Digging Deeper Into What it Means to Advocate for Diversity

Nov 6, 2019

Earlier this month, Nexant sponsored the Shades of Green Forum that took place in Philadelphia, PA. I attended with Elizabeth Freeman, Director of Client Solutions, unsure of what to expect and hopeful to learn about how diversity affects business. I also learned a lot about low-income energy programs and the importance of these populations in the world of energy efficiency. The energy industry has a particular responsibility to increase diversity because we all use and pay for energy.

In a predominantly white (and male) energy industry, and in this very divided country (USA), it might seem daunting to tackle the challenges of diversity and inclusion, but here are two things our Keynote Speaker, Professor Anita Hill, had to say about that: “We don’t need everybody to get it, to make a change. Just the right people in the right places. That’s why leadership is so important.” 

On political discord, she said, “Real conversations need more data and less rhetoric. There are people of reason. You don’t have to agree on everything. Values matter, not just end results at any price or means.” Everything comes back to metrics and being able to show that diversity gets very desirable results for businesses. And many people align with the integrity of the movement, and doing what feels right and just.

Here are some of the questions I came with, and the insights I found.

Workforce Diversity: What do we do if people of color are not applying to the jobs we post? 

Look back through your organization’s history and try to address what may be creating inequalities (perhaps inadvertently). Look at policies and recruiting tactics. Do diverse groups know that our jobs exist? How can we fix that? (Maybe attend a career fair at a predominantly minority college.) Are all the requirements for each job really necessary? Recognize that it may not be economically feasible for everyone to get the required degree, though they could still have enough experience.

How can we help women and minority employees advance from their current positions? How can we avoid a feeling of “tokenism” in this effort? 

Start a Mentorship Program or Leadership Fast Track Program. Figure out what skills or experience people need to move up and facilitate it. It may seem contrived to strategize on promoting women, but it’s not just about optics, it’s also about a business need and the ability to attract and retain top talent. Providing a path to leadership not only helps organizations promote a diverse range of employees based on merit, but it also gives employees a sense of pride and accomplishment for earning their position. 

Second, get the whole company on board with a required inclusion, bias, and/or privilege course. Slow down decision-making (a little) to make time for considering inclusion. Find research that backs up why a diverse group is better.

How can we be more mindful of diversity and not think of it as a side-issue or “nice to have”?

METRICS. Make diversity measurable with key metrics and add it as a strategic goal alongside revenue growth. Make diversity and inclusion metrics part of leadership’s performance goals and evaluations. The goals will depend on the company and a Diversity Committee can help decide the appropriate metrics that best communicate the values of the company. Here are some metrics to consider from HR Technologist, Affirmity, and Project Include.

What do people mean when they say “equity”?  Do they mean “equality”? 

No. Equality means everyone is on the same level and everything is fair. Equity, on the other hand recognizes that some groups start at a disadvantage and they may need additional help to get to the same (equitable) outcome.[source] Here’s a Forbes article on how to achieve equity. 

What, exactly, are some of the talking points for advocating for diversity and how it benefits companies? 

Here are a few recent stats I found in an article on the World Economic Forum website:

“A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. This finding is significant for tech companies, start-ups and industries where innovation is the key to growth. It shows that diversity is not just a metric to be strived for; it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue-generating business.”

“By the year 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials - which means this group will occupy the majority of leadership roles over the coming decade. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that 74% of these individuals believe their organization is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. If businesses are looking to hire and sustain a millennial workforce, diversity must be a key part of the company culture. This 2016 survey shows that 47% of millennials are actively looking for diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers.” 

What can I (or you!) do, personally?

To name a few, I can pursue having a more diverse network of colleagues, speak up when I see opportunities to champion diversity, keep working on understanding privilege and bias, and be more vocal about the opportunities in the energy industry. 

Tim Findley, a VP of Diversity and Inclusion for Kindred Healthcare offered some general ways that disconnecting behaviors can be transformed into more inclusive, connecting behaviors in his session, “Inclusion Behaviors – The Bridge to Engagement, and Strategies in Inclusion and Equity.”  These are all good things to be aware of in the workplace:

Click here to learn more about Nexant's Diversity initiatives or email diversity@nexant.com.