Diversity strategy in organizations- De-biasing

De-biasing in an organisational context is a simple threestep process:

1) Do an inclusion audit: Assess and review your company values for their inclusiveness and empathy. Run anonymous surveys that will help reveal biases within long-running systems.

2) Prepare a list of key biases that recur in your workplace: These might be different for different departments. Hence, exercise caution and care in identifying the biases.

3) Conduct an unconscious bias training session for every single employee in your company.

The first step in removing biases from the workplace is to admit its presence.

Let us all agree that each one of us, without exception, is biased towards something or somebody — either towards a group, a community, a region, a language, a function or a role. We are all the product of a number of different influences and these lead to organic biases that permeate our belief systems. The biases are not only specific to individuals, they can infiltrate the entire organisation and manifest as groupthink. Which is why it is often very difficult for organisations to implement a diversity strategy. What we define as organisational culture is created over a relatively long period. It is a gradual build-up of tribal knowledge and set ways of doing things. Such culture cloaks several biases that run way down within the system.

Diversity strategy in organizations

When organisational “values” seem to overstep boundaries, resulting in poor decisions and disharmony within the team, they need to be carefully examined and relegated to the status of irrelevant and exasperating biases.

Finding qualified female engineers, software developers and women to run tech companies and innovation and digital arms of our corporates is a persistent problem for organizations – even for those whose leaders deeply value principles of gender equality and inclusion.

Also Read: How to Apply Lateral Thinking

The problem is by no means limited to the tech industry. The dial is stuck across the board. In 2018, the largest comprehensive study on women’s status in corporate North America, co-sponsored by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co., found that women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. Women are less likely to be hired for entry-level jobs, less likely to be hired into manager-level jobs and far less likely to be promoted into them.

But a gender-diversity strategy isn’t just about hiring more women. It’s about creating the kind of organization that women will want to join and where they’ll want to remain because they know it will afford them the opportunity to grow and contribute and eventually lead and govern.

A strategy to bring women to the leadership table shouldn’t be a side hustle.

What if companies took a different approach? What if rather than lumping their gender-diversity strategy under the diversity-and-inclusion umbrella, they differentiated it? What if they viewed gender diversity as a top-line strategic priority and treated it just as they would any other top-line business priority, such as a revenue, innovation, customer acquisition or global expansion strategy? What if they appointed a chief gender diversity officer whose job it was to steer that strategy, and gave that individual the budget and power to take definitive action to build a talent pipeline, and held them accountable for meeting clearly-defined targets?

I’m not suggesting that companies should focus on gender diversity at the expense of a multipronged diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy. Both are essential. But if they’re serious about achieving gender balance, the issue requires its own focus and investment.

We ’re no longer in an era when companies can afford to treat gender diversity as a side hustle. If they want to attract and retain the best and the brightest, they have to commit at the highest level. Then they have to go all in.

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