Cultivating equality: how new entrepreneurs can grow diversity from within
Diversity in 2019 is a vastly different concept than in generations prior. We may have progressed, but many inequalities often remain ingrained into the very foundations of workplace environments.
Although there has been a concerted effort in recent years to increase diversity in the workplace, there is still much progress to be made.
However, as recent studies have shown, having a truly diverse workforce can actually be highly profitable to a company, making employees more creative, hard-working, and diligent. It is clearly in every company’s best interest to expand the diversity of their workforce. But once a company is fully established, it is hard to change values entrenched into the very blueprint of the company.
What some companies fail to see is that diversity in the workplace is something that needs to grow and blossom, rather than be enforced. Luckily, new entrepreneurs are able to plant the seeds of diversity into their own companies at inception and watch them grow alongside their workforce.
Unbiasing the Hiring Process
With news of Amazon recently scrapping its recruiting tool after discovering that it displayed a gender bias against women, algorithmic bias in recruiting jumped to the forefront of the discussion about diversity in the workplace.
But to simply blame machines for bias would be disingenuous. Even when attempting to be as impartial as possible, biases remains rooted in many human recruiters. At the subconscious level, words can play a huge role in skewing jobs towards being filled by men. Job advertisements using seemingly innocuous language may discourage women from applying to a job.
Fortunately, a committed focus can remove this bias from the interview process. It takes a conscious effort, but dedicating time to making sure the language in a job advertisement is inclusive of everyone is essential. Several apps have even been developed to help hiring managers screen words that would otherwise hinder making diverse hires.
Another thing that new entrepreneurs can do is to employ a diverse team of interviewers. Research has shown that having a woman interviewer is a factor in influencing a woman into accepting a job. Having someone to relate and look up to can go a long way in improving diversity in the hiring process.
Promoting an Inclusive Workplace Culture
Equally important to growing a diverse workplace is making sure the work environment is inclusive of everyone. Diverse hiring fails to have the desired effect if the new employees don’t feel comfortable in the work space. Entrepreneurs have to make sure an inclusive work environment is offered in order to fully access the potential allowed by a diverse workforce.
For new entrepreneurs, it’s important to create a company mission, making diversity a cornerstone goal for their company. Integrating diversity directly into the company’s ethos will allow it to slowly bloom alongside their workforce.
Just as important is to be sure that each member of the team has access to the same channels, benefits, and opportunities. Consistent feedback from the team is essential to see what’s working, what can be improved and what should be changed. A new entrepreneur must be certain that everyone’s needs are being cared for and their issues addressed. Advancement opportunities should be made public knowledge with clear, measurable means to reach them.
Inclusivity can also be raised by including benefits that are actually beneficial. Many startups offer flashy perks like gym memberships, catered lunches and social events, but very few offered maternity or paternity leave. Though understandably hard to include paid time off in the early stages of a company, allowing for paid parental leave promotes an inclusive work environment that can help attract top talent.
Mentorship programs have also proven to increase inclusivity of a workplace. By pairing two diverse people together, the mentor and mentee are able to challenge each other to take risks while often giving different perspectives to people of different backgrounds. Similarly, a coffee buddies program matches two people up who wouldn’t normally have spoken to each other. Each of these programs fosters greater inclusivity and team building with very little risk involved.
Using External Programs to Advance Diversity and Inclusivity
Many times, a new entrepreneur gets caught up in the many other aspects of opening a business to truly focus on diversity. In situations like this, there are several outside organizations that can aid them through studies, training, and consulting.
Project Include is one such initiative which attempts to increase diversity through the collection and sharing of data. Using mounds of collected data, they help startups increase diversity in their initial stages before bad habits have become seeped in. Abiding by their three values of accountability, comprehensiveness, and inclusivity, Project Include aims to unlock the innovative potential of diverse workspaces.
Other organizations aim to expand the scope of diversity through hands-on training events. The NewME Startup Accelerator consists of a 12-week residential incubator program that allows diverse founders to discuss and develop business plans with each other.
Similarly, Change Catalyst aims to empower new entrepreneurs to expand the diversity in their companies through a series of conferences, consulting, training, and other events.
For too long has full integration of diversity remained underdeveloped in the corporate world.
However, new entrepreneurs have the unique opportunity to lead the charge and build the foundations for a diverse and equal workforce from the start.