Finding Hope for Diversity in an Uncertain New World

The last few weeks have been difficult for many Americans, and will only become more so as the government turns words into actions against immigrants and other disenfranchised groups.

These concerns are front and center on my mind not only because I’m a minority myself, but because my job is championing diversity as one of the growing number of diversity & inclusion leaders in the heart of Silicon Valley. But believe it or not, I’m starting to see a silver lining, and one I’d encourage everyone else still struggling with this new political climate to see too.

It’s this simple: we can no longer deny our nation has a serious problem with treating all people equitably, and the invigorating urgency to fix our issues is a very good thing. I’ve even started to see a shift in my own industry. After years of trying to convince peers to acknowledge the tech industry’s own biases and utter failure to build a meritocracy, there is now very little logical opposition to the idea that equality of opportunity and experience are a myth. The hatred of the “other” that helped bring Trump to power is facing everyone squarely in the face through new threats like a religion-based registry (sound terrifyingly familiar?) and the deportation of millions of immigrants (including H1-B workers), who play a critical role in the many industries, especially tech.

We need to recognize this as an opportunity to embrace the ever-increasing diversity of the United States, even if our government won’t. Key in this will be taking advantage of one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to organize and deliver change: our nation’s businesses. As Al Gore once said during a Nobel Lecture, “We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action.” This has certainly proven true when it comes to making a mark with sustainability and combating climate change, where businesses have played critical roles. Diversity will be no different. Workplaces allow ideas around diversity and inclusion to be tested and scaled rapidly. After all, we spend half our waking hours at work, heavily influencing the way we see the world and our relationships with other human beings. If companies all begin taking steps in the right direction, together they can influence the sentiment of the nation while reaping many rewards in the process: Studies prove more diverse teams result in higher degrees of creativity, smarter product solutions and better performance.

For company leaders who don’t know where to begin, you’d be surprised how much of a difference you can make with very little budget. Simply communicating you value diversity and are steadfastly committed to creating and maintaining it can have a huge impact in the hearts and minds of employees. Actions are even more powerful and important. One of the easiest places to start is the recruiting process — it’s much easier to hire a more diverse group of talent when you start with a diverse group of candidates. For instance, re-writing job ads in a way that appeals to a broader variety of candidates (there are a lot of great tools out there like Textio that can help). Or, making an effort to form recruiting partnerships with a broader variety of talent sources and schools. It’s also important to think about how you create opportunities for trust and camaraderie to grow as a part of your culture. For instance, choosing offsites and bonding opportunities that cater to everyone’s interests, not just some. Companies ready to invest for the long-term can also join the growing number of organizations who now issue annual diversity reports, which analyze workplace demographics and opportunities, and form employee resource groups to create community and educate employees on the value of diversity and how to support it.

Creating a stronger corporate diversity movement won’t be easy, and we are headed into some strong headwinds given the recent election. However, together companies can absolutely make a difference and create opportunities for people from marginalized groups. In the end, the dream of “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” depends not just on our government, but ourselves.

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