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9 ways to introduce and improve Diversity, Inclusion & Equality into your business

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce 

Now is the time for us to continue having these conversations. Racial, gender-based, economic, religious and all types of disparity and equality should never be tolerated. There shouldn’t be a short-term social media hype followed by silence. Moving forward, we need to ensure that we do the work and continue to make all different groups of people feel included.

In my FB Group, I recently hosted Vaishali Shah from Culturally Minded, a consultancy firm. She has 20 years’ experience in Marketing, 14 yrs experience in weddings and events, and also family business experience. I then interviewed Soniamarie Palmer, from Soniamarie Consulting, who has a 20 yr background in Human Resources and Employment law.

Using the insight I gained from these two conversations, I put together some of their best tips, and have featured them below, to help entrepreneurs bring diversity, inclusion, and equality into their small businesses.

What is diversity, inclusion, and equality? 

Diversity is the mix of different types of groups; age, gender, education, religion, origin, personality, socio – economic status, disability, sexual orientation etc. 

Inclusion is the effort to make all these people work together and create a place of value and belonging in your company.

Equality: No one in the workplace should experience fear or exclusion or discrimination. Everyone should be treated equally regardless of their status and should be granted access to the same opportunities.

1. Don’t think this is only for big corporate companies

It doesn’t matter what the size of your business is. Diversity, inclusion, and equality are not just for huge international corporations. Change starts with each individual. Even if you are a sole proprietor, a mom working from your kitchen, or a start-up you should make an effort to be representative of the multicultural society that we live in.

2. Be authentic

You don’t want to just hire people from diverse backgrounds. Don’t hire or make friends because it’s good for business, or just to fill a quota or tick a box. You can’t just put a photo of a person of colour on your website and walk away knowing your work is done.

Tokenism creates the illusion of diversity without actual inclusion. True diversity should add value, impact and provide solutions. Tokenism is “the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.”

Want to be inclusive and be authentic about it? You need to be sincere about effecting change and honestly want to connect with and learn about different people and their respective cultures. This is something you need to do continuously, and you have to do it in a way that fits in with your business.

3. Be mindful of your imagery, branding, messaging and language

Be mindful of stock imagery. Are you using images of people of different races, cultures and hair types? Haute stock is ahead of the game, and have been including beautiful images of diverse people, but they issued out a statement to say that they will be doing even better by not separating races or cultures and instead, showing them interacting with each other.

In the events and wedding industry, there is a poor representation of Asian, black and multicultural couples.

Look at your website, your social media – is it representative of different ages, skin tones, and hair types? 

4. Cast your net wider: Don’t do things the way you always have

Diversify your speaker panel:

For retreats and podcasts, look at your speaker list and try not to use the same people. What is the process you are following to get people to speak at your event? There are so many out there. Do your research, ask around – you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

Go out there, ask other coaches, look for speakers who are experts in specific fields but from diverse backgrounds and communities. Phone around and invite them and if they’ve got the skills, they’ll add value and more often than not, a very different but relevant perspective.

Diversify your circle of friends

Find new people to follow on social media. Look at your friends and clients: are they diverse? Change it up, try to have wider circles so that you can learn from different upbringings, life experiences, etc. Bring them and their views to the table.

Diversify your leads: 

Reach out to people daily who talk, look and think differently to you and when pitching invite diverse people into your groups or challenges.

5. Listen with not only sympathy but more importantly, empathy

Don’t assume that you know or understand. Ask about others ’ lived experiences and listen rather than talk. This is a delicate time and there is no right or wrong. Reach out to friends, suppliers, colleagues of different races and cultures. Call them to make it that much more personal and meaningful. 

It’s not just about acting in solidarity, sharing a post on Blackout Tuesday and thinking the work is done.

This should be the start of something. Use what’s happening around you as a wakeup call. Be open to having tough conversations. Make it a way of life, not just wing it as a trend on social media that fades when the headlines fade.

6. Know that Diversity in the workplace leads to better decision making, productivity AND profitability

McKinsey did a survey Those companies who had a diverse workforce performed much better than non – diverse businesses. They attract top talent, retain good staff, they are involved in the decision – making and they want to build the business forward, make good business sense, and attract more people to your products and services.

“…companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were [21%] more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.”

7. Diversify Your team

Don’t just hire from your existing circle – cast your net wider. Consider under-represented groups and give them a gap. Give others the opportunity to access you.

It goes without saying, you should always hire the person who is best qualified, holds the required skills, has the experience and not just because of their skin colour.

Educate yourself and your team on cultural sensitivity, diversity and inclusion. Recognise, accept differences and cultural diversity and celebrate them. Find ways to use these differences to add value in your business.

Be culturally sensitive and mindful of all your teams’ religious / cultural holidays / customs and maintain open communication eg: fasting during Ramadaan, Diwali, who in your team doesn’t consume alcohol, are they vegetarian, can you address elders by their first name, etc.

Allow your team members to share ideas and open the floor to those with different cultures and allow them to be part of your company’s decision making.

8. Look at whom you work and collaborate with

Reach out and speak on diverse panels for podcasts and events.

Broaden your supplier base and support minority or diverse communities.

Take the first step when it comes to inclusiveness. An example: if you’re booked for a styled shoot, ask them about their suppliers, models, etc and ask questions about whether they’re inclusive or not. Brands that don’t show evidence of diversity – get in touch, chat with them about their selection process and encourage them to be more inclusive. Events that are not diverse – contact the organisers and check that they’ve made an effort.

Try and build a network with people who look nothing like you.

9. Ask for help, watch and learn

Take responsibility for your own learning.

If you’re a photographer or event coordinator and you want to know how to break into cross-cultural weddings (Indian, Muslim, Jewish, etc), opt to assist or be a second shooter to  someone more experienced than you so that you can learn alongside them, help with planning, and learn more about the differing cultures.

Hire a consultant who specialises in cultural sensitivity, diversity and inclusion. Have them look at your branding, marketing strategy, etc and see if there’s room for improvement. 

Soniamarie or Vaishali are specialists in this field and offer consulting on these topics by looking at your current business model and strategy and how you can improve it.

Thank you to Vaishali and Soniamarie for their time taken to come into my group and sharing such valuable information. If you’d like to find out more about what they do and the services they offer, visit their links in the list of Resources below.

Another special mention and thank you to Candice Clark from Dynamic Talent who provided tips on how to listen with empathy.

Resources:

https://culturallyminded.com/

https://www.soniamarieconsulting.com/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2020/03/03/14-steps-to-make-any-business-more-diverse-and-inclusive/#7882a35d19d6

https://www.cio.com/article/3262704/diversity-and-inclusion-8-best-practices-for-changing-your-culture.html

https://medium.com/@TonieSnell/tokenism-the-result-of-diversity-without-inclusion-460061db1eb6

https://globaldiversitypractice.com/what-is-diversity-inclusion/

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