The world is filled with diverse talent, yet diversity and inclusion continues to impact the growth of reputable companies. The greatest mistake in response to complaints about a lack of diversity within corporate environments is to just place either a woman or minority in a high level position to calm the optics for the consumer. However, it is only a temporary fix to a broader problem.
Diversity is more than a gender or racial discussion.
The headlines give more attention to race and gender, without focusing of various characteristics that continue to benefit the narrative. Every company needs to reflect the world we live in today. There are groups who continue to be overlooked in the diversity discussion, including but not limited to; LGBTQ, Veterans, senior citizens, immigrants, and the disabled.
Decisions that are made at the table without you will never reflect you. A broader issue to consider are policies that are affecting underrepresented groups and the reactive approach for an immediate solution, which are often temporary. For example, placing a minority or woman as the face of the new "head of diversity" does not solve the diversity problem, as seen at companies such as Uber and Papa Johns, by appointing African American women to head up their D&I efforts after a scandal.
More than just taking a frustrated stand about the lack of inclusion policies in the workplace, here are a few things you can do to ensure that corporate stakeholders understand the value of your contributions within the leadership collective.
Speak up in meetings.
Inclusion can be a delicate and uncomfortable topic for everyone. Corporate stakeholders are aware of the lack of underrepresented groups, but their inability to change is a direct result of limited access within their own social network. During corporate meetings, speak up about the policies that feel exclusionary. Keep in mind that decision makers, who are not the same "as you," may not know the proper way to create inclusion policies to serve you. Bring it up at the table and ask about solutions that are under consideration.
Ask for company wide memo's to address issues.
During my tenure in corporate America, I was asked by my office manager while walking in a hallway to "stop wearing that perfume in the office." In a moment of shock, I began to resort to speaking to my co-workers in anger, however, I knew that discussing the conversation with anyone who was not a decision maker would potentially skew the point of the message. Instead, I asked for the conversation to be repeated in a company wide memorandum. I was issued an immediate apology.
Rather than react or share your opinions with others due to fear, ask for clarity as a way to guide corporate culture.
Highlight the tangible benefits of inclusive policies.
I was recently binge watching Million Dollar Listing New York, and took note of how inclusive policies are directly impacting the stars of the hit reality show. Due to an inclusive team, the brokers on the show have access to a broader range of qualified buyers. They are attracting buyers in Asia, and Europe, not only due to the popularity of the show, but also by having a diverse team that represent the culture of their potential buyers.
Diversity simply improves revenue. It provides access to a bigger market and widens the possibility of expansion. Make sure you highlight more than just the optics, but also the financial impact.