Breaking the Bias: Simple Ways to Create an Inclusive Workplace that Works
It’s no secret that business leaders have been making an effort to empower women and embrace gender diversity and inclusion in recent years, and it’s refreshing to see unique initiatives here and there. It’s almost exhilarating, really, to learn about their efforts and the lengths most are willing to do today to achieve inclusivity. However, even to this point, it often comes short as there is still much to be done, and that’s not really surprising.
You see, gender inequity in the workplace goes way back. It’s a deeply rooted systemic issue, and to truly address and somehow correct it, you’ll have to go deeper because it definitely doesn’t just mean hiring more women – although that’s a pretty good way to start small. So, as we are still in the midst of celebrating National Women’s Month, we’re going past technicalities, fragile masculinity and the ever-so-limiting social norms in the workplace that we have somehow gotten used to in order to look into the almost forgettable and basic ways to either start or improve gender inclusivity at work.
Before we proceed, here are my two cents to ease you in on the first thing: if we really want this to work, we must first be genuine, clear with our intentions, and really start from within, so on top of this list is to...
Recognize the existence of unconscious bias
And no, not just in your surroundings, but also in yourself. You’re only human, and, well, unconscious bias is inherently human. And since we’re on a mission to eliminate inequality in the workplace, we should be open to the idea that we are, in fact, biased. We should make an effort to develop self-awareness of the unspoken opinions that we have at the back of our minds that can greatly drive or influence our decisions and actions towards others – whether or not we mean for them to do so. I know it’s not easy but go get in your mind. Once you’ve figured that out, you can now push yourself to counteract them, perhaps by improving your knowledge about those you might be biased against. And being more informed of such unconscious bias within, you’ll be more capable of spotting such tendencies in the workplace, allowing you to better enforce measures and make adjustments to deter them.
Important note, by the way: having a bias doesn’t make you a bad person.
Create an inclusive recruiting strategy
It would take more than just recruiting a few individuals from underrepresented groups or creating a diverse workforce to say that you have an inclusive workplace. To truly achieve inclusivity, a hiring process that actually levels the playing field for all applicants is crucial (although that’s still just the tip of the iceberg). It can be achieved by making necessary tweaks in your hiring strategy to create a process that actively recognizes diversity and openly welcomes professionals with a wide range of qualities and perspectives from different backgrounds. Among the many things you can do to jumpstart your efforts is remove gender biases from your job descriptions, intentionally and proactively build diverse talent pipelines, and set up diverse interview panels.
Give each individual a voice and an opportunity
As I stated above, a hiring process that provides equal opportunity for all to work only scratches the surface. If the goal is to create an inclusive workplace that works and not just a workplace with a diverse workforce, it’s not enough for all genders to be included. So, another way to follow through with your efforts is to build an organization where your employees have a voice and an environment where they feel safe enough to use that voice to speak up. Take steps to turn your organization into one that welcomes opinions from different perspectives and offers equal opportunities for them to grow and thrive and achieve new heights.
The most obvious way to do this is by providing training and support to help every employee develop more skills and progress into more senior roles in the company. You should also take the initiative to set the stage for them to show what they’re capable of by giving them an equally divided workload and assigning them to lead critical projects. Another simple yet powerful move to uplift the spirits of employees is to include them in executive panels and crucial meetings where they are rightfully needed.
Lead by example
Finally, to fully achieve inclusivity beyond diversity alone, you’ll need a leader who understands the cause and knows how to practice what they are meant to preach. With this, the effort to educate everyone about inclusion at work must include leaders like the board, senior executives, and the upper-level management to really drive the change you are aiming for. It may be up to everyone to make the workplace better, but with leaders such as yourself being looked up to by their subordinates, you ought to learn to lead the change in order to ensure the creation of a workplace that works for everyone. After all, leaders are meant to inspire and set an example, so do so and hold yourselves accountable for improving diversity and inclusion.
If we're really aiming to cultivate inclusion to build a workplace that works for everyone, it will definitely require conscious effort, commitment, and, of course, consistency to truly effect change, but the very first thing it requires is for you to actually take the first step. So, think it over and if it's too overwhelming or complicated, start with something as simple as paying attention to your employees' preferred pronouns or hearing them out every now and then.
For more discussions on business development, company culture and career advancement, feel free to explore our IN THE MIDDLE and HEADHUNTED sections, where you can find solutions for aspiring professionals and middle managers.