The Real 3 Reasons Corporate America’s Diversity Initiatives Fail

Checking diversity boxes isn’t enough.

Everyday brings me face-to-face with the importance of having an open dialogue about equality in the workplace. Here are a few tactics that can help open up the discussion and effect change at your organization:

1.Create equal opportunities

It’s important to remember that while the terms are often used interchangeably, diversity and equality mean different things. Diversity is recognizing our differences while embracing them, whether it’s at work or in society at large. Equality, on the other hand, refers to fairness and equal treatment, where everyone has the same opportunities.

Tell your staff that if everyone doesn’t have similar opportunities for professional development, career pathing, and access to resources, you’re not fostering equality. Thus, you are ticking the diversity box on paper, but not making a true effort to nurture and empower each individual to their best potential.

2. Effect organizational change

Most organizational change efforts fail, often because executives don’t get enough institutional buy-in for their initiatives and ideas. If you build relationships in advance and have a strong track record, executives are more likely to support you in making changes.

When I joined MediaMath in 2012, I made it my mission to foster a strong relationship with our CEO. What I was trying to build—a comprehensive training program for employees, clients, and partners that honored their differences in gender, culture, and career background—had never been done before at the company. Through sparking regular communication, building trust, and showing passion for my mission, the CEO became my biggest champion and was instrumental in helping me nurture the New Marketing Institute (NMI) into the global unit it is today.

It’s important to show your executive sponsors that being an equal workplace ultimately adds value to the business. It can ultimately help you innovate and bring in unique perspectives.

3. Initiate equality programs

Equality-based initiatives can foster and promote teamwork, compassion, inclusion, and respect both within your company and with business partners. At NMI, we created the Marketing Engineer Program in 2014 to provide career opportunities in the programmatic marketing space for individuals across all backgrounds. These individuals work with different teams and are then offered jobs within our own company or through partners and clients. This fosters equality by giving individuals equal access to job skills training in digital marketing, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, or career background.

Other companies might consider internal initiatives such as having a high-performance program for talented employees of female or minority backgrounds, connecting women in leadership roles to younger female employees for mentorship, and holding on-site professional development trainings and team summits at times that accommodate working parents.

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