C-Suite Diversity Needs to Mirror Authentic Representation

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, across every industry. The DEI umbrella covers all manner of efforts related to creating a welcoming, supportive environment for individuals in less-privileged groups due to their gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability and more.

Since the development of many DEI roles, programs have faced an expedited effort to quickly meet the moment. As a result, many have struggled to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish. This has led to a misappropriation of representation at many companies.

Unfortunately, companies can’t solve complex issues with symbolic gestures, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Instead, they must work to establish authentic DEI goals and integrate them within the organization’s standards for success.

When approached intentionally and authentically, DEI efforts represent a positive shift for us all. It starts at the top.

Bringing authenticity to diversity efforts

A growing body of evidence continues to prove that diverse teams are smarter, more dynamic and innovative when solving complex problems. Moreover, they’re linked to higher financial returns than their more uniform counterparts.

To see the proven positive effects of a diverse workplace in an organization, companies need to approach DEI efforts holistically and with intention. Improving the diversity of individuals at the executive table may increase approval ratings and public perception of a company; however, prioritizing diversity stats alone won’t magically elevate the quality of a team.

Simply put: This isn’t an Affirmative Action approach to increasing your bottom line.

Bringing the best and brightest candidates on board to positively improve the team remains essential—but company leaders must also acknowledge the problems within culture that have historically closed the door on diversity. To that end, it’s important for companies to strengthen the structure of their workplaces, to ensure they’re attractive to diverse candidates. Not only that, but also show support for their growth and development in order to retain them after they’re hired.

How can we authentically diversify the C-suite?

The benefits of a diverse team are only realized when a workplace’s culture shifts to not only accommodate diverse ideas, approaches, and solutions, but to welcome them. If you’re looking to authentically diversify your C-suite, remember:

  • Conduct an industry review: Identify peer organizations that successfully emulate the culture you’re striving for. What makes them appealing to diverse candidates and employees? Do they provide specific development, training, resources or support for the professional success of diverse individuals? Identify ways to bridge any gaps in your organization.
  • Work to reduce bias internally: Acknowledge that we all have our own biases, and that these have historically kept us from hiring individuals outside the majority—or retaining them as employees long-term. Identifying and processing these biases is essential, and DEI experts are available to provide actionable guidance to you and your team. Getting all team members involved, including the C-suite, illustrates your dedication to addressing issues head-on and developing authentic inclusion in your workplace culture.
  • Refresh job descriptions: How might your existing documentation be limiting diversity in your candidate pool? Use the insight you gleaned in DEI training to reduce bias in job descriptions. Using a program like Textio or Unitive, you can reduce subtle bias in job postings, to both attract diverse candidates and set the tone for a more inclusive culture.
  • Résumé screening and interviewing: Further reduce bias by removing names or LinkedIn profiles from résumés before sharing them with the hiring committee, so gender and race aren’t factors subconsciously considered during evaluation. Design intentional interview questions that cut to the core skills you need your candidate to have, and detail the types of questions that are inappropriate to ask so no one gets off topic.
  • Prepare a post-hire plan: Consider what mentorship, coaching or resources someone in this role may need in order to thrive once hired, and create a plan that helps them to do so. DEI roles can be isolating for some—do what you can to ensure a structure exists to support the work you want your new hire to accomplish. Consider additional engagements such as executive roundtables, to create frameworks for success.

Companies need a top-down approach to DEI

At the outset, DEI work can seem like a great undertaking. While it does require effort and consideration, the main objective is simply to find and hire the most skilled individual in any given position. It just also calls us to consider ways in which a long-held assumption about how we approach recruiting and interviewing may inadvertently be keeping those people from getting their foot in the door.

Beyond a more diverse executive committee, a C-suite that emphasizes DEI efforts will set the tone for a company poised to go further thanks to the benefits of authentic inclusion.

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