Peruse the hashtag #Allmalepanel on Twitter, and you’ll see that people are fed up. Both customers and employees are tired of the lack of diversity at conferences, and other events where experts are assembled to share their wisdom.
And because of their frustration, they are starting to call organizations out about it on Twitter and in other channels.
— Tanya Selak (@GongGasGirl) October 24, 2017
But the outrage isn’t just about all-male panels. It is spilling into other forums when people feel others those who look like them, are not represented in a particular setting.
Just the other day, I participated in a lengthy thread on Facebook, where someone lamented about being called out on Twitter for an article he published. It was a list of 30 podcasts people should listen to if they want to become more influential, and the commenter noted the recommendations didn’t have enough people of color. No bueno.
Why representation is more important now than ever.
Business is about belonging. And your customers and the people who work with you are more likely to feel your company is a place that values them when you demonstrate you value the thoughts, experiences, and contributions of people who look like them.
And when you look at the changes in demographics in the US population alone, choosing not to represent your evolving customer group will increasingly become a liability.
For instance, within 15 years, people of color will make up the majority of the American working class. That statistic makes a ton of sense when you consider that at present 49 percent of kids under age 15 are minorities, [[PLEASE LINK DIRECTLY TO THE RESEARCH FOR THIS INFO, INSTEAD OF A NEWS ARTICLE]] and by 2055 there won’t be a single ethnic or racial majority.
And from a gender standpoint, women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children.
If you haven’t done the best job in the past of diversifying your communications, content, featured experts, or even the people you have at all levels within your company, don’t wait to get dinged for it by someone who is frustrated by it.
Instead, follow these three simple strategies to make adequate representation and inclusion a cultural norm within your business.
1. Seek out opportunities to practice empathy
When complaints about a lack of diversity and or representation are brought up, often the response is “Wow, I didn’t even notice.”
Proactively looking for opportunities to walk a mile in your customers’ shoes will give you the experience you need to make being inclusive more top of mind for you.
Deborah Pickett is a math coach who used this approach:
“I worked on a team with three males…When their conversations moved to more male friendly topics, I initially felt left out. I eventually found ways to contribute to the conversations, but what it taught me was to be mindful of who is in the room, and to try to include everyone. This helped when I was on a team with two females and one male. When our conversations went female heavy, I’d remember my experience and implement what I learned.”
2. Get more specific about who your customers are.
One of the challenges many people find themselves in when it comes to diversity is in trying to not see color or gender. That objective is misplaced. As people, we have more similarities than differences when it comes to what we want and need in life.
But we do have plenty of differences. And we need to work to do a better job of acknowledging and celebrating our differences, rather than pretending they don’t exist. For instance, how would a gender-neutral workplace implement a maternity leave policy?
Don’t try to fit your customers and employees into one nice, neat little box. Identify who they are and what makes them different, so you can start to build and implement plans that allow you to speak to those differences in a meaningful way.
Fenty Beaty did this recently with the launch of their new make-up line. The brand debuted with 40 different shades of makeup, to accommodate women of different complexions all over the world.
3. Be deliberate about being inclusive.
Most people don’t intend to exclude others. But when you operate within your comfort zone, especially if that leans heavily on a network that looks, thinks, and has similar experiences than you, then it becomes more difficult to include others who are different.
So you have to get in the habit of casting your net wider to feature talent that is representative of the people you serve. That means going out of your way at times to seek these folks out.
If you want to stay relevant, your business has to evolve with changes in the market. And increasingly, the market wants to feel represented by the companies they choose to work and do business with.