Thanks to many recent efforts on a global scale from the UN, as well as across individual corporations’ HR professionals, many workplaces now take active steps to increase diversity and inclusivity among their ranks. While policies and training implemented at the employee level are becoming more widespread, there is a developing trend that for diversity to be fully integrated into corporate culture, the biggest efforts must come not from the employees, but from the management and executives.
Diversify From The Top Down
Employees look to upper-level executives to define and enforce company culture. With that in mind, diversity issues merely tacked on to a corporate training program will fall flat of promoting a healthy shift in ideas unless awareness and acceptance of diversity is woven into the company’s structure from the very top.
Despite the fact that real and visible efforts to diversify are taking place all across Fortune 500 companies, Businessweek reported that the last 10 years have actually seen very little in the way of more women serving as corporate officers. This isn’t necessarily indicative of of inequality or intolerance within a workplace, but it does highlight that corporate diversification efforts must be proactive instead of reactive. New employees, including women and workers from diverse cultural backgrounds, may be wary of an office characterized by homogeneity, as it can send the unconscious message that diversity has not been an important issue for you or your company up to this point.
Diversity is not merely a policy that management can hand down to employees to be implemented via corporate training programs. Your company’s attitudes toward diversity, or lack thereof, are reflected in every facet of operation, from the presence or absence of corporate harassment policies to the composition of your executive team—and everything in between.
Diversity As A Foundation
In order to work toward permanently closing the gender gap and promoting inclusivity, certain ideals should form the foundation on which your company operates. In 2009 the United Nations released the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a set of published guidelines outlining how gender equality and the empowerment of women can be be promoted within the workplace. Businessweek reported that to- date, the statement of support has been signed by upward of 670 CEOs. A 2006 report from the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that corporate training programs on diversity were reported by 76 percent of HR departments.
Acknowledging and accepting diversity doesn’t mean ignoring the differences between employees of different backgrounds, but rather accepting and welcoming all of them equally. The Houston Chronicle reported that many companies have reported positive results by implementing such measures as company-sponsored daycare programs, or allowing reasonable time off for observance of religious holidays.
But working toward gender parity must comprise more than zero-tolerance harassment policies and equal compensation. To send the message company-wide that yours is a foundation built on diversity, women and employees of diverse cultural backgrounds must be shown to be important and valuable members of your team. Extending inclusivity practices to your executive and C-suite positions will not only show the whole company that your corporate culture embraces diversity, but it will also introduce more diverse elements into all aspects of your company operation and policymaking. Expanding the pool of extremely talented employees from across so many diverse perspectives will open up your company to a wide variety of fresh new talent.