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How To Achieve Diversity, Equity, Inclusion And Belonging Within Your Company

Today brings the new book, All Are Welcome: How to Build a Real Workplace Culture of Inclusion that Delivers Results, by Cynthia Owyoung. “This playbook is really for any leader of an organization that wants to drive change. This is your playbook for how to approach DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) work in a way that will support real progress in your company,” says Owyoung. 

Studies prove that companies with more diversity in their ranks are more innovative, expand their markets, and perform better financially. Why, then, has so little progress been made, especially when it comes to corporate leadership? Because most companies have yet to develop and implement effective diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives. And the ones that have too often focus mainly on hiring a diversity of staff or rolling out unconscious bias training without improving results. 

Owyoung offers these definitions: 

Diversity in the context of a workplace really means bringing people who are different from each other – with their own unique characteristics, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives – together to realize the strengths of those differences. 

Inclusion means ensuring that no one is held back from full participation within the organization. 

Equity is different from equality where everyone is getting the same opportunities, access, and resources. Equity acknowledges that not everyone needs the same things to succeed. Equity is about giving people what they need. 

Belonging is the sense of connection one has to a group. Do I feel like I fit in? Am I considered a valued member of the team? Will they accept me for who I am? You can’t have belonging without inclusion. 

“Measuring diversity is about representation. Measuring equity, inclusion, and belonging is about understanding employee sentiment and experiences,” explains Owyoung. 

In All Are Welcome, Owyoung explains further what DEIB is and why it matters, and she delivers the information and insights you need to make DEIB a key element of your company culture. You’ll learn how to: 

  • Break old habits that keep DEIB efforts from moving forward
  • Retain talent from underrepresented groups
  • Conduct an audit of the state of DEIB at your company today
  • Engage and excite leaders and managers around DEIB efforts
  • Weave DEIB into all your talent pool management methods
  • Uplevel employee resource groups to effectively support business goals
  • Measure your progress with qualitative and quantitative data
  • Connect your DEIB efforts to driving better business results

Within the book you’ll find step-by-step Putting It Into Action plans, chapter Key Takeaways, and a very helpful Glossary of terms. 

DEIB begins but doesn’t end with hiring. When you deeply understand all the nuances of diversity, equity, inclusiveness, and belonging, you’ll be able to put them all together for a better, more productive, and happier workplace. 

Owyoung also explains that as a leader you’ll need courage as a necessary foundation to drive success in DEIB. You will have to make decisions that support or benefit a minority group rather than the majority group. “This usually feels really uncomfortable for people since it runs counter to how we make most business decisions, which usually gives greater weight to the majority,” shares Owyoung. “Leaders must be willing to take some personal risks and engage in uncomfortable conversations to push people to reexamine their current beliefs to drive real change.” 

Cynthia Owyoung

Owyoung shares these additional insights with us: 

Question: How do you convince a reluctant leader to fully embrace the need to build a real workplace culture of inclusion? 

Owyoung: It really comes down to understanding why the leader is reluctant. Is the leader afraid DEIB will take focus off other business priorities? Maybe the leader is worried about offending people? Or does the leader have a different belief about how to approach DEIB? 

What I try to do is ask the deeper questions to understand what is behind the reluctance and then do my best to address whatever the issues may be. 

So, if it's about balancing business priorities, I would look at integrating our DEIB objectives into those priorities, whether it's hiring, selling or something else. And if it's about concerns regarding fairly treating people or unintentionally offending others, then I would offer talking points, coaching, practice sessions, whatever might be needed to help the leader feel they can tackle this topic with the support they need. 

Or if it's about different beliefs and approaches, I would seek to collaborate with them and incorporate their ideas into the solutions we implement. DEIB work is all about engaging and connecting people to it so it's my job to figure out the best ways to do that so they can fully embrace it. 

Question: What do you recommend for a leader who enthusiastically jumps in with an action plan and then those efforts start to fizzle out and lose momentum? 

Owyoung: First off, I commend the leader who wants to jump into action and support for DEIB. We need more of them. But when those efforts start to fizzle out, I think it's important to diagnose why that's happening. Is it a lack of progress demotivating people or is it a lack of transparency and accountability by leadership? Are there enough resources being dedicated to the effort or are employees are being asked to do this work on top of their regular day jobs? 

There could be a lot of different reasons behind efforts starting to fizzle out and leaders need to get out and talk to their employees about what's going on. Oftentimes, it's some combination of factors as previously mentioned, so you may have to ensure you're scoping your DEIB efforts in a way that's achievable, increasing your resources dedicated to it, communicating goals and results with clear owners and rewarding those who are really putting in the work. When employees can see their DEIB work truly making a difference, you will be able to build momentum back up. 

Question: What do you recommend for small companies (less than 30 employees) that want to embrace DEIB efforts, yet have limited financial resources to support those efforts? 

Owyoung: In many ways, small companies have the best chance of making a big difference in their DEIB efforts despite more limited resources.  Much of DEIB work doesn't involve budget. For instance, being open about your commitment to DEIB and including it as part of your company values and onboarding messaging is a good first step to setting the tone for your organization's culture that costs nothing. 

Before you make any hiring decisions, consider what diverse perspectives you might need on your team to become even more effective in the future and actively recruiting for that will increase your probability of hiring someone from an underrepresented background. 

You can also create DEIB learning opportunities with minimal investment by starting up a book club with that focus, viewing TED Talks on DEIB or something comparable and then having a discussion about it on a quarterly basis, or taking advantage of the many free webinars offered on the topic by educational institutions, consultants, and companies. 

You can also encourage your team to volunteer in their local communities with organizations serving underrepresented groups to both learn and make a difference. For example, if you're a tech company, your employees might teach tech skills to underserved youth in low-income communities. There are so many ways to embrace DEIB efforts that cost nothing but time and intention, the key is to not let that be an excuse for inaction and just get started. 

Owyoung is Robinhood’s Vice President of Inclusion, Equity and Belonging, partnering with business leaders, employee resource groups and the people experience team. She’s also the founder of Breaking Glass Forums, where she develops strategies to accelerate more diverse leaders and inclusive organizations. A recognized diversity leader, Owyoung was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Women of Impact in 2021. Owyoung serves on the Board of Directors for AbilityPath, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people with special needs to achieve their full potential.

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.

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