As our society strives to embrace diversity and promote inclusion, we are starting to get a more global perspective on what diversity is and what it is not. Diversity is not limited to gender and skin tone. Those are merely two facets of a much broader issue. In reality, we are all diverse. We each bring unique life experiences to the table. For too many companies, however, maintaining diversity becomes tricky as we climb the corporate ladder.
The Consequences of Same-Ness
When improving diversity in the hiring process, we have made great strides, especially in regard to cultural and gender diversity. However, evidence shows that as we trek toward the top of the company pyramid, we see fewer obvious signs of diversity and many more like-minded persons huddled at the top.
In her article Diversity in Leadership Positions, Kali Hawlk notes that this lack of diversity has major consequences for companies, including:
- Hindering innovation
- Creating a lack of role models for employees
- Discouraging younger generations from accepting employment
- Negatively impacting networking
- Lowering financial gains
How To Diversify Your Pyramid
It’s no surprise, really, that we promote people who share our vision of how our companies should operate. It’s human nature to seek comfort in familiarity. Additionally, companies want to ensure buy-in for major initiatives and present a united front to clients, investors, and even competitors. But that doesn’t mean we have to surround ourselves with people who never challenge our perspective.
So, how can we diversify our companies’ pyramids? First, we need to make a very conscious effort to be objective about what skills we need for better teams. These skills don’t (and probably shouldn’t) mirror our own. Consider choosing a diversity leader to offer an independent point of view on promotion decisions. Blind resume searches, similar to those used in the initial hiring process, can also reduce the impact of subconscious bias.
Second, we need to practice mentorship centered on advancing diversity. It’s tempting to match mentors and mentees with common life experiences. There’s a perception that people with common backgrounds will “understand” and thus achieve rapport more quickly and fully. But pairs with different experiences can provide insights that help both to grow personally and professionally AND advance the company’s diversity goals.
For more ways to encourage diversity, check out 11 Strategies for Achieving a More Diverse and Productive Work Environment, by Theodore Henderson.
In short, it’s important to research and utilize every skill possessed by employees in your business to its full potential. Sometimes that means looking beyond the status quo, even taking risks, to find the people who can amplify our business strategy in unique ways. By choosing to do so, we create paths to the top of our profession for all.