Why Diversity Matters at Work: Lessons Learned from the Inclusion & Innovation Summit

Last week, I attended the 2018 Inclusion & Innovation Summit, hosted at Twitter’s HQ in San Francisco.  We heard from an impressive panel of speakers on the challenges in promoting diversity in the workplace, and ways to overcome them. The panel’s credentials and accomplishments wowed me. We heard from Twitter’s Founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, CNN Hero & CEO of the National Center of Civil and Human Rights, Derreck Kayongo, and social advocate and mechanical engineer, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, just to name a few. The experiences that all of the speakers shared with us reinforced for me that, while bias and discrimination may be a tough weed to eradicate, we can and must seek to do so for ourselves and our businesses.
A diverse workplace isn’t a feel-good gold star to put on a company’s resume. It’s a crucial building block for success. Discrimination costs businesses in many ways, including financially. Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that companies paid approximately $484 million to victims of workplace discrimination. Beyond impacting their bottom line, companies miss out on critical opportunities to reach their customers and grow their top line. Dorsey noted that diversity is a reflection of who we serve, and to serve a diverse world, we must reflect that diversity in our companies.

It’s not enough to know that diversity is important – we must actively challenge the status quo to achieve it. Challenging the status quo requires us to check our biases at the door. As Kayongo reminded us, our viewpoint of the world has been continuously shaped since birth. Our subconscious forms its own opinions through information we receive from our families, friends and experiences, and numerous environmental sources. Unconscious bias can emerge among even the best of intentions; it can be hard to change, but it’s even harder if you don’t try.

So how do we change attitudes on diversity & inclusion?

  • Be wary of group think. The tendency to side with the majority share of voice creates blind spots. Real, mindful approaches to implementing change requires creativity. Assemble teams with diversity in mind, and encourage yourselves to examine an issue from all viewpoints.
  • Be the change you wish to see. This mantra is an old one, but a relevant one, and one that Dorsey touched on in our discussion – we can remodel cultural behaviors by doing. Be brave and set the example.
  • Implement a process. The effective path to change requires planning. Abdel-Magied highlighted how the Lewin Change Management Model helps us make changes that stick.
  1. Unfreeze from the status quo. Help your team to understand that change is necessary. Show them what’s not working and how it can be solved.
  2. Change the way you operate. This is the transitional period of implementing new policies.
  3. Refreeze on the new standard. Adopt your new focus, and institutionalize the changes you’ve made.

These workshops are invaluable to me, not only for the fresh perspectives they provide, but also for the important reminder that we have to continually seek the best practices to grow and adapt moving forward. The learning curve never stops; in a dynamic, ever-changing world, new challenges are sure to be revealed – never stop seeking the solutions to the tough problems.

Sources: “EEOC Isues FY 2017 Performance Report”, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
15 November 2017 https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/11-15-17a.cfm 

Leave a Reply