Practice What You Preach: How Any Organization Can Truly Embrace Diversity

Practice What You Preach: How Any Organization Can Truly Embrace Diversity

POST WRITTEN BY:  Forbes Coaches Council

 

With as many as 41% of businesses saying they don’t have time to include diversity in their workplace, the need for inclusivity seems greater than ever. Many organizations claim to have a handle on diversity from within, but there is much more work that can be done to make all their employees feel like a part of a team.

 

There’s a lot to learn about diversity from a business perspective. Your organization needs to stay ahead of the curve and be a true leader when it comes to being truly inclusive. With a little effort and time, you can provide a work environment that your diverse staff will thrive in.

 

Fifteen members of Forbes Coaches Council weigh in on the steps organizations need to take to embrace diversity and actually “practice what they preach” regarding it. Here’s what they recommend:

 

1. Get Clear About Inclusion

 

Diversity plans are nothing without inclusion. Most of us understand the benefits and competitive advantages of a diverse workforce, yet we are challenged to be inclusive of the very diversity we create. So before you start mixing things up, get extremely clear about the culture you are trying to cultivate and why. - Susan Taylor, Generon International

 

2. Embrace Diversity From The Top Down

 

Organizations interested in diversity and inclusion must begin at the highest levels. The board, senior executives and upper-level management must reflect their diversity philosophy. In addition, training on diversity and inclusion should be mandatory for all employees on a regular basis. This should begin with orientation and continue each year. - Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, Health Resources Solutions, LLC

 

 

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Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

By: Kenneth Anderson Taylor, Chicago Tribune

 

You may not recognize the name Tarana Burke. She’s the black woman who founded the #MeToo movement a decade ago to support women of color who survive sexual harassment and assault.

 

Although this movement has mostly directed attention to work-related abuses involving white women since it hit critical mass in 2017, it also speaks to me as a black man because of the racial discrimination I personally experienced many years ago as a nonprofit CEO.

 

Today, I blame that predicament on the lack of diversity among the leadership of my nonprofit’s board. Imbalances of power create opportunities for the people who have historically called the shots to abuse their authority — whether that means paying people of color less than whites for the same work or committing the kinds of outrages that the #MeToo movement and its offshoots are now bringing to light.

 

Here’s the big picture: At a time when only 61.3 percent of Americans are white, about 84 percent of nonprofit board members are in that demographic group, along with 90 percent of nonprofit board chairs. When BoardSource, which strives to improve nonprofit management, released this data in 2016, it predicted little progress:

 

“Despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices.”

 

The leadership ranks of nonprofits are, it turns out, a bit more racially and ethnically diverse than their corporate counterparts. Yet I believe nonprofits typically have more of an imperative than private companies to get this right because of their missions.

 

Do-gooders can do better

 

This matters because boards of directors supervise the nation’s nearly 1.6 million nonprofits, providing financial oversight and strategic guidance. In addition, they help with fundraising and hire and manage the group’s top staff. Most board members are volunteers.

 

Nonprofits, such as medical research institutions, houses of worship and shelters for sexual abuse victims, usually fill gaps between what the government and private sector do. A large share of them serve communities with great needs, a population that is disproportionately made up of people of color.

 

Strangely, nonprofit decision-makers seem to either not understand or don’t believe that relying on overly white leadership is at odds with their missions.

 

My own experience illustrates the travails that leaders of color may experience within nonprofits.

 

After spending nine years working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest youth mentoring organization, I was thrilled to move from its national headquarters in Philadelphia for a job as temporary CEO of its Austin, Texas, affiliate.

 

I was even more excited when the board wanted to hire me permanently six months later. But my enthusiasm soon fizzled upon discovering that the same board that unanimously wanted me to lead the organization also collectively decided to pay me thousands of dollars less than my predecessor — a white woman with less experience than me who had approximately the same academic credentials.

 

Attempting to negotiate a more equitable salary with a board that was all white aside from one black man discouraged me further. I was simply told the matter was not up for discussion. After all, the board’s president-elect stated, I “didn’t have to say yes” and it was the first time I would be serving in this capacity — as it had been for the CEO I was replacing.

 

Just imagine dedicating nine years of your life to an organization with the goal of becoming its CEO, having that dream come true and then realizing your hard work had culminated in an offer to be paid far less than the person you were to replace.

 

Though I eventually accepted the board’s offer based on what I believed to be right in terms of my career path, in my heart I knew I was discriminated against in terms of compensation.

 

Old patterns

 

While most nonprofit staff leaders and board members say they are extremely dissatisfied with this gap, they do little to correct it. In fact, they ignore basic and logical remedies.

