6 Simple Actions Startups Can Take to Foster Diversity

Source | Entrepreneur : By 

While ‘simple’ may be in the title, let’s start by getting one thing straight. Whether you find yourself at a startup or a Fortune 500 organization, building a diverse company is anything but simple. That said, in the course of working at Lever the last two years, where we’ve grown from 40 to 140 employees while reaching 50:50 gender balance and building a workforce that is 40 percent non-white, I’ve come to realize that relatively small actions can yield meaningful results. With that in mind, here are six suggestions where to start as you set about fostering diversity at your startup.

Get real about how diverse and inclusive your startup is or is not.

Over the last two or three years, the diversity conversation has broadened to encompass both diversity and inclusion. In fact, many now argue that inclusion — creating the conditions in which employees of all backgrounds feel empowered to do their best work — needs to come first if you want your efforts to be sustainable. Or, put another way, it’s virtually useless trying to recruit diverse talent into an environment in which they won’t feel like they belong.

To get your bearings in the conversation, answer the following questions as objectively as possible:

  • Make a list of your startup’s last five promotions. How diverse do you consider them in terms of gender, ethnicity, and background?
  • Now make a list of your startup’s last five hires, and ask the same question.
  • If you haven’t made enough recent promotions or hires to know, think about your last several all-hands meetings and whose efforts you’ve acknowledged. Or, consider the last handful of raises and bonuses you’ve distributed. Are you distributing rewards and recognition in a way that acknowledges a wide-ranging set of contributions?
  • Lastly, think about the last five people to leave your organization. Do you notice any commonality in their circumstances or background?
  • If you see patterns emerging, this gives you a better sense of your starting point and potential areas to prioritize.

Teach your team to interview candidates consistently and objectively.

It’s an ongoing source of astonishment to me that, given the widespread consensus that hiring is really important for success, startups spend comparatively little time, effort and resources training employees to make objective hiring decisions. That matters because — whether we like it or not — we’re all unconsciously biased about the world around us. Thoughtful guidelines can help minimize the impact of that bias, or at least make us more aware of it.

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