Last week, over 350 business leaders, consisting of CEOs and their executive teams, participated in our Inclusive Leadership Development event. Over the course of the morning, those attending had the opportunity to learn about workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion from Andrés Tapia, the Global Diversity and Inclusion Solutions Leader for Korn Ferry Hay Group, consultant, journalist and author. Here are a few key lessons from the event:
“Diversity is upside-down”
Andrés explained that in many ways, diversity is “upside-down,” meaning that minority identities are becoming more common.
- Nearly 90% of Americans were white until the 1960’s. Today, nearly a quarter of all Americans identify with a race or ethnicity that is not white alone.
- In 2010, the US military repealed its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and in 2013, the United States legalized marriage equality. As a result, many members of the LGBT community have felt more comfortable coming out to their families, neighbors, and coworkers as attitudes shift.
- Those with disabilities are more likely to be considered “differently abled” than ever before, as we recognize the ways our different abilities can strengthen communities and businesses.
- For the first time in history, women are more likely than men to hold a bachelor’s degree.
All of these statistics mean that more and more minorities are playing important roles in the workforce. Since 2008, 70% of those entering the workforce were minorities or women.
Andrés spoke of intersectionality, or the possibility that one person holds many identities. He reminded attendees to consider that one person can fall into multiple categories—for example, one employee may be a Latino, college-educated man or a white, disabled, single-mother. For this reason, diversity and talent attraction strategies must avoid becoming “one-size-fits-all.”
To accommodate these “new blends,” Andrés urged attendees to “bring biography to management and the workplace.” This means telling our stories and explaining our backgrounds openly and freely, so that others may feel comfortable doing the same. Telling our individual stories allows us to more completely understand each persons’ complex and unique history and experience.
“DE&I is a Green Issue”
Because minority groups are consistently growing, minorities hold significant buying power. Andrés explained to the group that they should think of DE&I as a “green” issue, rather than a “black, white, or brown” issue.
Of course, in addition to the buying power that minorities hold, companies need to be sure they are focused on DE&I as part of their talent attraction, retention, and development strategy. Andrés urged attendees to include “advancement” to the goal as well, to ensure that workers—especially those from different backgrounds—have the opportunity to grow with a company and eventually take on leadership roles.
“Diversity is the Mix. Inclusion is making the mix work”
Leaders should be aware of how our cultural and socialized differences impact the way we communicate, our perception of timeliness, assumptions about status, and any number of other factors. As an example, Andrés noted the individualized nature of most western culture, while others (including Latino cultures) may be more group-oriented. Or, our preferences for addressing disagreements directly vs. indirectly will vary by our culture and background.
Inclusive leaders should be aware of these differences, and self-aware of their own preferences. This allows leaders to better understand and communicate with those with different backgrounds. By adapting to these changes without losing their authentic selves, leaders can be more “cross-culturally agile.”
In order to track DE&I, Andrés urges employers to make sure the “mix” is truly inclusive and effective by choosing a goal to track as a measure. DE&I can improve sales, innovation, or any number of other factors. Employers can pick one goal and use it as a measure for the effectiveness of their DE&I efforts.
To learn more about “Upside-Down Diversity,” intersectional identities, and “Making the Mix Work,” check out Andrés’ TED Talk on YouTube.
Did you attend the ILD Event? What did you learn, and what inclusive leadership strategies are you thinking about? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and be sure to participate in our survey.