Get ahead on diversity and get ahead in business

It was very surprising last week when Microsoft was called out for the ‘sexy schoolgirl dancers’ at the Xbox GDC party. This was very unusual behavior for them.

Less than a month ago I learned about how progressive Microsoft has been as a leader in creating a diverse workplace. Tammarrian Rogers shared positive stories about being recruited by Microsoft as part of her experiences as an African American, gay woman in tech at the last Seattle Women in Tech event. Who would expect a regressive faux pas from a company this far ahead of the curve?

We all make mistakes and, to their credit, Microsoft immediately agreed that this behavior was “absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values”, and sent out internal emails reinforcing a zero tolerance policy for anything like it to happen again. Owning it and taking steps for a better future was an example we can all learn from.

3f48e6c9-87c5-4268-a436-d0c7cf68526cEveryone slips up once in awhile because we sometimes speak or act before we think or plan – so let’s look at how you can build a diverse company culture with fewer blunders and embarrassments. Even better, lets make your company attractive to talented people from diverse backgrounds who will enrich your business!

Creating diversity in the workplace isn’t just about doing the right thing, it also  improves productivity and drives greater ideas. The more diverse voices you have in your company conversations and decisions, the better work is for everyone and the more likely you will be to appeal to a diversity of customer, clients, mentors and investors as well.

  1. If someone on your staff does something disrespectful, simply stop it, acknowledge it, and put clear policies in place to reduce the chances it will happen again. Education is key. Make company HR policies and behaviors clear and unequivocal. At the end of the day, people want to feel fulfilled, appreciated and valued, even if dumb things are said or done sometimes.
  2. Have someone scrub the names of potential hires and their college names from resumes before you recruit candidates in order to focus solely on education and skills – as opposed to gender and ethnicity. This helps to hire for talent regardless of age, race, or gender. Cast a wide net and it will reel in some very talented people.
  3. Recruit at WTIA’s Draft Day where they’ve done the vetting and work of #2 for you (see more below).
  4. Search for job candidates through employee referrals and community connections, including colleges, civic and professional organizations and governmental groups. Reach out to nonprofits like the Urban League, theNational Council of La Raza or from websites like diversityworking.com that offer searchable channels of minority job hunters.
  5. Create an equal opportunity employment and sexual harassment policy based on federal guidelines to make sure your hiring practices are not biased by ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or age – and then take it a step beyond the minimum and make diversity a company value, not a company “have to.”
  6. Talk to your people. Get input on how your company is doing on diversity issues and hiring practices. If your team knows that you genuinely care about embracing diversity, they will help you succeed.
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