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How to Create & Build Diversity and Inclusion

By Marilyn Tam, Author and Speaker on Leadership, Productivity, and Diversity

How you can foster diversity, inclusion and understanding to build collaboration, creativity and productivity.

Marilyn Tam - Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion Speaker - The Sweeney Agency

Frankly we don’t hire women for positions other than tellers and receptionists at our bank”, the recruiter of the prominent Oregonian bank said to me after my on-campus interview. It was sobering to hear that from a recruiter since I was armed with a master’s degree in Economics and Business and have excellent summer and school year work experience and recommendations. Then he added, “besides, you originally came from another country, so we definitely won’t hire you”.

The situation has somewhat improved now a few decades later, but truly not anywhere near enough. Not when according to Stanford University researchracially diverse executives hold only 16 percent of total C-suite positions and only 16 out of 500 companies are being led by a non-white CEO. In 26 of the Fortune 100, there is no ethnic diversity at the C+1 level [direct reports]. Women, at 50% of the population, hold 25 percent of the C-suite positions. Only 7 of the companies have a female CEO. Even more disturbing, women hold only 13 percent of positions with high potential for CEO promotion and board recruitment (CEO, CFO, and P&L leaders). So even in the cases where there is a woman in the C-suites, she is generally slotted into positions with lower potential for advancement (general counsel, human resources, chief risk officer, etc. The future for diversity in business is grim unless significant change is made quickly.

The numerous people whose careers and lives are hindered by discrimination are suffering and kept from contributing up to their potential. Also seriously hampered are all businesses and organizations, and actually the whole world is losing out on the expertise, experience and perspectives of all the ones being pushed aside. The world needs the talents, energies and viewpoints of the diversity of people being ignored and diminished.

As of 2020 the USA has a majority of children from a minority heritage according to the US Census 2019. In a world that has the biggest population growth coming from Africa at 58% of total increase by 2050 according to World Population Data, we have to act now.

The economic, social and environmental challenges we are facing as a planet demands that every available resource be utilized in resolving the numerous urgent local and global issues.

In my blog, The business case for Diversity & Inclusion, I share the key points on how to increase diversification for ongoing business success, recruitment and employee retention. How can you as a leader and an individual make a difference in this crucial issue? There are several ways:

1. Be aware of your own unconscious biases. Acknowledge first that we all have biases and be open to learning how to manage them. When we are judging based on subliminal factors, we are not fully in control of our decisions, which can lead to less than optimal outcomes. Ask questions, observe and listen. What you learn will provide actual information to modify your preconceived ideas. Familiarize yourself with other perspectives and people outside of your usual circle. Did you make an opinion based on the way a person looked, spoke, their mannerisms, their gender or if they had a particular physical characteristic? Step back from your viewpoint by replacing the storyline that you hold about a particular group with another category, do your opinions and judgments still stand? For example, instead of judging group A as being lazy, would that same argument hold if it was about group B as being funny?

2. Use your vote. As a consumer, voter and member of your communities — neighborhood, social, spiritual, professional and avocational etc. Patronize and do business with the companies and organizations that are diversity conscious; inform the ones who are not why you are not supporting them. Encourage them to implement diversity and inclusion programs. In your various communities, share the wisdom of integrating diversity into the mix. Advocate and actively bring in diversity into your communities. Vote for measures, bills and candidates that champion diversity. Your voice, your dollars, your vote makes a difference.

3. Reach out, learn and benefit from the diversity around you. The one thing that I hear most from people I’ve worked with in diversity and inclusion is how much they’ve learned, gained and how much fun they’ve had in reaching out. The insights, friendships and business connections that have come about have made them eager to do more. Be open to other perspectives, ask questions, try new things. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the many unfamiliar traditions, foods and more that you will enjoy, learn from and wish to incorporate into your life and work.

4. Mentor and support. Choose one or a few diverse members in your business and industry to mentor. Mentoring benefits both parties. The mentor has to organize their thoughts and reasoning well in order to share them; this helps the mentor articulate and strategize better in their decision making and improve overall leadership skills. The mentor has a chance to understand the actual workings of the levels underneath them with less filter and gain greater insight into other areas that are outside of their current management and leadership. The mentee has the opportunity to learn from one more seasoned, get guidance on how to approach problems and others in the workplace, work out new ideas and learn how to reciprocate as they begin to climb the ladder. Seek out a mentor that can help you expand your horizons and knowledge in diversity and inclusion. It’s a great win-win-win for the mentor, mentee and the organization.

5. Advocate and act to integrate diversity into your workplace. Actively look to recruit and work with your supervisors, colleagues, HR and others to bring diversity into your division and workplace. Explore the situation with your vendors and customers, how can you help them diversify? Share your positive experiences with them. Ultimately your entire business, supply and consuming chain strengthens when there’s proportionate diversity in the system.

Diversity fuels creativity and innovation. Inclusion provides a broader perspective and ideas leading to better decisions and problem solving. It builds a stronger, more successful and profitable organization. A diverse and inclusive organization will be well respected and primed for the trending demographics of the labor force and consuming public. Diversity, it is good for you and good for your business. Besides it’s the right thing to do. How would you feel if you weren’t given a chance for some less relevant factor than your potential? Diversity and Inclusion. Now.

About Marilyn Tam

Marilyn Tam, Ph.D. is a Speaker, best selling Author, Consultant, Board Certified Executive/Corporate Coach, CEO of Marilyn Tam & Co. and Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. She was formerly the CEO of Aveda Corp., President of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group, Vice President of Nike Inc. and also a successful entrepreneur who has built four companies.

To Learn more about Marilyn Tam contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]