Posted: 10/23/2019

Intentional Inclusive Actions You Can Take

Deborah Gillis, Former President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst

Leaders are the ones who set the tone from the top down, and they’re the ones who must focus on and choose to be inclusive. After all, diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice

This month I decided to compile a list of my favorite actions—easy, practical, and intentional actions—that a leaderteam, or organization could take to focus on inclusion.

When hiring or reviewing talent

  1. During talent review discussions, have someone draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Record the words that are used to describe women on one side and those for men on the other. Share this list with the team.
  2. Ban the word “fit” from hiring discussions. Recognize that what’s intended to refer to an alignment of values can be translated into comfort with someone who looks, thinks, and acts like the majority.
  3. When seeking out talent: Look up. Look down. Look deep. Look often.

During meetings or brainstorms

  1. Implement a “no-interruption” rule to ensure that everyone is being heard —especially women.
  1. Over the course of several meetings, keep track of whose ideas get acknowledged, built on, or adopted, vs. ignored or appropriated (i.e., without acknowledgement). Be cognizant of any patterns based on gender, race, and/or ethnicity.
  1. Any time a discussion about possible presenters happens, review the list of names and see if it is at least 50% diverse. Seize these opportunities to showcase somebody who isn’t heard from much, if at all.

Daily behavior

  1. Acknowledge people you don’t know in the hallways with a culturally appropriate greeting (for example, in the United States address someone with a smile and a “hello” or “hi”). A small friendly signal goes a long way toward breaking down hierarchies, siloes, and aggressive cultures while opening the door to further dialogue.
  1. Engage with people of different levels and backgrounds at the water cooler — either virtually or in person.

Be an open supporter

  1. Put a Pride flag, “I am an ally” sign, or some other signal of your allyship on your office door or at your desk. A little bit of visibility can go a long way.

Look within

  1. Have you personally been left out of any of opportunities? Try to understand why. Did bias or unwritten rules play a part? Think about what you can do to make yourself more visible and approachable, in an effort to be part of the conversation and top of mind for future selection.

Be an open-minded leader 
1. Help bust the myth that senior women have it all together by inviting a group of high-potential women home for dinner. Have them commute home with you to observe your real life—kids, pets, dinner, etc.
2. Think about your interactions with your direct reports over the past week. Whom did you offer to connect with a more senior colleague? To whom did you mention a plum opportunity or offer insight on workplace politics? How, if at all, did these interactions vary by gender, race, and/or ethnicity?
3. Make sure to intentionally seek out ideas/insights from people who may not look like you. So, next time you ask someone to take on a project (your go-to folks), stop and ask yourself—whom did you not ask? Why?
4. Ban words like “gravitas” and “rock star.” They have huge bias potential and can have different interpretations.
Understand other people’s varied work habits 
5. If you plan on sending emails to colleagues at off hours (late at night, weekends, etc.) add a line to your signature that lets people know you’re working at that time because it’s most convenient for you. This tells them that you don’t expect them to respond when they otherwise would not be working.
6. Proactively ask about all team members’ personal priorities or commitments that are important to honor as the team plans its work stream and deliverables; seek to respect those requests if at all possible.
7. Don’t assume that people who work differently (or even less) are less committed; they may be working smart.

Think differently 
8. Pay attention every time you hesitate to recommend someone for a job or a stretch assignment because you think others won’t support the idea—these people that don’t quite “fit” might be exactly the right people to add needed diverse perspectives.
9. Allow for diversity in terms of the way people process information and react/communicate (introverts and extroverts).

10. Challenge assumptions—don’t assume anything. A place of curiosity is the Zen zone.

Open your mind, close your mouth 
11. Ask and then listen; you’ll be amazed what you can learn from everyone around you.




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