This is the first in a new four-part series of articles which were co-developed by Highest Path and Diversity @ Work on Diversity and Inclusion Fundamentals for Startups.
In our combined two and a half decades of work in the Gender, Diversity and Inclusion space, we’ve identified a clear need to start integrating equity and diversity efforts as early as possible into a company’s DNA. Companies that start with a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) mindset, leadership buy-in and concrete investments, grow inclusively in an organic way, and ultimately have to spend less on retrofitting efforts to eliminate a toxic workplace culture down the line.
In our diagnosis of the start-up landscape we identified three main barriers that most commonly prevent mid-growth companies from addressing D&I as a core part of their growth strategy:
1. Lack of buy-in at executive / founder level
2. Viewing D&I as a ‘nice to have’ not a ‘must have’
3. Approaching D&I as an all or nothing endeavor
To help address these barriers we’ve developed a short series of articles which identify strategies and approaches for implementing D&I efforts in a start-up environment. This guided approach to D&I fundamentals offers what we consider the minimum standards of D&I programming. While there are additional efforts which are considered good practice, our recommendations are based on a simple organizational competency framework.
Stages in D&I organizational competency:
Following our guide on D&I Fundamentals will ensure companies move out of the D&I Blind stage and into the D&I Sensitive stage, where they can create a ‘do no harm’ workplace.
Let’s begin with a short review of definitions. In the next installment of this four-part series, we will make the business case for investing in D&I.
Defining Diversity and Inclusion
Let’s start with defining what we mean by Diversity & Inclusion. These broad definitions are important to establish as a baseline but each organization should tailor these definitions to fit its’ company culture, values, mission and vision.
Diversity in its essence refers to differences amongst people with respect to gender, race, class, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, health, ability, education etc. In the context of D&I work it’s important to note that the key to diversity is valuing and managing these differences in a way where the results lead to inclusion.
Inclusion creates the conditions for diversity to thrive including the policies, practices, behaviors, and procedures that leverage differences (diversity) to achieve better business or mission objectives.
Getting clear on how your organization defines Diversity & Inclusion by building on these generalized definitions is an important first step in creating a comprehensive internal roadmap and strategy. We recommend bringing key stakeholders that represent a wide segment of your company to a facilitated discussion in the creation of that value statement; it’s both an inclusive way to discover how your people view D&I and ensures more buy-in when it comes time to implement and execute.
For a more in-depth look at how to address D&I in your organization, download our D&I Fundamentals Handbook for Startups.