Diversity: Conscious Decisions for Change
Diversity, a word thrown around corporate meetings, when discussing how to meet a quota. If you’re looking for an answer to the question: How can we hire more people like this, or more people like that? You’re already asking the wrong questions. You should be wondering why more people like this, or more people like that, aren’t applying for your roles.
Being in a homogeneous team means you’re less likely to have disagreements but it is through those disagreements that dialogues are formed and through those dialogues that decisions are made, thus driving better results. Avoid conventionality, embrace unconventional traits.
What is this, or that?
A substantial amount of people may think that diversity revolves solely around hiring more employees with different skin colours or employees in wheelchairs. Although, this is true to a certain extent, there is also an exceptionally large scope of people who aren’t covered, or even considered during discussions about diversity.
What is diversity?
Let’s imagine pebbles on a beach, fragments of rock in various sizes, shapes and colours. Some have been stood on, kicked, or thrown. Some have been polished and cherished. Some have washed up on the shore from other locations and some were formed on that very beach. They are all pebbles, despite their differences.
Just as all pebbles are pebbles, we are all human and in that sense we are all the same. However, there are a number of things which mean, we aren’t. These distinctions set us apart from one another, they are inherent, they make us who we are.
Why It’s Important
Differences in cultural backgrounds, interests and life experiences make for a better team. If everyone is the same, and worse if everyone thinks the same, how can new ideas be formed, how can problems arise in order to be solved? Diversity enables conversations, a real regard for one another, listening and learning from each other.
An understanding of worlds a little further removed from our own is beneficial. If someone disagrees with you, that’s fine. If you disagree with someone, that’s fine. It shouldn’t interfere with how you work together. Diversity in the workplace is about acceptance and understanding. Being open minded and reflecting on the opinions of others.
Talented individuals, particularly those from different backgrounds, being brought together with a shared purpose could help scale up and expand your company by significantly increasing customer relationships, outreach and positive influence. They offer unique perspectives and may inspire or encourage others to think differently.
When marketers are unable to consider their audience from all angles, their campaigns tend to go wrong (think Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi 2017 disaster). The same goes for companies creating, developing and designing applications. Being able to anticipate issues before they happen by consulting a diverse team, means you’re less likely to make mistakes, offend or upset anyone once your products are on the market.
A good example would be accessibility issues, providing options for easier access (larger fonts, speech recognition or text to voice etc.) might seem like a small thing but for someone who needs it, it means the world. Communicating every possible scenario with your team is crucial!
What You Can Do
Hire the right people for the job, regardless of their age, geographic location, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation or preference, education, gender, disability, mental health, interests, body modifications, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or size.
Hire people you can learn from, people who are different to you. Hire those who are not yet represented in your company. Hire people who love what they do.
However, bear in mind that diversity is not sympathy. Giving people a chance is important but it’s also wise (and kinder) to be honest. Keeping someone on when they’re problematic, just for the sake of diversity, isn’t a good idea.
Try not to stereotype, your social media intern doesn’t need to be a nonbinary eighteen year old with pink hair and your project manager doesn’t need to be a white man in his late twenties. Your engineering team could be made up of highly qualified middle aged men and women from all over the world! If a sixty year old autistic grandad wants to be your head of digital, is willing to learn and has an epic background in traditional marketing, embrace that. Why not?
We all have internalized stereotypes, also known as ableism, either gained through the media, our own experiences or the experiences of others. Stereotypes such as considering millennials to be lazy or that older generations don’t know how to use smartphones or social, aren’t fair.
Reverse mentoring should be encouraged more often within companies as we can all learn something from someone else. We all have our own sets of skills that we can contribute and pool to share and impart our knowledge, i.e. younger colleagues advising older colleagues on subjects they’re unfamiliar with and vice versa.
Removing the barriers between people and avoiding hierarchical structures is another way of becoming and maintaining a diverse team. Some companies choose transparent salaries and anonymous applications to illustrate this point. The role is paid X amount of money based on X amount of experience or X amount of time spent doing Y, no other attributes of the person are taken into consideration, just their skills and experience.
Anonymity and clarity. Problems arise when job applicants are asked to provide a photograph (we judge each other by the way we look almost instinctively) or think up their own salaries, they might look to their industry but worry if they suggest too much, they won’t be hired and so on.
Denying people opportunities is rife, especially in the tech industry.
Having flexible work options available such as remote work, varied contracts and flexitime, means that it’s possible to hire people from all walks of life. As long as there is trust and a way of providing evidence for work completed, it’s possible to meet the needs of both the employees and the employers!
Remember that a diverse workforce shouldn’t exist to tick boxes or aid grant applications. It should exist to strengthen, challenge and grow your company from the inside out.
We’d Love to Hear from You
In what ways does your company embrace diversity? Do you feel as though they could improve in some way, perhaps with less talk and more action? Is there anything you’d like to add, have we missed anything?
Please feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments below or via social media (send us some photos or videos too), you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Behance and Pinterest, let’s connect!
All images used are CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).