Workplace Diversity

At New Story’s recent quarterly leadership summit, Alexandria Lafci (a cofounder and friend) presented on the value of diversity in the workplace. With patience and empathy, she shared in depth research and permitted an endless stream of questions. Reflecting on her thoughtful presentation, it felt like something worth sharing.

We should be understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations, as well as differences in personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases. That’s not to imply most people are outwardly aggressive or openly alienate those who are different. In many cases however, it’s our unconscious biases that wreak the most havoc.

Awareness is the first step toward making a change.

Speaking Intelligently

It was clarifying to see diversity in two categories: inherent diversity and acquired diversity.

Inherent diversity includes Demographic characteristics like race, sex, and age.

Acquired diversity includes factors such as education, experience, values, skills and knowledge.

Competitive Advantage

Despite what people may believe about human rights, a strong business case exists for diversity as well. According to the University of Michigan, “Groups of diverse problem solvers outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.”

McKinsey conducted a study in which they discovered that “companies with diverse executive boards enjoy significantly higher earnings and returns on equity.”

That’s not to say the appearance of diversity it important. What matters is giving everyone within the group an equal voice at the table. It is the presence and leveraging of unique perspectives and experiences that drives the increase in performance.

Inequality

Work compensation is the most objective measure of inequality. For instance, studies show that Latin females make less than 50 cents on the dollar.

One of the simplest ways we’ve found to combat such indifference at Polar Notion is to institute transparent compensation across the organization. Those within the organization understand how their pay was determined, what it takes to move up, and how it compares to their peers. It involved defining each tier and diving deep into expectations, but the veil of compensation is non existent. Interestingly enough, it was the pursuit of greater team buy-in and enriched collaboration that sparked transparent salaries. Equality was a natural benefit of that same level of transparency.

Today, I’m still learning a lot about what diversity truly means. It’s invaluable to have friends like Alexandria and others willing to engage in discourse. My process is imperfect and comes with a renewing sense of discomfort. However, the pursuit is important and I hope our teams and communities are better for it.

Feel free to read more about my gateway into the topic of diversity.

Unbridled Diversity

Holding my oldest daughter for the first time, a nagging thought began to amplify. A transition occurred for me at her birth and intensifies with the birth of my second daughter. Their gentle eyes peer into my heart, stoking a passion and a hope for their future. As I watch them grow, a thought wreaks havoc in my mind, “the world is not ready”. The liberties of women and minorities are still too dim.

I’m inspired by stories of Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Malala Yousafzai. Reading their stories to the girls at bedtime, I find myself in tears. Captivated by the courage and resolve of such empowered women. Born into an era that wasn’t ready for them, they chose a path of tremendous sacrifice in order to prepare the world for those who would follow.

In recent years, I’ve embarked on a journey to deepen my empathy for the under-represented. While I’m still trying to understand ‘my place’ in the conversation, it’s woven it’s way into every facet of my life.

Life in the Majority

As a bearded, white man in technology, I am the majority. I fit the stereotype perfectly. On mere appearance, clients and prospects are more likely to trust what I have to say. I trigger the positive unconscious biases they have in their mind. Combine that with a clean haircut, warm smile, and well-rehearsed demeanor. It is all wind at my back.

I’m not complaining, it’s nice. Really nice.

Unfortunately, this dichotomy is where the tension rests. In ways I can’t even imagine, I benefit from the authority, credibility, and power of a misaligned culture. Those for whom I care most deeply, reside on the other side of the chasm. Rather than renounce my status, perhaps there is greater impact in leveraging it.

On the journey of discovering my place, there is so much I don’t know. I’m continually uncovering assumptions and expectations that represent a skewed world view. Rather than defending them, I’m cutting deeper to remove the decay and detritus of superiority and privilege. Like the insecurity of a novice among experts, I find myself unsettled and unnerved. This realization fuels empathy, as I imagine my momentary discomfort paling in comparison to the life-sentence others endure.

Brighter Days

My motives are not selfless. I want to expand my network, enrich my perspective, and exist in a more loving world. As a father, my daughters should be free to explore their passions and aspirations without impediment. As a creator, diversity is foundational to understanding problems and designing better solutions. As a human, a brighter future is one in which an individual’s contributions, not their differences, are what is championed.

In hindsight, it seems insensitive that my interest was only ignited recently by having daughters. Your right, it is. Fortunately, I’m here now and need help catching up to where I could have been all along.