Equality and diversity have certainly become hot topics over the last couple of years.  It is first and foremost in the front of everybody’s mind and often spoken about in and out of the workplace, at conferences and workshops. 

However, how much of an individual’s thought process and discussion in this area is ‘icing’ and how many of us really commit to making and baking the actual cake, the real foundation for the icing.  How many of us live and breathe and support what it means to be open to considering diversity and standing up and advocating for individuals that are still spoken about in a sexist, racist, derogatory and demeaning way because they sit outside what is considered the norm or the majority groups.

We need individuals, both men and women, with strong values around diversity to step up and help build equality both in and out of the workplace.

Unless poor behaviour by peers is called out, it will continually be seen as normal, as being okay, perhaps as fun banter and acceptable.

You can help to make changes:

  • Listen and Support – In boardrooms, meetings and conferences, make sure you give minorities (gender, culture, age and race) the space and support to talk, share their insights and use their voice.  Make sure you really listen.
  • Think outside the box – consider individuals from minorities to be given or take part in the high-stakes assignments.  These are often a prerequisite for career advancement and acknowledgment.  Sponsors need to advocate for individuals when building teams, don’t just rely on who you know or existing relationships, mix it up.
  • Educate yourself – Don’t rely on individuals to teach you about equality and diversity issues.  Read articles and books on intersectional, gender and minority issues.  Seek out different perspectives from women, individuals of colour, the LGBTQI community and other minorities.
  • Call it out – If see or hear sexist or derogatory behaviour, don’t just stand by – speak up!  Women have been calling out misogyny for years and years.  Men need to start holding other men accountable and demanding more from them.
  • Be Conscious – When hiring and promoting, make sure you identify, interview and consider people from different backgrounds.  Diverse workplaces and Boards achieve greater success than homogeneous teams.  It simply makes for good business.
  • Celebrate – Make a point of acknowledging the accomplishments of minorities at team meetings and in group emails.  Praise individuals to other colleagues.   Productive feedback is important for career progression and helps to foster a positive workplace culture.

Mentorship and Sponsorship is very valuable and there is a clear differentiation.   A Mentor is someone that has knowledge and will share this with an individual to help build up their capability and confidence.  A Sponsor is someone in a position of power or influence that will use this power to talk up, advocate for a person.

In my next article, I will discuss the benefits and traps of Sponsorship.

Let’s all work together to support each other and make people accountable where equality and diversity are concerned.

Written by Karen Hudman, Senior Consultant, Executive Search

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