Below, Dayo Akinrinade from Your Startup Your Story (YSYS) gives her insight into how to create a diverse and inclusive workforce. Read on to learn how to truly embed diversity and inclusion in your organisation.
YSYS is a community of founders, technologists, investors, and creatives who are united in their mission to tackle inequality in London’s startup ecosystem and champion underrepresented founders. Akinrinade is YSYS Partnerships Lead and her expertise is borne from years of Big Four IT Management Consulting.
1. Leverage an external perspective to drive diversity
At YSYS, we are seeing a trend where organisations are experiencing diversity fatigue. Human Resources departments are managing multiple initiatives and measuring return on investment is a challenge.
If an organisation wishes to assess and strengthen its inclusive culture, we advise seeking an objective, external perspective. Company culture occurs within the organisations’ people and processes, therefore, employees can be too embedded within the culture to call out inequalities and effect change.
For example, FTSE 100 companies will carry out employee engagement surveys. Even if responses are confidential, certain employees will not feel comfortable filling in boxes for sexuality, gender and then answering questions about the workplace. Sometimes there’s a lack of trust.
2. Embed diversity and inclusion in every function
YSYS supports organisations on a journey towards a state where D&I is embedded into every organisational function. Companies must be willing to re-question everything they do with an open mind. It’s about listening to everyone’s voice, not just senior staff or who shouts the loudest.
A great example is recruitment, where the filtering criteria are often barriers to diversity. Are companies looking beyond obvious places for candidates? If recruitment is focused on the top universities, they, in turn, perpetuate a singular archetype of the employee which counters against innovation.
Ironically there is a ‘war for talent‘ because many companies are recruiting from the same pools, often just focusing on the top universities. Particularly in high-growth tech, we should offer alternative routes for talented people without degrees.
3. Take these actions when implementing diversity initiatives
- Involve diverse individuals in driving change
- Include the “straight white male”
- Ensure leadership learns to lead by example
- Practise advocacy
Involving diverse individuals in driving change means developing initiatives alongside employees and the community. Don’t do change to them, do it with them.
Including the “straight white male” means it is important to involve non-diverse individuals in BAME groups to enable them to understand the experience of diverse individuals and develop empathy.
Leadership needs to lead by example which means company leaders must “walk the talk”. We ask leaders to examine how much of their work and leisure time is spent with people of a different ethnicity or class. We also ask them about the percentage of time socialising and working with diverse individuals. For us, that can be a revealing starting point.
Practising advocacy means that every company should clearly define what it means to be an advocate and aim to create a culture that accepts that we all carry bias and empowers employees to call it out. For example, a meeting chair should notice if an employee is spoken over in a meeting and advocate for them.
Dayo Akinrinade is a serial tech entrepreneur and diversity and inclusion advocate.
In this article, you learned that:
- Leadership needs to lead by example
- Every company should clearly define what it means to be an advocate
- Involve diverse individuals in developing diversity and inclusion initiatives and include non-diverse individuals too to open their perspective