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How to Promote Leadership Diversity

How to Promote Leadership Diversity

A growing number of employers are prioritizing diversity in their hiring practices. That’s good news for entry-level job seekers from traditionally underrepresented groups, but it hasn’t always led to more diversity in leadership.

Entry-level hiring for women and people of color is approaching representative numbers in the U.S. workplace, but those numbers fall off precipitously for management and especially senior executive levels. For example, women of color account for only 4 percent of senior business leadership positions.

Diverse leadership teams tend to cultivate increased rates of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the organization, with better rates of retention and promotion for women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

How do you create an environment where highly qualified and motivated employees from diverse backgrounds want to grow their careers? The following tips can help you get started.


How do you foster an environment in which highly qualified and motivated employees from a variety of backgrounds want to advance in their careers? The following pointers will assist you in getting started.


Understand the Benefits of Diversity in Leadership

According to a growing body of research, businesses with leadership that reflects the diversity of the marketplace are more likely to appeal to a wider range of customers. Organizations with diverse leadership teams are more efficient, more likely to innovate, and earn higher profits than those that do not.

Because an increasing number of applicants ask employers about their DEI initiatives during the hiring process, a reputation for prioritising DEI initiatives, including increased diversity in management, can be a recruiting advantage at all levels. This trend is most pronounced among Gen Z job seekers, with 86% citing diversity as an important factor when selecting an employer.

Finally, since 30 percent of employers lack a DEI strategy, a comprehensive approach to diversity hiring and promotion at all levels can give your organization an advantage.


Develop Talent From Within

Many employers think that emphasizing diverse hiring for entry-level jobs will automatically increase diversity across their organization at all levels as employees grow and develop and earn promotions.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Diverse workers are less likely to receive the nurturing and mentoring required to advance in their roles if there is a lack of diversity in leadership across teams and at the executive level. Retention, particularly of top performers, becomes difficult, and employees you may have invested resources in recruiting and training may leave only to flourish with one of your competitors.

The most effective way to break this cycle is to honestly assess your current recruiting and internal promotion processes. Pose difficult questions to yourself, such as:

  • When leadership roles become vacant, do you tend to neglect internal talent in favour of outside applicants?
  • Do you have policies in place that encourage mentorship?
  • Do you provide your employee's opportunities to learn about career and professional development?
  • Is your company culture nurturing for all?
  • Do your hiring and promotion practices perpetuate unconscious biases?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you have work to do. You’ll need to focus on increasing diversity at all levels—entry-level, middle management, and executive roles—to compete with companies that excel at DEI.

Recruiting at the Entry and Mid-level

Some of the following recruiting best practices for entry-level hires can be employed to improve diversity for every role in your company, from intern to CEO:

  • Consider implementing a blind application process. This means stripping off applicants’ names, addresses, and the names (and graduation dates) of the schools they’ve attended.
  • Reach out to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and institutions with diverse student and alumni populations and forge relationships with their career services departments.
  • Create targeted internship and fellowship programs for people of colour and other underrepresented groups.
  • Many sectors have professional organizations for people of colour (for example, the Society of Black Engineers). Reach out to those in your field and ask about recruiting opportunities at all levels.
  • Use a script for interviews that ask every candidate the same questions and assemble a diverse hiring committee for every role

You might even choose to take more radical steps, such as forgoing resumes altogether, which data shows can improve fairness in hiring and diversity in leadership.

Recruiting for Leadership Roles

Some organisations require that diverse candidates be considered for all leadership positions. This policy, however, has the potential to backfire. Applicants can tell the difference between a pro forma interview conducted to fulfil company policy and a fair process in which they are given genuine consideration.

Consider roles outside of the workplace when determining whether candidates have the necessary leadership skills. Are there any veterans with command experience among the candidates for the position? Have they held executive positions in non-profits or professional associations? Have they participated in community project management, complex event planning, or mentorship?

All of these experiences can aid in the development of management skills and should be considered when considering internal or external candidates for leadership positions.

Make sure that work on DEI initiatives is rewarded as highly as other accomplishments. Women are twice as likely as men to devote time to DEI initiatives. Because this time is frequently not considered part of their official job responsibilities, this labour is frequently overlooked when it comes to promotions.

Consider investing in robust career re-entry programmes to increase diversity in leadership, as women are more likely than men to leave their careers mid-career to care for children or ailing relatives. This reality can stymie gender equity efforts in your management recruitment efforts.


Create a Culture of Inclusion

Is diversity a core value in your company? If so, have you effectively communicated this in your employer branding?

By sponsoring affinity groups, you can increase retention and thus increase the likelihood that diverse employees will stay with you long enough to advance to leadership positions. Affinity and resource groups enable employees to collaborate on common goals, provide support networks, and foster innovations that can improve your bottom line.

One of the most effective ways to ensure that DEI is a priority at every level of your organization is to tie DEI initiatives, including hiring, mentoring, and promotion, to management compensation. Once you implement these DEI strategies, communicate them as transparently as possible to job seekers on your website and highlight them in all your recruitment materials, including job posts.