Efforts in advancing workplace diversity and equity have made encouraging strides in recent years. However, despite these trends, most Diversity and Inclusion practitioners readily admit that internal policy and compliance initiatives will only advance workplace diversity so far.
A larger transformation of workplace culture is necessary to advance and sustain workplace diversity while also increasing innovation. To achieve this transformation, we will need help from members of non-divers workplace demographics groups. In many cases (but not all), these are affectionately known as the ‘White Guys’
As we work to embed and sustain inclusive workplace culture, the ‘white guy’ will continue to be a vital catalyst for workplace diversity by transforming the current leadership culture that exists consciously or subconsciously in many workplaces today. Here’s how:
Fighting the myth that workplace diversity is tokenism
In a conversation I had with Intuit Chief Architect Alex Balazs, we discussed the misperception that workplace diversity is tokenism and how that continues to be one of the biggest hurdles that workplace diversity advocates need to address.
Unfortunately, too many key stakeholders and decision-makers still view diversity initiatives as compliance and quota-driven initiatives that don’t bear a business ROI. This dynamic continues to not only act as a barrier to advancing diverse professionals up the corporate ladder but also to unfairly limit the success and credibility of diverse professionals who are fortunate enough to advance past a certain level.
Diversity advocates need to increasingly ramp up their efforts to combat this narrative and getting non-diverse leadership figures increasingly joining these efforts will be vital to their success. The sooner we can tackle this obstacle with the help of our non-diverse leaders, the sooner we can build equitable workplaces that effectively connect the right talent with the right professional opportunity, regardless of gender and race.
Understanding that sponsorship is vital to workplace diversity
Research continues to highlight the importance of sponsorship as it relates to career advancement and shows that diverse professionals continue to not receive the same level of professional sponsorship as others. We need our majority group leaders to become more inclusive if we are to achieve equal sponsorship in our workplaces. Without equal sponsorship, companies will continue to miss the mark in placing the right talent with the right job opportunity. The result of failing to do so is squandered innovation and, eventually, mass attrition.
Empowering diverse professionals with sponsors is not a compliance issue, it is a business imperative. All leaders, but especially those who are members of a majority demographic group, need to take it upon themselves to build relationships with ALL the members on their teams to best understand their talents and connect them with the right opportunities.
Being the ‘White Guy’ advocate
As a member of a majority group, the first step to being a positive advocate for your diverse colleagues is to take a step back and listen. Majority-group individuals can best empower their diverse colleagues by augmenting their voices. Many well-intentioned allies start off passionately advocating for workplace diversity, but in doing so may unintentionally take the focus and voice away from their diverse colleagues. By nature, non-diverse leaders are inherently less qualified to speak on workplace diversity. However, they are often far more equipped to empower it by elevating the voice of those who might not have as significant a platform. Sometimes the best way to help is to do less and listen more!
Putting It All Together
At the end of it all, our role as change agents in the workplace is to create a culture that gives everyone an equal voice, so diverse professionals are empowered to take their careers into their own hands in ways that traditionally have not existed for them. Members of majority demographics continue to hold the preponderance of stakeholder and decision-making positions in most workplaces. Without their sponsorship of workplace diversity, our internal workplace cultures will continue to limit diverse professionals and squander innovation indefinitely.
There are a few things we can all do to be better advocates of workplace diversity. We can start by understanding the business benefits of Diversity and Inclusion as a tool for advocacy. Secondly, we can engage in healthy conversations around the topic in our workplaces and beyond. And lastly, we can all focus on how we can best create and nurture professional relationships between diverse and non-diverse professionals that enable collective success. What will you do to bolster diversity and inclusion in your workplace? Sound off below in the comment section and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
About Lead Inclusively
Lead Inclusively is a technology-enabled Diversity and Inclusion Consulting firm devoted to developing leaders, teams, and organizations to leverage Diversity and Inclusion as an accelerator for business performance. Our collective experience has been that diversity only assures that we have a mix of different people in the workplace. Diverse people in a non-inclusive workplace may be retained for some period of time, but without inclusion, they will not thrive, advance, or become strong team collaborators. Our Unique Diversity and Inclusion solutions ensure impactful and sustained transformation in your Leadership Development, Culture, Team, and Performance.