A new college graduate begins her career in a field where she quickly finds that she is underrepresented. Not only does she feel displaced, but she is quickly questioned by people in her environment about her ability to succeed in the work field. The confusion comes into play when she learns that the measurement of her potential to succeed was not based off of her experience and education.
She is told that she is too loud, laughs too much and doesn’t fit the “norm” of the environment. Because of false perception and social misrepresentation, she was not seen as someone who had high potential in the beginning. The graduate felt insecure and did her best to adjust to the norm of her environment.
Her ideas, input and opportunities for improvement were limited because of her fear of being heard and included. This story is my story. Although years have passed since this experience, I still vividly remember how I felt. The disappointing part about this is that still occurs and is common with underrepresented minorities who seek to enter professional fields where there aren’t many of them.
So, what is the problem? The problem is that many companies today are mostly afraid of two words—change and diversity. Change in a culture that has been developed by years of traditional thinking can be one of the biggest challenges to take on and embrace. With change, the fear of failure comes into play and if anything has the potential to fail it is often overlooked.
With diversity, it gets even more complicated, because not only can it be uncomfortable to discuss, but it requires a cultural change and it requires inclusion. Is there a solution? Yes, there is! If companies want to grow and have a competitive advantage, diversity and inclusion is necessary to have in their strategic growth plan. There are three strategies, if implemented, that can help companies of all levels be on the path to having a competitive advantage.
Strategy 1: Be open to listen to feedback from everyone at all levels. A company that is open to hearing honest feedback from people of all background, and of a cross-functional approach, is a company that will yield higher success in achieving accomplishments. Learn about the ideas that people have for improvement,
Strategy 2: Develop and maintain a culture for diversity and inclusion. Let’s face it! Change is scary; there will be people who will not adapt as easily. But diversity only exists when there is inclusion. Identify a plan that optimizes the feedback you receive and act on strategies that includes everyone in your environment. Make it known that you care about what people have to say by taking action steps that are inclusive of their feedback.
Strategy 3: Celebrate your wins as a team. Show everyone in your company the successes of their effort of providing input and working on solutions. When having a diverse culture, a sense of belonging is the separator between why people stay or leave a company. People who feel like a contributor in the company are more apt to provide better solutions to help a company fulfill their mission and reach their strategic goals.