As tech companies continue to receive heat over their lack of inclusivity of women and people of color, more studies are showing that there is a measurable benefit to focusing on diversity in the workplace.
Through a mix of civic action on tax reform, altering hiring practices and recognizing religious differences, here are six examples of how to push for more inclusivity in your own workplace.
1. Attract More Women With Different Incentives
When Netflix announced a revision to its parental leave policy to include a minimum of three months’ full pay for hourly employees and up to 12 months for salaried workers, the internet was abuzz with how much progress American companies were making when it came to the new moms in their ranks.
But Netflix is an exception to standard policy. Currently, federal law only requires large and medium-sized companies to provide 16 weeks of parental leave, all unpaid. And there is even less support for working mothers, as federal subsidies for childcare are at a 12-year low.
To improve the landscape for working women, look to Canada. After our northern neighbors altered their tax system in the 1980s and ’90s to allow for childcare subsidies and mandatory paid maternity leave, more women joined the workforce. Today, there are about 8 percent more women working in Canada than in the U.S.
2. Embrace Global Workers — And Their Customs
All companies want to grow their business and increase their bottom line. One way to do that: Sponsor international workers.
Yet when it comes to bringing in new people from across the globe, most industries rely on old hiring tactics, using generic language in job listings or posting to job sites that aren’t used in other countries.
“There has been an idea for some time that you could standardize the [human resources] function globally,” said a 2012 report from KPMG International. “Many markets today, though, are so distinct that [HR] needs to focus on understanding local needs.”
In the same study, leaders from multiple companies found that international workers were essential to their business. For those pushing to hire people from other countries, the process was found to be the most successful when HR departments accommodated the worker’s local customs and culture.
3. Include More Holidays on the Company Calendar
New York is one of only a handful of cities that observe holy days of multiple religions. In 2015, the city’s school system added two Muslim holidays to its number of days off and have also designated times during which students of certain Christian denominations can leave school one hour early for religious study.
For businesses that want to do the same, the website Diversity Best Practices has a full list of religious and cultural holidays, including the Indian feast holiday Makar Sankranti (Jan. 14) and Native American Citizenship Day (June 15). Some companies have taken up the trend; UPS, for example, recognizes a number of cultural holidays such as Passover and the Chinese New Year.
“The key … is to make sure no one feels excluded or forced to participate in workplace festivities,” according to a post by the Society for Human Resource Management.
4. Use Technology as a Guard Against Implicit Bias
Despite a hiring manager’s best efforts to avoid discrimination in interviews, it’s completely natural to have biases — and it’s even harder to recognize them. To best diversify a workforce, it’s crucial to take a look at the technology that’s being used to communicate with potential hires, from how the job is posted to the method used to extend an offer of employment.
When the social media developer Buffer changed job descriptions from “hackers” to “developers,” they found women applied to the jobs more often. “It was eye-opening for us to realize the ways we had perhaps been implicitly biased without realizing it,” wrote one employee for the company’s blog.
Companies can utilize software that analyzes internal emails, documents and job postings in real time to avoid bias. Joonko, for example, “can identify events of conscious and unconscious bias,” says cofounder Ilit Raz. “The point isn’t just to hire more diverse people, but the right people for your company.”
Gapjumpers and Blendoor are two companies whose software removes a candidate’s name and any data not relevant to the job descriptions so managers can base hiring decisions solely on merit. The Google Chrome extension Unbias also blurs out LinkedIn images and names to reduce unconscious bias. Think of it as hiring à la “The Voice,” where judges hear singers before they see them.
5. Dish Out Diversity in Lunchrooms
Outside of benefiting a business’s bottom line, having a diverse work environment also introduces other people to cultures they might not otherwise interact with.
Communities are better strengthened when the people in them socialize with one another, says Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam. As the Houston Chronicle put it, “When a variety of viewpoints are thrown into the problem-solving mix, new and innovative solutions can be reached.”
Encouraging social diversity can be as easy as mixing up the menu. In Australia, for example, companies are encouraged to participate in A Taste of Harmony, a program that introduces employees to new cultures through food. And if you have a fairly diverse workforce already, try organizing a potluck where staffers bring in their favorite cultural dish to share.
6. Enlist Outside Expert Help
More companies are starting to beef up diversity by hiring outside help, such as diversity consultants, to oversee their company strategy.
Organizations like Paradigm and Project Include, cofounded by former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and other high-profile female techies, help startups analyze their company’s needs, and then hire and retain diverse talent.
“We convened as a group of tech women to strategize and try to move diversity forward by having hard conversations and redirecting efforts,” reads Project Include’s manifesto. “We want to provide our perspectives, recommendations, materials, and tools to help CEOs and their teams build meaningful inclusion. We know how hard change is from our own experiences.”
Let’s fix this country together.