Diversity data expert Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, PhD, senior director & panel manager, research at Catalyst, on how to build a truly inclusive business.
An inclusive culture is one in which employees – across all intersections of identity – feel valued for their unique perspectives and experiences, as well as feel a sense of belonging and common ground with their team – that they are an insider. It is not enough to do one or the other. Belonging alone could lead to groupthink or suppress dissention and innovation. Valuing uniqueness alone could make individuals feel isolated or set apart. Thus, it’s critical that both aspects are incorporated at the same time.(i)
It’s also essential to actively consider intersections of identity in inclusion efforts. Programs that look to include “women” often only make positive change for white women because they do not consider how the experience of gender is transformed by race/ethnicity. Women of colour face unique challenges and thus employers seeking to create inclusion must actively, consciously address the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity in their efforts if they wish to benefit from all talent and perspectives(ii).
Be an inclusive leader
There are several key inclusive leadership behaviors that anyone can employ:
- Empowerment: enable others to succeed. Provide them with the resources to do their jobs. Trust them to accomplish their work in the ways that are best for them.
- Accountability: hold others responsible for outcomes they can control. By doing that, you demonstrate trust that they can accomplish their goals.
- Courage: speak up when something needs saying, even if it’s risky, especially if you see bias in your midst. Support your colleagues’ good-but-risky ideas.
- Humility: recognise that you do not have all the answers. Seek the perspectives of others to supplement and fill the gaps in your own understanding.(iii)
These key leadership behaviors drive the inclusive environments that will help your business and employees thrive.
Know where you are
What is measured gets done. If companies do not know where there are gaps in representation – spaces where there is homogeneity, which contributes to groupthink and prevents the introduction of new experiences and ideas – they cannot begin to fix the problem. Companies must measure their representation at all levels and in all business units. Moreover, they must look at multiple identities and intersections of identity. Are women of colour represented across your company, including and importantly in leadership positions? Do you have a robust, diverse talent pool to advance and promote?
But this is only the first step. Representation is necessary but not sufficient to create the innovative, prosperous workplaces of the future. A company cannot put someone into a role and expect them to succeed if their voice and perspective is not heard and valued. For your company to reap the many benefits of a diverse workforce, it must ensure all voices are included.
(i) Jeanine Prime and Elizabeth R. Salib, Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries (Catalyst, 2014).
(ii) Dnika J. Travis and Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, Day-to-day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace (Catalyst, 2018).
(iii) Jeanine Prime and Elizabeth R. Salib, Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries (Catalyst, 2014).