Is Diversity Enough? Here’s Why it May Not Be.

You could have the most diverse workforce there ever was but, if you’re not leveraging that diversity, then what is it good for?

Everyone’s talking about diversity. As Silicon Valley continue to grow and expand, a considerable effort is going toward hiring diverse employees by expanding the candidate pools to include a wider range of backgrounds. Companies from Microsoft to Uber are fervently discussing ways to engage their employees based on their gender, ethnic, religious, and sexual differences, in addition to trying to expand their teams to be more inclusive of people in each of these categories. Does all this effort actually translate into success? Not necessarily. The truth is, you could have the most diverse workforce there ever was, but it’s also possible to miss the mark if the potential of that diversity isn’t leveraged.

When building a team, it is crucial that existing employees as well as new hires understand the value of diversity and the benefits it brings by fostering an inclusive environment. Recent McKinsey research confirms the economic value of a diverse team, demonstrating that companies with “the most ethnically diverse executive teams—not only with respect to absolute representation but also of variety or mix of ethnicities—are 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.” Of course being an inclusive and respectful individual is the right thing to do, but even employees prioritizing financial returns should be especially cognizant of data like this when interacting with their colleagues. Yet somehow, sadly, “people of color [still] report isolation, discrimination, and toxic work environments. They are promoted and paid less than their white counterparts. And they are excluded from executive level positions.”

Last week I facilitated a workshop called “Building Respect in the Workplace” for Siemens Healthineers in which I encouraged participants to discover, acknowledge, and ultimately overcome the unconscious biases that have the potential to create these toxic work environments. Unconscious bias is a tough one to tackle because it isn’t born out of malice. Unconscious biases can even manifest when someone believes they are doing something to help their colleague. Unfortunately, these efforts can inadvertently make them feel more out of place than ever. Take this example: A successful person of South-Asian descent, working in finance at a tech company, has been nominated for an award. They win, and when their boss delivers a speech congratulating them for their achievement, the boss suggests that it is truly a triumph that they can come to this country and make such a valuable contribution to American innovation. It turns out, this employee actually grew up in New York.

We also discussed confirmation bias, something that happens as a result of years of paying attention to information which confirms what you already believe, while ignoring information that challenges your preconceived notions. This is why it is so vital to consistently ask for input from others, question your own assumptions, and practice empathy and non-judgement. Here’s another example: If an investor has a positive feeling about a particular company in which they own stock, or perhaps they have made money from it in the past, they are unlikely to sell their stock when they encounter a negative review. Their mind will seek positive information and ignore any negative predictions, thus confirming their assumption that the stock they own is profitable.

Thankfully, a diverse team naturally produces a wide array of opinions and ideas that will inevitably challenge conventional wisdom. If managers can create positive and respectful environments where each member of the team feels their input is appreciated and has influence over the actions of the leader, then the leader can leverage this diversity and translate it into profits and growth.

 

I’m a Millennial female about to enter the workforce. Here’s why I’m concerned.

God-willing, I am graduating from college this year.

Myself, and all of the other women who will graduate from college this spring are currently faced with a very different image of the working world than our mothers. We’ve witnessed the birth of movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, and expect that the age of Mad Men-esque gender dynamics are over.

I know that many companies are rushing to build entire teams devoted to improving their gender demographics. Girls are more in demand than ever, in fields like computer science and engineering. Human Resources may be the birthplace of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, but it is no longer the only department in which women can break glass ceilings.

The degrees that I will be receiving certainly lend themselves to a career in Diversity and Inclusion, a quickly growing field, but despite being constantly reassured that the bounty of opportunities is ripe for the taking, I still don’t see much in the way of possibilities beyond entry and mid-level positions. My classmates and I are often disappointed when evaluating potential employers because we don’t see ourselves progressing long-term, as evidenced by the stark lack of women in upper management. Statisticians who have analyzed the issue have coined the term ‘leaky pipeline’ to describe the mountain of obstacles women face, starting during the time they are being educated and persisting through their ascents to upper management. Women slip through cracks because of discrimination, inflexible workplaces, and pay disparity. The leaky pipeline is a vicious circle; it’s what causes women to leave their careers before reaching their full potential, resulting in a lack of representation in higher positions.

