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Six Things That Leaders Need To Know About Diversity

Diversity has always been a characteristic of the workforce, but it has become increasingly important in recent years to move away from ‘doing diversity’ as a tick box exercise because it was on the board’s agenda to it being authentically led from the top.

Diversity can be defined in several ways, but at its core, it is about embracing and empowering people’s differences. Typically, when we talk about diversity, people often think about race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, religion, and more.

While diversity brings with it many different perspectives and experiences that can enrich an organisation, it can also create challenges, such as communication difficulties and conflict between employees.

Leaders must educate themselves and lean into diversity, and they should be proactive in asking:

  • How can I find out more about where there are gaps in our diversity awareness?

  • What can I do to learn more about my own gaps and bridge that learning?

  • How can I be an ally to colleagues of similar and different backgrounds and experiences?

  • Do others see me as an authentic role model for diversity in and outside of work?

Leaders need to create an inclusive environment where all employees feel valued and respected. Leaders also need to be aware of their personal biases and how they might impact their decisions regarding diversity.

In this blog, we share six things that leaders need to know about diversity.

Leaders Need To Be Aware of the Different Types of Diversity That Exist Within Their Organisations

As touched on above, diversity can be defined as how people differ from one another. There are many different types of diversity, including but not limited to:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Race

  • Ethnicity

  • Religion

  • Sexual orientation

  • Physical ability

  • Mental wellbeing

  • Gender reassignment

  • Neurodiversity

Leaders need to be aware of the different types of diversity that exist within their organisation to create an environment where every employee feels valued and respected.

They can learn more by creating focus groups and attending them to find out how they can create more inclusive workplaces. Leaders also need to ensure they recognise that intersectionality also comes in - creating a focus group of women doesn’t then address the unique challenges of black women in the workplace. There are complexities, and a one-size-fits-all approach must be avoided to enable a truly inclusive workplace.

Leaders Need To Be Aware of Their Own Personal Biases

As individuals, all leaders have personal biases, which can impact their decision-making. In the workplace, leaders need to be aware of their biases so that they can avoid making decisions that could be discriminatory.

There are many types of personal bias, including but not limited to:

  • Ageism

  • Racism

  • Sexism

  • Homophobia

There are also less ‘obvious’ biases. Consider, for example, the leader deciding whether to hire their second in command because they are ‘Oxbridge’ rather than ‘Newcastle’ educated.

People need to see people like themselves in leadership positions too. This is one of the reasons leadership coaching is so popular - to help those with talent rise to positions that previously might have been unattainable due to the bias of others, not due to their own potential.

Leaders Need To Live and Breathe Diversity and Create Policies and Procedures That Support This

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for diversity in the workplace. But what does that mean in practice? What procedures and practices do companies need to put in place to ensure that everyone – employees and other stakeholders – experiences diversity in a positive way?

One thing is clear: it’s not enough to simply have a policy on diversity. Companies need to implement each policy and make sure that everyone understands and follows it. After all, policies are irrelevant unless they are lived and breathed. Yet, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that only 49% of organisations have diversity policies in place.

Some examples of policies and procedures include:

  • Equal opportunity policies

  • Anti-discrimination policies

  • Anti-harassment policies

Leaders Need To Be Committed to Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Environment Within Their Organisations

Leaders need to be committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment within their organisations. In addition, leaders need to be open to new ideas and perspectives and be willing to change their ways of doing things. Leaders also need to be held accountable and must be willing to lead by example.

There are several things that leaders can do to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Some key steps include:

  • Establishing diversity and inclusion as a core value

  • Making sure all employees feel welcome and valued

  • Encouraging open communication and collaboration

  • Fostering an environment of trust and respect

Leaders Need To Be Pro-Active in Preventing Diversity Issues Within the Workplace

There is no question that leaders need to be proactive in preventing any and all diversity issues from arising within their workplace. By taking a proactive stance, employers can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all employees.

One of the most important traits of a good leader is the ability to be proactive rather than reactive. This means that leaders should anticipate potential problems and do everything to create a truly diverse community within the workplace whereby everyone feels as though they can be themselves.

Waiting until an issue arises in the workplace to deal with it is often not an effective strategy, as it can lead to confusion, chaos, and even conflict. Being proactive involves being aware of what is happening in the organisation at all times and taking steps to address any potential problems.

Leaders Need To Work To Promote Diversity Within Their Organisations Continually

Last but not least in our six things leaders need to know about diversity, is that diversity is not a static concept – it is constantly changing and evolving.

Organisations and their leaders need to work continually to promote diversity within their organisations. Leaders play a critical role in setting the tone for an organisation, and they must be champions of diversity and inclusion. This means that they must not only talk about the importance of diversity but also take action to promote it. This may require re-evaluating policies and procedures, communicating with employees, and taking action when necessary.

Leaders who are committed to diversity will be best positioned to create an inclusive environment where everyone can feel valued and respected.

To Conclude

Essential to any workplace, diversity helps to create a more inclusive environment. As up to 85% of employees state that increasing diversity in the workplace is important, leaders play an influential role in promoting diversity at work.

To be a successful leader in today's diverse workplace, it is essential to understand the importance of diversity and be able to foster a culture of inclusion. Leaders need to be aware of the different dynamics at play when managing a diverse team and know how to handle sensitive situations.

Contact Us Today

Coaching can be valuable in supporting leaders when it comes to understanding and embrace diversity. It can also support those leading diverse teams. If you would like to learn more about leadership coaching and how it can help your business after reading our six things that leaders need to know about diversity, contact us today.

Our team of credible leadership coaches have a wealth of experience in providing one-to-one and team coaching to help organisations develop a more inclusive workplace.


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