Going beyond good intentions: ways to advance diversity & inclusion in the workplace

Cornell Woodson, Global Head of DEI at Looker

Mar 30, 2019

In the last three decades, organizations have started their journeys towards becoming more diverse and inclusive (D&I). Throughout these journeys, jargon such as diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity, and equality have shown up on company websites, in mission and vision statements, and in remarks made by CEOs or presidents during company meetings.

While this increase in vocal support and commitment to D&I is a step in the right direction, there is still room to improve upon the follow-up actions necessary for success. Good intentions are great, but alone they are rarely - if ever - enough to make a measurable impact.

The data on diversity in the workplace

According to the Catalyst, while women make up about 45% of total employees in S&P 500 companies, they are only 11% of top earners and hold only 4.8% of CEO roles. And that number has been decreasing from a high of 6.4% female CEOs in 2017.

In the C-suite as a whole, racial diversity still has room to grow. As of 2018, the number of racially diverse CEOs in Fortune 500 companies consisted of only three African Americans and 11 Latinx/Hispanic members. Going further into the data of diverse leadership, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2018, only 39.8% of management roles were held by women and 23.8% were held by people of color.

These statistics point to what is known as the glass ceiling, in which unrepresented groups such as women and people of color cannot seem to get past a certain point of advancement in their career.

Actionable steps to advance D&I in the workplace

While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to tackling the issue of diversity and inclusion, there are key steps every organization should be engaging in when striving to match verbal commitment with measurable action.

1. Set goals and plan for how to meet them

In my experience, people need something tangible they can reach for. Simply saying your organization is going to hire more women, people of color, veterans, and other underrepresented identities won’t help reach the goal.

Leaders and advocates of DEI in the workplace should start with creating a visualization of what success looks like. From here, determine the breakdown of actionable steps that contribute to the ultimate goal. Every team, hiring manager, and leader in the organization should be expected to do what is in their locus of control to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives. Considering the necessary actions and holding everyone accountable for their part is key in making the goal into a reality.

2. Build relationships and add to the pipeline

Many times, if an organization lacks certain diversity, it’s because those who are recruiting, hiring, and making referrals lack that type of diversity in their own networks. Because of this, organizations need to be proactive with reaching out and making the first move to build trusting relationships with underrepresented groups. Generations of systemic barriers have kept these groups from accessing certain industries and positions, which has continued to impact their representation in the workplace today. To push past this and add to the pipeline, organizations must earn the trust of these groups and show potential employees that their experiences and identities are valued with actions, not just words.

3. Develop an external D&I footprint

When looking for employment opportunities, many underrepresented populations look for organizations that they feel are in alignment with their own beliefs - or at the very least - make space for multiple beliefs and lived experiences to exist at the same time. This is why an external D&I footprint is so important.

An external D&I footprint is how a company talks about and creates spaces for D&I issues to be discussed within the industry. Whether this is done through blog posts, events, marketing campaigns, or company-wide memos, prospective employees from underrepresented backgrounds want to know that organizations have an opinion and are willing to express that opinion publicly.

4. Host networking events in your office

Opening up your office for events is a great way to help prospective employees visualize working for your company. Events give hiring managers the chance to meet with potential candidates in person and learn more about them beyond what is presented on a resume or cover letter. In addition, networking events provide a great opportunity to introduce these individuals to other people in the organization who could end up being their colleagues, building trust and relationships that emails or phone calls may not have been able to create.

Find success through action

By taking actions that affect the measurable successes of D&I initiatives, advancements with diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace won’t only be heard, but will be seen and reflected in the data.

If you want to learn more about the actions we’re taking at Looker, check out our dedicated DEI page, Belonging, for more information about diversity, equity, and inclusion at Looker.

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