Diversity is one of the hottest topics in business today. Articles revealing the lack of women in Silicon Valley tech companies and company-wide efforts by corporates to get more women into their workforces are the kinds of stories that litter our news feeds almost daily.
The fact that gender-diverse companies perform better financially, “particularly when women occupy a significant proportion of top management positions,” only serves to deepen the urgent need for more equitable workplaces.
Diversity isn’t only about increasing the number of women in leadership positions though. It pertains to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. It also affects every facet of business, regardless of whether you’re an employee or a business owner.
When you’re running a business, it’s important to form an advisory board, create hiring policies and align with other organisations that share your values and reflect the diverse nature of your customer base, and brand. It’s also essential that people working inside your business feel included, supported, valued and respected.
Here are 9 tips for achieving a diverse and inclusive business:
1. Hire talented individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
“What we don’t ever do is make decisions about employment based on degree qualifications alone, your CV, the school you went to, if English is your first language, where you live and what your personal religious beliefs might be,” says Inspiring Rare Birds Founder and CEO Jo Burston.
“We look at wisdom, attitude, problem-solving skills, passion, persistence, logic, compassion and resilience as much as appropriate skills. I would hire a 60-year-old if they showed these qualities and were willing to be part of an entrepreneurial environment,” she says.
2. Implement a mentoring program that supports women in securing top positions and backs their career advancement. Gender-balanced companies perform better financially, “particularly when women occupy a significant proportion of top management positions,” according to this report.
“Mentoring is essential within the business and workplace. ‘Sending the elevator back down’ isn’t enough, mentors should also be prepared to walk the talk when it comes to gender diversity and do whatever they can to help mentees advance their careers,” says Burston.
3. Promote women to leadership roles, so they become role models for younger women in your organisation. Companies globally now recognise the importance of this in fostering a pipeline to boardroom roles and increasing their revenue.
4. Learn about the lives, cultural backgrounds, and interests of your team. Building relationships with your colleagues increases understanding and trust, and encourages inclusion. Recognise days and events of cultural and/or religious significance. Avoid arranging meetings on these days, allow for flexible working arrangements or time off on these occasions.
5. Give equal weight and significance to cultural events, such as gay and lesbian mardi gras, and to birthdays, anniversaries and ceremonies.
6. Offer training and awareness programs that make everyone in your team know they’re valued and included, so they can learn how to work together and understand the benefits diverse teams have to offer. This includes increased creativity, productivity and competitive advantage.
7. Create opportunities for your team to meet and socialise outside of work and make sure everyone has the option to take part in planning these social activities.
8. Don’t be afraid to try doing things in new ways.
“Flip the organisation and listen to new employees who are starting their careers. What do they want and are willing to give to create a true value-exchange within the organisation? This is authentic leadership,” says Burston.
“Be brave and demonstrate true diversity, thinking and action, not because it’s a policy, but because you believe it. If you don’t believe in it, you are the problem and should think about the world you want to leave behind for the next generation,” she says.
9. Be supportive.
“In Australia, we’re fortunate to have businesses founded by men and women from incredibly diverse backgrounds. We recently had a privileged look inside 300 of those businesses when founders from around Australia applied for 100 Inspiring Mentoring Scholarships,” says Burston.
“What we saw were hard-working, innovative and resilient entrepreneurs working in incredibly diverse situations and circumstance. They’re contributing not only to the prosperity of their families, but to the growth of their communities and the economic prosperity of the whole country. It’s an enormous honour to be part of an organisation that supports that diversity,” she says.
To find a mentor who could help you further your career or work with you to create a more diverse business contact Inspiring Rare Birds. The Inspiring Rare Birds Mentoring Program is supported by the Australian Government to fund 100 mentoring relationships through the country. Rare Birds is proud to acknowledge that these scholarships will support entrepreneurs from indigenous, migrant, socio-economically disadvantaged, and regional and rural backgrounds.