Promoting Diversity in the Workplace

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 1.

The Hidden Diversity Problem

  • Research on gender dynamics in the workplace shows that when a woman acts assertively by speaking out in meetings, challenging others ideas, and taking charge, she is a lot more likely to be viewed negatively than men acting the same way.
    • If a man takes charge, he’s showing positive leadership qualities.
    • If a woman asserts herself, she’s being too bossy.
    • We often have these feelings and reactions to our co-workers without even realising it.
    • We think we’re being fair and objective, our own bias is hidden to us.
    • That’s one of the biggest challenges we face in building a diverse workplace and diverse teams.
  • The Shield (TV show)
    • Producer by Glen Mazzara noticed two talented writers (both women) sitting quietly in a brainstorming meeting
    • He asked them why they weren’t contributing, they told him to watch carefully at the next meeting
    • Every time one of the women started talking, one of the men in the room would cut in straight away, and either shoot down the idea or start running with the it (and cutting the women out)
    • There was a clear bias, but Glen had not noticed it before
    • See “Managing Rewards Systems” section below for a way of managing this bias
  • Diversity is really important for teams. You learned in course two about how teams with different perspectives and independent thinking tend to get better results.

Promoting Diversity

  • Teams with people of different backgrounds, world views, and skill sets tend to be more innovative
    • They’re more likely to bring new ideas to the table.
    • They make better decisions because team members can see each other’s blind spots.
  • Need to set specific goals
    • e.g. adding two more minority team members
    • e.g. having 50% women on your team
    • Without specific goals, it’s much harder to motivate people
  • Need to get buy in
    • If team members don’t feel included in a diversity initiative they’re a lot more likely to be hostile to it and and to work against it
    • To create a sense of inclusion and togetherness, try to link your diversity goals to common team or organisational goals
    • Diversity initiatives are framed negatively as a way to avoid litigation, not positively in terms of how they benefit everyone
    • Talk about how getting more unique perspectives will help the organisation’s bottom line or contribute towards your shared strategic goals.
    • This positive inclusive framing helps reduce the us versus them feeling that your team members from dominant groups might feel
  • Need to build build team relationships across boundaries
    • Proactively build connections across boundaries on your team, create positive opportunities for employees to get to know and support one another
      • Team members will start to see others from a different background as part of their own network or their own tribe
      • They’ll start to proactively look for ways to support their colleagues and help them advance without a team leader or supervisor having to force them to do it
      • Use the third place to do this

Managing Rewards Systems

  • Reward systems in the workplace like performance reviews, bonuses, and promotions are powerful ways to shape culture and create an atmosphere of inclusion
    • They can also be a source of implicit bias.
    • Disadvantaging certain groups of people, even if they appear to be totally neutral.
    • If you’re serious about boosting diversity on your team, you have to think about the unintentional forms of bias that could be hiding in your reward systems
  • Symphony orchestras
    • Few of them reflect the population of the cities they represent
      • Just over 10% of orchestra musicians are people of colour
    • This is due to:
      • unequal access to music education
      • hidden biases in systems of reward and advancement from an early age
    • People of colour are tenured at a rate of about 30%, which is way lower than their white colleagues
      • Peers nitpick small imperfections in their performances and character that they would normally let slide with white musicians
      • This can happen totally unconsciously and in small ways
      • Those small unintentional forms of bias lead to fewer opportunities for people of colour at a large scale
  • Same effect can happen with informal rewards systems. Such as praise from supervisors, recognition for team members’ achievements, or even just who we listen to at meetings
  • How to combat biases?
    • Measure outcomes
      • When you set specific targets for diversity, and measure progress toward achieving them, you can uncover unintentional bias in an objective way and that leads to better accountability.
    • Post results publicaly
    • The Shield (see above)
      • The unspoken rule on the team was men direct the conversation at meetings
      • Mazzara created a new rule for the team. He told them that no one should be interrupted when they were pitching an idea

Managing Personal Bias

  • Derek’s example:
    • Speaking to a mixture of new and old students
    • Made sure to ask questions equally of old and new students in class
    • However, new students still complained of bias!
    • However, during informal periods during and after class, Derek would spend time casually chatting with the old students
  • How to overcome individual bias?
    • Outside observers
      • Observe and give feedback
        • Blind spots?
        • More supportive of a sub-group of team members?
    • Pay attention to informal interactions
      • e.g. Derek made sure students were treated equally, but in formal class time, as well as during informal times
    • Keep channels of communication open between team members
      • Regular one-on-one check-ins
        • Private conversations can make others feel more comfortable opening up

Being A Good Ally

  • Proactively include yourself as a supporter
    • Diversity initiatives are less successful when they’re seen as being divisive rather than inclusive
    • Offer to help the person managing the initiative
    • Sign up to the initiative
    • Ask the other person’s opinions, remember to listen
      • The more time you spend time talking, the less time available to other. You can be even more inclusive just by listening
  • Seek to understand
    • Just listen to the other person

Interview with Arjun Shankar

  • Man of Indian descent learned to “act white” (excluding alternative backgrounds from the work culture)
  • Bring in the alternative viewpoints

Interview with Stanford Thompson

  • Executive Director of Play on Philly
  • Works with some of the most vulnerable children.
  • There’s really power in being diverse

How to Manage Cultural Differences in Global Teams

Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce

  • Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce
    • Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
    • A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
    • Nearly all respondents reported that their companies have diversity and inclusion strategies in place.
    • Organisation’s diversity goals and priorities won’t change significantly over the next three years.
    • Responsibility for the success of company’s diversity/inclusion efforts lies with senior management.
    • Significant progress has been made to build and retain diverse workforces, but there are still some impediments to companies’ efforts.



2 thoughts on “Promoting Diversity in the Workplace

  1. This quite good I was reading in line with the Y Generation and assumption brought in when dealing or consideration to young employee


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