 

Most do not make diversity a high priority when they recruit new leaders, for example. As James Westphal of the University of Michigan and Edward Zajac of Northwestern University found in 1995, most board members are identified and recruited through informal practices that are rarely rigorous or systematic.

 

This convention hasn’t changed. Unsurprisingly, it yields recruits who resemble older board members.

 

As a result, new and former nonprofit board members are nearly identical in terms of their ethnic and racial backgrounds, even for groups claiming to value diversity. Maybe they do. But they must prove that.

 

I believe that nonprofit leaders can take some basic steps to draw more people of color into their upper ranks.

 

Since the leadership in most nonprofits is drawn from the board and upper management, a simple first step is to acknowledge the job dissatisfaction of employees of color. Ample research, including my own, indicates that they are generally less satisfied than whites.

 

Unsatisfied employees, whether white or people of color, are more likely to move on. This is especially true for nonprofits, whose employees routinely cite low pay when conveying the reasons for their discontent.

 

In addition, board members and top staff can make and communicate clear plans to achieve the goal of leadership diversity. Consistently communicating why it would advance the group’s mission — and is worth the trouble — is key. So is letting employees of color know that their input is highly valued.

 

Airing feedback from employees of color at board meetings helps, as does requiring nonprofit executives to identify, hire and mentor nonwhites for leadership roles.

 

With many nonprofits undergoing leadership successions today, there’s no time to waste.

 

The Conversation

Kenneth Anderson Taylor is an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.

 

 

 

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DIVERSITY DESPERATELY NEEDS INCLUSION

Diversity Desperately Needs Inclusion

By: Tony Wright

 

Several months ago, I was invited to attend a small gathering to discuss workplace diversity. I sat alongside other leaders for breakfast to learn about what they'd done to help diversify their work teams. The facilitator of this small gathering was a very passionate white female that sought to change the usual demographic in the upper echelons of management. As she began to facilitate the discussion, I leaned forward with curiosity, as I knew that, on this day, I'd learn something different. The energy in the room was fantastic. 

 

The facilitator arranged for a group of prominent leaders - all white men - to engage in an interactive conversation with the audience about how to ensure women were given ample opportunities to compete for leadership positions. She asked really tough questions, and quite frankly, the (white) men gave solid responses that were really helpful. Many of these men had already implemented succuessful hiring initiatives to give more women opportunities to compete. They were changing the demographic of their companies, and they had the numbers to prove it.

 

One CEO gave specifics about how his organization shaped interview panels so that the ratio of men to women was appropriate. Basically, his theory was that a balanced panel would more than likely make a balanced decision. This simple tweak obviously made a big impact in his organization - more women were allegedly given more opportunities for advancement.

 

In another example, a CEO stated that he mandated that diversity committees be formed in different divisions throughout his organization. He stated that the committees were formed to bring back innovative ideas that supported the advancement of diversity. Similar to the earlier example, women were asked to participate in these committees, and as such, they developed plans that were thoughtful and deliberate. After these plans were implemented, the CEO stated that they quickly began to see changes - positive changes - in all layers of management in his organization.

 

After several other CEOs spoke, and the audience asked their fair share of questions, the facilitator summarized the lessons learned for us to take back to our home organizations. Enthused and ready to put a plan in place for my company, I pointed my attention back to the facilitator to listen to her closing remarks. Her powerpoint ended with a before and after picture of an executive team. The "current state" image showcased a gathering of business men - all white men - dressed in fancy suits and ties. The "future state" image was much different. It was a collection of men and women, all dressed professionally - - - and, they were all - - -  white.

 

Not a single woman of color.

 

As I looked around the room, the audience appeared to be excited and engaged. I was not. I was beginning to feel defeated, as if people who looked like me were intentionally carved out of the diversity conversation. You see, I am an African American male. No one else in the room looked like me.

 

In an instant, I transitioned from being highly engaged, to feeling a sense of frustration. I felt alone.

 

And then, it hit me. 

 

Diversity requires inclusion at all levels. Without it, it diversity doesn't stick, and there is no real, sustainable engagement. We must include everyone in the conversation to have balance - including black men, and white men. Women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled employees... The list goes on. No member of any "group" will have the desire to participate in such an important conversation if they aren't positively impacted.

 

Thoughtful inclusion of everyone is probably the best way to get full participation when having these types of discussions. Without inclusion, there's often a diversity backlash that can occur, which is what I felt when I saw the all-white image of an executive leadership team.

 

 

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