something employees are using the 401(k) offering?
There are tons of different things in the diversity and inclusion space that can be measured, but the problem is that many of them aren’t being regularly measured. So, when a company goes to improve its diversity and inclusion, it doesn’t have the basic information necessary to create and build solid policies. By measuring something new, you’ll immediately be adding to the spirit of diversity in your company and your community.
3. Take on a responsibility for diversity and inclusion in the community
There’s all kinds of opportunity out there in your community to foster diversity and inclusion on a broad level that is not being realized. While there are certain groups or companies or nonprofits or government agencies who have a specific responsibility for a given area of focus, that doesn’t mean they are the only group out there who can do something. If you pick an area of responsibility and focus on it, it is by definition an act of inclusion, and depending on the focus can really move the needle in terms of diversity and inclusion as well.
Here’s an example. There is a company called The Nerdery here in Chicago that hosts multiple events and community gatherings for the tech community — it really brings people together. Recently, The Nerdery has been really focused on diversity and inclusion, so they have hosted a number of events and forums in this space.
The Nerdery is not a community organization devoted to diversity and inclusion; they are a private technology company focused on attracting and retaining and providing value for their clients. But they wisely realized they can use their bully pulpit to help a lot of people and build the community as well. After the event, they wrote and released a great blog post summarizing the event, continuing (and adding to) the conversation.
A second example relates to the ChiBuys program I mentioned earlier. After we built the network at 1871, we open-sourced it. We encouraged other organizations to host tastings and take the pledge to use minority- and women-owned catering firms, and we even held an event for the whole community to get to know the vendors. There is no IP in inclusion; whatever you can do to help spread the word is only going to benefit your company.
4. Take a stand
One question I frequently ask companies is whether or not they have a domestic violence policy in place. Generally speaking, domestic violence policies allow up to one month of paid leave, effectively no questions asked, to people who come forward (privately) as victims of domestic violence. The vast majority of companies A) do not have an existing domestic violence policy in place, and B) would rush to give a woman who was a victim of DV a month of paid leave or longer, because it’s the right thing to do.
So this is an inefficiency — why should someone need to come forward in a crisis scenarios for a company to take the time to affirm its values? If you were going to do it anyway, and it’s the right thing to do, you should do it now, in the abstract. (By the way, you should also immediately visit www.ChicagoSaysNoMore.org and take the pledge — you’ll also find there a lot more information about how to adopt a domestic violence prevention policy at your workplace.)
I encourage you to find an area where your company can take a stand for diversity and inclusion in whatever fashion. It doesn’t need to be domestic violence, per se — you can adopt a “no manels” policy as we did at 1871, you can expand your parental leave policies, you can declare that you’ll interview at least one unemployed person for every open job, whatever — there are certainly some areas where you can draw a line and make some progress immediately.
5. Do a diversity and inclusion space audit
You can do a space audit today without any help.
A space audit, basically, is when you walk around the space and you try and determine if it is set up appropriately for your purposes. Space audits can be done for any purpose — you can do one to make sure you are maximizing the density of the space, for example, or you could even do one to see if people are getting a reasonable amount of natural light.
One really interesting thing to do is to do a space audit from the perspective of diversity and inclusion. Here’s how to do it. Gather an appropriate group of people from your team, and walk around the space together.
You are looking for two things. First, things that are offensive to any of the populations you have represented. Things that will make it so your staff doesn’t feel comfortable for any reason, that need to be addressed. This doesn’t necessarily need to be an offensive piece of artwork (though I have certainly seen this in the past). This could be something as simple as it being really really cold above Michelle’s desk, because there is a vent right there. (If you don’t believe this is an issue, simply find anyone that you know named Michelle, and ask her if she’s cold at work all the time, and she’ll say yes.)
Second, more importantly, you are looking for areas of opportunity. That blank wall over there becomes a photo montage, which is made up of pictures of your staff interacting with its customers. That small conference room that nobody uses is converted into a meditation and prayer room. That lousy nursing room gets a makeover. How can you use your physical space as a testament to your values?
Do it today
The important thing is not as much what you do, as that you actually go and do it. Today. If you want to improve diversity and inclusion at your company, it is a long, extensive, comprehensive process, and you’ll need to do all sorts of things across every aspect of your business to make it successful.
These are five specific options that you can employ right away. And I’d love to hear how it goes. Get to it.