How Your Company Can Meaningfully Improve Diversity In 2017

It’s not enough to simply say you want your organization to be more diverse. Here are tangible ways you can make it happen.

How Your Company Can Meaningfully Improve Diversity In 2017
[Photo: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images]

In recent years, many companies have been emphasizing their dedication to diversity. But what does that really mean? If we look at Silicon Valley, whose diversity numbers continue to be shaky, saying doesn’t necessarily mean doing.


In fact, a recent LinkedIn study found that, despite the heightened press, a majority of tech leaders don’t know what they are actually doing to make their organizations more diverse. And unless real action is taken, 2017 won’t bring about any seismic changes.

For most companies, creating a more diverse and inclusive landscape involves doing away with common myths. As organizations begin think about the next year’s goals, here are some ways to help bring about a more diverse workspace.

Step 1: Acknowledge That There Is Not A Pipeline Problem

Executives trying to make excuses for their poor diversity showings often point to what’s called the “pipeline problem.” The issue, as they see it, is that for technical roles, there simply aren’t enough qualified diverse candidates. The problem with this argument is it’s simply not true. Numerous studies show that there is an abundance of women and non-white people with applicable skills.

So if a company is trying to make an honest and concerted effort to create a more diverse workforce, they must first acknowledge that the issue isn’t a lack of candidates. And if they are only seeing a certain type of candidate, then they should begin to source talent from new places.

Step 2: Be Mindful Of Your Talent Sourcing

It’s not enough to simply say you have an open mind: Employers must actively look for talent in new places. Companies often rely on word of mouth or referrals by current employees. This creates a circle of like-minded people with often similar backgrounds. Instead, employers can approach new sources—different universities, for instance—to find candidates outside of their networks.

Companies like Github have been working to create partnerships with programs and universities that train technology talent from underrepresented backgrounds. While it’s easy to look within your network and find people who fit the description, this perpetuates a homogeneous work culture.


Step 3: Try (As Best You Can) To Avoid Bias

Perhaps the most important way to make your company more diverse is to force yourself to think outside the box. As explained in the last step, instead of just choosing the top five applications from Ivy League alums, make sure you are bringing a concert of voices to the table. Pinterest’s chief diversity officer, Candice Morgan, told Fast Company at our Innovation Festival that the company interviews at least one woman and one person from an underrepresented background for all leadership roles.

And it helps to remove as much bias in decision making as possible. Recruiters can do their job blindly so that only qualifications can be seen.

But avoiding bias goes beyond just hiring. It’s making sure that people within a company are aware of how they present themselves to each other. To help with this, companies can bring in trained counselors to lead bias training exercises. Morgan added that she implemented this at Pinterest, too.

Step 4: Look Critically At Your Numbers

For many, simply looking at a company’s demographic makeup is enough to know whether or not it’s diverse. But that is not enough. While companies may be hiring people from divergent backgrounds, what’s important to know is whether they are fostering their success. One of the biggest problems non-white and non-male employees face is a non-inclusive culture. So other statistics like employee retention reveal whether or not companies are succeeding. And if they aren’t, companies need to look critically at the reasons why.

Another way to foster a more diverse work climate is to ensure that everyone is excelling at their job at a similar rate. That is, promotion velocity for people from diverse backgrounds is proportional to others. These statistics help illustrate a fuller picture about how a company is progressing and changing its culture. It also signals to potential new hires that it cares. Overall, by analyzing numbers beyond mere demographic makeup, companies can better strategize for the future.

Step 5: Understand What It All Means

The most important thing to emphasize is that this isn’t just for appearance. Cultivating a diverse workforce has business effects. If a company is simply trying to hire more minority employees to make itself look good, then it’s not solving the problem. A diverse body of employees ensures that the business is serving all potential clients.


A McKinsey study concluded that diversity drives better results. The ultimate point of building a more diverse team is to make an organization more successful in the long run.

Overall, vowing to make a company more inclusive and diverse requires understanding what many underrepresented people face in the workforce and coupling that with why organizations should be more proactive in recruiting them. This conversation is anything but new, yet most industries are making scant gains. The only way to overcome that is to analyze what the underlying problem is. Following that, they can formulate a strategy to build better, stronger, and more successful teams. It’s as easy as that.


About the author

Cale is a Brooklyn-based reporter. He writes about many things.