Dear Employers: Why diversity and inclusion matters in EVERY office

Stand up and look around your office. Now count how many people of color exist in your office/organization? If you can count them all on one hand, there is a problem.

I’ve worked at two large public relations agencies with diversity and inclusion directors, but when I looked around the office, I only saw less than 10 percent of people who looked like me. The same ratio happened when I worked at a small office except I would be the only person of color.

I’ve attended interviews wondering if weren’t going to hire me based on my race. One company took my ideas but hired someone who was a “better culture fit” which was keyword someone not of color. How did I know, I looked them up on LinkedIn.

Being a double minority – a black woman – these are my realities and unfortunately the realities of many other people of color who are seeking employment. Diversity is not just about getting your quota numbers or trendy diversity programs. It’s putting in the work for “diversity and inclusion.”

Increasing diversity shows that your company is progressively thinking of growing talent and creating an environment that is inclusive and open-minded. Diversity and inclusion show that you care about creating an environment that values your employees and wants them to be their best selves and not worry about stereotypical microaggressions.

Some employers might argue that they can’t find diverse candidates or someone to fit the skills. But have you considered that you might be looking in all the wrong places? It’s about looking in the right places and partnering with diverse organizations to find those candidates. It’s about seeking niche job boards where prospective candidates would look. It’s about putting in the work to find those people because they are out there, but you have to be committed to finding them.

Companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Quicken Loans, SodaStream and Eli Lilly to name a few are committed to diversity and inclusion within its company values.

While most companies might not have the bandwidth of these large corporations, that doesn’t mean that it’s not essential to establish a diversity policy and this includes eliminating unconscious bias.

According to the University of California Office of Diversity and Outreach the definition of unconscious biases “are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals from outside their own conscious awareness.” There might be employees who think they are not biased towards a particular group, but their actions reflect differently.

Unfortunately, I’ve been in environments where I was treated differently than my white counterparts, and I didn’t feel comfortable going to human resources about my concerns. Because of this, unfortunately, this is why employees choose to leave rather than stay because of this innate fear.

The key is to create an open door policy when it comes to these types of complaints and concerns. There are also tests that can help to reveal and show steps of how to eliminate implicit bias. There are also many programs that provide the basics of how to increase diversity.

Having a diverse workplace is a win-win for everyone. It creates higher employee engagement, better performance and problem solving, and it creates a better work community.

Also, increasing diversity in the office and management positions can save companies from having a public relations nightmare. Now and then I would read an article about an advertising or social media campaign gone wrong because it was culturally insensitive. I thought to myself, how many people of color were in the office that they could have run past and saved themselves this mistake? How many people of color were decision makers? I’m willing to bet you, not one. And let’s not forget the most recent fiasco of Megan Kelly’s comment on “blackface.”

Diversity is not just a term or fad; it’s the future. Employers, what are you doing to increase diversity at your companies? Do you have a plan?

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