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Creating diverse teams is likely to do more in a corporate culture than one diverse board member that most employees will never see or interact with…

By Edna Figueroa - October 17, 2019

I’m delighted to introduce “Inclusive Insights” a series of videos showcasing some of our Diversity & Inclusion national leaders. Today, we have the honor to hear from Zahira (Zah) Gonzalvo, Flagstar Bank, Diversity & Inclusion Leader. This platform will help us share information on what is driving success in the corporate culture. We would like to hear your comments. Please check out her interview and my latest blog.

In late August, California legislators passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, would require publicly-traded companies headquartered in the state to place at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019, or face a penalty

A majority of companies in the S&P 500 have at least one woman on their boards, but only 25 percent have more than two, according to the 2017 Corporate Directors Survey from PwC. And some European countries require specific levels of female representation on corporate boards of directors.

But will this kind of mandate actually make a difference in corporate culture, innovation or profitability? There is reason to be skeptical.

Diversity Drives Innovation – From the Bottom Up

Part of the trouble comes from understanding that the true drivers of corporate innovation typically emanate from much lower within the corporate ranks. Creating diverse teams working on meaningful corporate initiatives is likely to do more to create success and long-term viability than having one diverse board member that most employees will never see or interact with.

Millennial employees, for example, view teamwork very differently, because they understand the power of differences at the team level. That’s where innovation begins.

As I wrote in a previous article (https://elevateleadershipcoaching.com/creating-a-sacred-space-for-inclusive-conversations) business leaders must jump-start these difficult cultural conversations if their organizations are going to thrive. If employers don’t do this work, employees won’t connect to a company’s vision and purpose, which will stifle innovation.

To really make a difference in diversity and inclusion requires less talk and more action. So how can leaders help harness the talent of all employees? Acknowledging differences and raising awareness is only the beginning of creating an inclusive environment.

Leaders Have to Be Vulnerable

Leaders have to force themselves, their employees and contacts, out of their comfort zones. You really have to walk the walk. Leaders must show vulnerability in discussing their own biases and shortcomings relative to diversity issues. That’s when you grow.

But leaders also must be bold. Don’t support diversity and inclusion camouflage.

  • Does your organization still participate in panel or speaker opportunities at industry conferences where all (or the vast majority) of the participants are male and white?
  • In your offices, is diversity a side conversation, or a main element? Maybe your website shows lots of diverse images, but what about your boardroom? Or your line managers with P&L responsibility?
  • Do you create opportunities for female or employees of color to show their expertise in meetings, or public?

Employees pay attention to what you say in hallways, who you call on in team meetings, and how you respond in town halls.

Steps to Inclusion Best Practices

You can tie diversity and inclusion into the organization’s mission, but you also have to understand what employees value. And add in references that take into account all employees’ belief systems. That’s how you create a more powerful employee experience.

  1. Encourage curiosity about others; it helps create the ability to make a difference.
  2. Emphasize that diversity is crucial to better performance – for teams and corporate results?
  3. Employers must make the extra effort to expand their reach into different networks to gain insights into what employees value in terms of culture and work environment.

How to Create a More Powerful Employee Inclusion Experience

Employers’ business and recruiting strategies have to be in alignment. For example, do your leaders’ compensation include consideration of their diversity efforts?

Between 2000 and 2050 new immigrants and their children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population., according to a 2005 Congressional Budget office study on “the Role of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market.” If you’re still wondering why diversity matters, you’re already behind.

Here are some final considerations to push your diversity and inclusion efforts to a higher level:

  • Challenge your belief system; make “differences” count.
  • Expand who is part of the organization’s social capital structure.
  • Connect business and recruiting strategies.

About Me

The vision of Elevate Leadership Coaching is a world where the values of individuals and organizations are aligned in pursuit of equity, fulfillment, impact and success.

I’ll be posting this blog monthly. Please subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter (@coachbizleaders). I’d love to see your comments and feedback on leadership and Diversity & Inclusion topics that you’re interested in learning more about.

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