Why it’s never too early to start thinking about diversity

Updated on 26 January 2015

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Why it's never too early to start thinking about diversityHow diverse is your business? Haven’t given it a thought? You are not alone. Not many entrepreneurs, particularly in the early stages of their startups, take racial and gender diversity into consideration – beyond (in South Africa) the BBBEE considerations. But this is the best time to plant the seeds for a more diverse company, says Joelle Emerson, the co-founder and CEO of Paradigm, a US-based strategy firm that helps tech companies more effectively build diverse organisations.
In her article, Prioritizing Diversity In 2015 on the Techcrunch website, she writes that there are huge benefits to creating a more diverse team, which potentially have a impact on your bottom line, says Emerson.
“Diversity makes teams smarter, leads to better decisions and helps groups solve problems more effectively. It also helps businesses better understand the needs of existing and potential customers”, she writes.
Here are her strategies to grow into a more diverse startup 2015.

1. Founders and leaders, get involved

“Diversity initiatives are far more successful when a leader within the organisation plays an active role”, writes Emerson. A founder’s role is crucial and their responsibility will include: “developing company goals around diversity, supporting and rewarding employees who dedicate their time to building a diverse organisation and ensuring accountability”.

2. Collect better data

It’s important for every company to keep accurate and up-to-date workplace data writes Emerson. The more information you have at your disposable, the more informed your decisions will be.

“Founders should look beyond their established network for new hires”

“Without good data, it’s difficult to know which processes in an organisation are most inhibiting diversity and where strategies should be targeted to produce the best outcomes”.
Look for data in the following area: “how experiences differ for women and people of color; how candidates are attracted and recruited; how work is assigned; how performance is evaluated; how much employees are paid; how employees advance in the company and when they leave”, she writes.

3. Expand your network

Many companies find new hires through “informal social networks and referrals from current employees”, writes Emerson. This does not bode well for diversity. Founders should look beyond their established network for new hires.
“Companies committed to diversity need to make a conscious effort to build more diverse networks and find these candidates”, she writes.

4. Think deliberately about your hiring process

Many companies and many founders, writes Emerson, operate by the common misconception that gender, race and ethnicity plays no role in the hiring process.
From gender or race skewed job descriptions, to “unconscious bias and stereotype”, it’s important that companies are aware of this factors and implement strategies to “minimise their impact”, writes Emerson.

5. Create a company culture that supports diverse employees

It’s not enough to just preach diversity, or hire more diverse team members, it’s important put your money where your mouth is, writes Emerson. This includes setting up “explicit structures that support diverse employees” she writes.
“Building a diverse organisation requires a focus not only on recruiting diverse candidates, but on creating a culture that welcomes and cultivates diverse employees”.

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