Championing Diversity

It is a critical responsibility of any leader to act as a Diversity Champion. There is no need to have a degree in Human Resources nor do you need to have conducted research on the topic; you just need to be committed to the cause – to serve as a voice and a driver of diversity.

Of course studies have shown and common sense tells us that we are most successful when we bring varied minds and experiences to the table. But more importantly it is the right thing to do and the more leaders in an organization who are actively and meaningfully involved with increasing diversity, the more diverse the organization will become. This is because it’s not just about setting quotas, which any single leader could do, but about recognizing the value of different perspectives and seizing it.

As noted in Lessons from the Leading Edge of Gender Diversity from the McKinsey Quarterly, “Culture and values are at the core: Gender-diversity programs aren’t enough. While they can provide an initial jolt, all too often enthusiasm wanes and old habits resurface. Values last if they are lived every day by the leadership on down. If gender diversity fits with that value set, almost all the people in an organization will want to bring more of themselves to work every day.”

So let this be a call for you to join me, for you to be a Diversity Champion for your organization. There are many ways you can do this, but here are a few to get you started:

  • If you have a voice, use it! As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote in their recent NY Times article on gender diversity, “Instead of quieting down, men can use their voices to draw attention to women’s contributions.” But it’s not just about men or about women, we can all bring awareness to the amazing contributions of people who don’t look or sound or think like us. This is about recognizing success that is based on merit and achievement, not superficial factors.
  • Sponsor a junior employee: Not only can you serve as role models and mentors, but you can also support an employee’s career and help them to achieve their goals. As a sponsor, you act as their advocate and help them gain access to opportunities.
  • Be self aware: We all have biases that we need to recognize and transform, not deny. For example: Do you favor a certain view point? Are you likely to promote certain types of people? Look at the team around you, what is their makeup? It’s not easy to recognize our own biases, but it’s important. This article provides some tips for identifying and reducing bias.

Maybe some of you wish we could work in a world where there was no need for Diversity Champions, but I like to think of it as an integral piece of a well balanced organization. No matter what, we should always be committed to bringing in new perspectives and new ways of working. However, being a Diversity Champion shouldn’t just be a temporary role or a position for a few, instead we should all see ourselves champions of diversity every day.