All of this makes it extremely difficult to find female mentors. While there are a number of women who have made names for themselves in tech, for them the journey to the C-suite was not an easy one. In all likelihood, the last 20+ years of their life may have been devoted to fighting their way up the ladder, battling misogyny, chauvinism, and a constant shadow of doubt cast over their competence. When they were starting out, there were no diversity initiatives. Today, companies like Pinterest are flaunting their diversity goals to increase the number of women on staff to make it more appealing for someone like me entering the workforce.

However, I’ve also been hearing stories about women who have made it but are usually the ones who become Ice Queens that Monique has talked about at great length in her book Leading Gracefully and in last week’s blog. It sounds like these negative feelings make some women especially reluctant to offer mentorship or even encouragement to the younger generation of women who are just starting out.

When I asked a friend who entered the workforce a year ago what her experience has been, she shared how she was given the opportunity to work with the CEO of an all-female company that did not go as planned. The woman who she expected to be mentored by ended up treating her as a personal assistant instead, going so far as to ask her to pick her kids up from school. She told me matter-of-factly, “Guys don’t get asked to do that.” We walked down the sidewalks of San Francisco in silence for some time as I tried to digest the weight of her words. She would tell me later that the same thing happened to her roommate.

In spite of saddening stories like these, I am looking towards the future with optimism and excitement. Working with Monique as an intern at Highest Path has shown me that there are successful women who are eager to walk the walk and bend over backwards to give young women like myself the opportunities to learn and grow in a positive environment. What the working world needs now are more successful women who understand the valuable role that they play in patching up the leaky pipeline and establishing new precedents for the generations of successful women yet to come.

4 Reasons Why We’re Still Talking about Diversity

The business case for having more women on boards and in top executive positions is clear. It has been shown that when there are two or more women on a board of directors, the organization performs better on ROI by 66%. When companies are more racially and gender diverse, they outperform those with the least by 35% and 15% respectively. If any other investment opportunity presented this kind of potential gain, businesses would have jumped. But they haven’t. Some say it’s due to a lack of understanding of the business imperative, others point to a pipeline issue or a lack of mentoring. However, neuroscience points us to reasons that may not be in our current consciousness, creating barriers to capitalizing on those would-be gains.

Here are four types of gender bias that are contributing factors, the awareness of which is only the first step toward parity on boards and in top leadership positions.

Performance Bias:

Studies show that performance of those in the dominant, “in-group” (in this case white men) is based on their potential, not on their accomplishments. Therefore, male performance is over-estimated compared to that of women. Because women are held to stricter and higher standards, the odds of them progressing are lower.

Performance Attribution Bias:
When men and women perform an act, men are given credit more often while women are judged more harshly. Men are thought to have innate brilliance, where as women are thought to have made it due to a stroke of luck or help. Who would you like your board? Someone who you think is brilliant, or someone who got there because of pure luck?

Maternal Bias:
There is a general belief that women cannot be both good mothers and good performers, therefore women with children are less likely to be hired and promoted. Could this be a contributing factor in decisions made about women coming on to boards who are of mothering age?

Double Bind:
Women have the unique challenge of having to choose between being seen as competent or being liked, walking a tightrope between being too nice or being assertive, which often puts them in a double bind. Leadership qualities are still attributed to masculine qualities like being assertive, confident and direct, but when women present with this style, they are chastised.

Of course, there are many other types of unconscious bias, however these four in particular make it infinitely more difficult for women to break through into the ‘boy’s club.’ Awareness, mindfulness and behavior change are the antidotes, as is honest and open dialogue about the real impacts of bias and how to overcome them to achieve more balance.

Transforming A Dinosaur: How the Legal Field Is Embracing the Diversity Challenge

When one thinks of the legal industry, diversity isn’t a word that usually comes to mind. And perhaps rightfully so, as the legal profession is one of the few remaining industries to yet undergo a diversity revolution. According to the National Association of Women Lawyers annual survey, women make up about 18% of equity partners, an increase of 2% since 2006. Not great news for female lawyers who can expect to achieve gender parity by the year 2176 at the current rate of progress.

One might attribute this slow uptick due to a pipeline issue, which in fact might be a contributing factor, as only 37% of graduating lawyers were women in 2004, compared to 62% of men. And even if a woman does become an equity partner, she is still only going to make 80% of what a male lawyer makes, a figure that has decreased from 84% a decade ago. Lawyers of color make only 8% of partners and the LGBT community is represented at only 2%. Needless to say, there is a diversity crisis in the legal profession, but luckily one that is not going unnoticed by forward-thinking firms.

Read the rest of the article on Huffington Post.