Studies show that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform compared to more homogeneous ones, while companies that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform.
Companies with more female leaders are also proven to be more profitable. In fact, women are typically rated as being more effective leaders overall than men by their reports, peers and managers.
So how can companies become more diverse? By hiring, mentoring, assessing, and supporting people in less discriminatory ways. Here’s how:
1. Recognize (and teach) the potential for unconscious bias.
No need to make a witch hunt out of it, but it’s important to explain to hiring groups that the potential for bias is common and that there are ways to combat it.
Companies like Paradigm and Textio, for example, are helping major tech companies overcome this challenge by offering trainings and workshops on implicit bias and opening up their hiring practices to more diverse candidates.
Meanwhile, Google has come up with its own internal program to help its people recognize unconscious bias. It has also publicly shared the slides and training materials it presents to its employees.
2. If you fear your feedback may be hurtful, you’re giving it wrong.
If you’re worried about giving constructive feedback to a female report because you don’t know how she’ll take it, you should consider how you’re saying it.
Anyone, man or woman, who receives strong criticism that isn’t actionable will find it difficult to process. Remember these key practices: never judge, always refer to specific examples of what was said or done, and always provide suggestions for how the person could improve.
3. Use reality and real preferences to determine qualities a leader should possess.
Without a common, agreed-upon set of top leadership qualities, it’s more likely that people will hold onto the dominating stereotype of the typical “boss.”
Instead, take a page from Google’s Project Oxygen. During this project, the company used employee surveys, analyzed manager performance reviews, and interviewed the top managers within the company. As a result, they came up with 8 key behaviors the best managers possess, not one conformed to the traditional authoritarian stereotype. Instead, some of these included: being a great coach, empowering the team and not micromanaging, and expressing concern for team members’ success and well-being.
Find out which qualities are most important for being a great leader in your company. Make sure this process is inclusive with feedback from employees, peers and managers alike. The better you define what leadership looks like, the less likely future managers will be chosen based on outdated stereotypes.
4. Integrate into your performance review process.
It’s not enough to simply come up with a list of behaviors. The next step is then to integrate them into your performance review process as core leadership competencies.
Rather than asking if someone has leadership potential, ask people to review others based on their ability to coach, communicate effectively, or empower others. This will help both men and women develop the leadership skills needed to effectively manage your teams
5. Standardize mentorship.
Rather than making coaching an informal part of a manager’s job, every manager should set up standing bi-monthly 1-on-1s and/or weekly strategic check-ins with each report. By making 1-on-1s standard for everyone, managers can ensure they’re not unconsciously giving preference to certain employees over others.
6. Cure people of imposter syndrome.
Though often associated with women, studies show that imposter syndrome affects both sexes. It could very well be the reason why talented individuals aren’t getting promoted within your organization.
To address this common phenomenon, help train your employees to set challenging but attainable goals and teach them how they can use these achievements to benchmark their progress, for themselves and their managers.
Andrea Hak is a freelance writer who is now helping Impraise to make more equitable workplaces through better feedback and performance reviews. She normally writes about best practices in feedback, trends in the industry and gender equality.