Diversity in the Workplace is Good for Business

Diversity is a buzz word that is still trying to find its best meaning. When it comes to hiring, for many companies it seems to mean hiring one or two “token” individuals who represent some set of differences from the majority of the rest of the enterprise. In 2014, the tech world in Silicon Valley was populated by mostly men with less than one woman for every five men in a given tech job. This makes little sense considering that research has found that more different employing techniques tend to contribute to a better performing company, financially and otherwise.
 Change.org, the petition website that is changing the world, was at the forefront of this battle a few years ago. Founded and launched by a woman, as of the beginning of 2015, 51% of its 200 employees were women, with its leadership comprising 40% women, which is even more impressive. Further, their engineering team was 27 % women which is notable considering the stereotypes against women in particular when it comes to math and science based careers.

One of my go-to references for diversity these days is the docu-series Chef’s Table on Netflix. The first three episodes male chef’s, the first of whom is Italian and therefore considered white or nonwhite depending on who you ask. I was watching this with my partner, and I was like “I wonder if they’re going to have any women…or people of color.” Sure enough, the fourth episode finally gave us some diversity. In the form of an Asian woman who also happened to be a lesbian; the producers were like “Wapow — how’s that for diversity?!” one of the other notable things about that third episode was that it was also the first time we had seen a majority of women in the featured kitchen. Women empower women, is my point, which is further exemplified by the Change.org company.

That does not have to be the case, especially considering that the majority of businesses and business leaders in our country (in our world, really) tend to be white, straight men. We cannot rely solely on women and people of color to empower each other, therefore, if they are not in the position to do so (yet).

The founder of Change.org was also the first women to sell a company she had founded to Google; she knows what it is to establish a highly successful business, run it and empower minorities while doing so. She has said that it is important to be thinking about diversity from day one when building a new company. This way you won’t get four episodes in and realize that 75% of your project is almost entirely uniform.

It is also important to seek out diversity actively, especially if you are a white person, a man, or an otherwise “majority” representative. It is something you’ll have to think about actively; it’s in our natures to be tribal and surround ourselves with similar people; it is also natural to replicate what we know, and a lot of what we are aware still today is companies run by white guys. Depending on your needs for your firm, there are initiative and organizations who work to put women into various positions in different industries; change.org found their female engineers through such programs. If you’re starting a company from scratch, for instance: a white man, get a black woman to help you found it, for example, you’ll be even more likely to populate your company diversely naturally.

People may be more inclined to come to you if possibilities.
 If your company diversity is already off the ground, or even if it isn’t, you can work with those types of organizations which work to put minorities into jobs. You can also host networking events or open calls to give your company diversity which will inspire your company’s decision-makers the chance to meet a diverse swath of people who have what it takes to make it in your industry. Practices like these mentioned above give an opportunity for both you and potential employees to be on each other’s radar for future cases of hiring and so forth. That way, you’re more likely to seek them out when you need to fill a position, and they’re more liable to seek you out when you a position needs to be filled.

Hiring diversely means that you also have to consider the stereotypes and hurdles that may have stood in the way of diverse talent in the past. What this means is not taking less experience to mean less capability; less experience could very well be the result of prejudice and a lack of diversifying efforts throughout your industry. There has been studying after study that shows what types of biases exist when hiring managers to encounter names that sound “ethnic” and so forth; taking steps to understand where these kinds of implicit biases could lie is also important so that you and your hiring staff can actively counteract them. Whether that means having a blind reading of submitted resumes or making sure a hiring team is diversified and encouraged to look for diversity, make sure you are working to overcome any unconscious (or conscious) biases that could minimize your diversity and therefore your chances of success in the modern world.

Make sure that your rules, dress code and general workplace culture is open to a variety of culture and individual needs bringing out the professional diversity in everyone. People of color often report microaggressions. Especially, when it comes to their hairstyles or types of dress; women as well can face problematic comments and rules when it comes to dress code and the hyper-sexualization of their bodies. Make sure that diversity training involves every employee and covers potential harassment and discomfort for religion, gender, race, sexuality, ability and so forth. Having clear policies like this will have everyone aware of the potentials for bias, the importance of diversity and will show that yours is a welcoming environment for any and every qualified applicant.


Originally published at coffeeroastersblog.com on June 9, 2017.