When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, it can sometimes seem as if everyone is waiting for someone else to lead the way. Managers want to make sure they get employee buy-in first. Employees look to their managers for direction. And CEOs want to see data that ensures they’re headed in the right direction. But DE&I doesn’t have to be a waiting game. Employees of all levels can have an impact. All they need is the right encouragement. Flora Wang, a Sales Engineer at HubSpot, advocates that everyone in an organization can be empowered to contribute to an inclusive atmosphere. During a presentation at HubSpot’s INBOUND 18 conference, Flora described simple ways that all employees can foster inclusion.
Here’s a recap of the highlights and action-ready things you can embed into your own company.
Diversity vs. inclusion: What’s the difference?
Diversity, equity inclusion are almost always discussed together (hence the common abbreviation, DE&I), but Flora took a moment to offer a simple distinction between the two concepts, citing a quote from Verna Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Flora mentioned how we’ve all felt excluded at some point in our lives, whether it was by not being invited to a party or let in on a joke. When employees feel that way in their working environment, they’re not able to be their most authentic selves and do their best work.
Fostering diversity begins with better hiring practices—a widely cited study found that candidates who had names that sounded more typically white received 50% more callbacks than those of candidates whose names sounded more typically African-American. And promoting inclusion is necessary to help employees from diverse backgrounds thrive and succeed in their roles. According to Pew research, 1 out of 8 Americans say their race or ethnicity has made job success harder. The New York Times also recently ran a feature highlighting the fact that the total number of female CEOs is equal to the number of male CEOs named John alone.
While diversity is easy to measure, inclusion is not. But it is still a goal worth aiming for—inclusion impacts hiring, promotion, and retention. BuiltIn's State of DEI in Tech report showed that 78 percent of surveyed employees say diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are very important to them when considering whether or not to accept a job offer. For Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), this number jumps to 88 percent.
How to empower all employees to promote inclusion
1. Reconsider your job descriptions
Job descriptions are one of the first points of contact that candidates have with your company, and they may unintentionally be excluding people from different groups. Research shows, for example, that men are likely to apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women will only apply when they meet 100% of the qualifications. One easy fix here is to limit the requirements you list in your job description, or to be very explicit about which elements are “nice to haves” rather than requirements. Similarly, by eliminating vernacular language like “hacker” or “ninja” you can make people from broader backgrounds feel more welcome—and increase their likelihood of applying.
2. Institute a culture of “meeting manners”
Women are more likely to be interrupted than men in meetings (and there have been several well-documented instances such as Kamala Harris and Ariana Huffington being interrupted by male colleagues, even in high-profile settings like the Senate and the Uber board meeting). You can try to curb this at your organization by creating a culture of “meeting manners.” Flora suggests prohibiting interruptions, taking a popcorn style approach, where you queue up the next 3 people to speak so everyone knows they’ll have a turn coming up, or using the “chime in” technique where you bring back a point that’s been glossed over to make sure it has been given ample consideration.
3. Discuss preferred pronouns
One way to create a sense of inclusion is by discussing and acknowledging employees’ pronoun preferences. At HubSpot, employees introduce themselves with their names and gender pronouns, making it a simple habit that contributes to a company culture that places a lot of importance and visibility on inclusion. Another easy way to take this small, intentional step is to include gender pronouns in your email signature or Slack profile.
4. Get creative with team bonding
Happy hours are one of the most typical types of team bonding activities, but they can feel exclusionary to people who have to leave early to pick up children, people who don’t drink alcohol, and even to those who feel uncomfortable in crowded, noisy places. And while the happy hour format may be fun for some people, it doesn’t often lead to people sharing about their backgrounds and culture. Flora recommends hosting different types of events that provide forums for people to share a little about their culture, such as book clubs, potlucks, or movie nights. Get creative; the world is your oyster when it comes to thinking up inventive and unique ways to connect your people.
We don’t need to wait on someone else in order to foster an inclusive culture—the steps that Flora outlined are all easy enough for any employee at any level to get involved in and raise a hand to start a grassroots movement. Making some of these small changes yourself—and celebrating other employees who do so—will build the foundation for even larger inclusion initiatives at your company.
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