One of your most important roles as a leader is to set the culture of your company. And while that culture can be unique and define you as a company, there's one thing that's not an option: inclusively. All companies must build a culture of belonging and establish an environment of inclusion.
We all know that there are myriad benefits of having a diverse workforce, but this is not something that can simply be solved for by hiring. Embracing diversity means that you need to set the culture to accommodate a broad range of people. This does not happen because you want it to; you have to work hard every day to continuously promote a workplace of inclusively.
Where do you start?
Examine your culture. It's important to mitigate unconscious bias through all phases of the employee life cycle. Particular areas to evaluate are the methods of mentorship, evaluation, promotions, and succession planning.
Encourage and measure inclusive leadership behaviors. Be sure that any concerns are taken seriously (i.e., address all red flags).
Understand that workplace enhancements to promote diversity and inclusion are also things that would help all workers. This may include promoting work-life balance, demonstrating the meaning in the work, and rewarding loyalty--all of which are important to many types of workers. Find a way to welcome and celebrate everyone and ensure that no one feels isolated. Provide gender-neutral bathrooms and an environment that ensures that employees feel comfortable.
Employ policies that are equitable for both men and women. For example, paternity leave can go a long way in building empathy for all parents and helping to build long-term company loyalty. Find ways to keep team members engaged in the company's mission and work, even while they're caring for newborns.
Listen. Consider developing a task force made up of anyone who is committed to seeing your business become more diverse. Give them the latitude to speak and write about their findings--it may be uncomfortable at times, but building transparency about your company's interest in improvement will help to win over your next generation of employees.
Ask how you are doing. Solicit feedback from your diverse candidates and ask them to score how you are doing and to share what they think you can do better.
Grow the circle wider. Consider building an internship program with all-female or historically black universities. Adopt a school in an at-risk neighborhood, and send them supplies, bring students into the office, and commit to the school's improvement. Let your employees tell the story of your company's journey, in the hopes that you inspire others to follow you.
Remember, this work must be constant, and it requires your consistent commitment, but with that you will see the true benefits of having a workplace where everyone is best set up for success.