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February 19, 2021
In 2021 and beyond, diversity and inclusion for remote teams and all workers are top of mind. Here are incredible ideas and virtual activities to foster diversity in your workplace. Because, from the break room to the boardroom to the virtual meeting room, there is an incredible feeling of belonging and worthiness that comes from being able to bring your whole, authentic self to work.
Creating an environment of inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do - it can also help boost your company’s earnings and performance. For example, Boston Consulting Group reported in 2018 that companies with diverse leadership enjoyed a 19% increase in innovation revenue. McKinsey found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
These 16+ concrete ideas can help your team create a more diverse and inclusive community.
1. Commit to Diversity and Inclusion
The first step to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace is to acknowledge that bias exists. Even the most well-intentioned companies and people carry viewpoints and habits that have been shaped by our society and our upbringing. Has your executive management made a concrete commitment to diversity and equity?
Example: Coca-Cola sent an open letter recently requiring that all of its outside counsel have 30% of billed hours from diverse attorneys and half of that time from Black attorneys.
2. Provide a Digital Place for Self-Identification
Pronouns can be an important part of identity. These days, the digital communication tools that many remote teams use make it easier than ever to learn and respect each other’s pronouns. Companies can encourage employees to input their pronouns to email signatures, Slack profiles, and LinkedIn pages, which can help create a culture of inclusion for nonbinary and trans coworkers.
Useful Article: Here's a great article from Medium on how to input pronouns on many different technology tools.
3. Host a Virtual Team-Building Event Focused on Inclusivity & Learning
While team building should be fun and focused on building collaboration, it's also a great way to spread inclusivity and learning through the company. Think about team building experiences that celebrate the history of Black people or other minorities, while also resulting in collaboration across the company.
Great choice: Unexpected Virtual Tours puts on numerous diversity-focused Team Building experiences including the Black History Month, Music Evolution (pictured), and Juneteenth Team Building experiences. In each virtual corporate event with LIVE guides, your team will enjoy gift boxes featuring products from Black entrepreneurs while having fun and learning together.
4. Examine Pay Parity
By now, you’ve more than likely heard about the gender wage gap. Business Insider reported in 2020 that a woman earns, on average, only 81.6 cents for every dollar a man makes. For Black women, that number drops down to 66 cents for every dollar a man makes - and for Hispanic women, it’s just 58 cents. Changing these statistics requires corporate leaders to examine their employees’ salary data and adjust inequalities where they might exist. One important note - don’t rely on prospective employees’ salary history when determining their pay, as this can continue to perpetuate past inequities.
Note sure where to start? Explore the Society for Human Resources Management's actionable tips for establishing pay equity in your company.
5. Use Gender-Inclusive Language
Using gender-inclusive language means removing gender from our vocabulary. For example, if you’re giving a Zoom presentation, rather than saying, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen” - you could greet the group by saying, “Good morning, everyone” instead. This fosters an environment of inclusivity for people of all genders and helps avoid stereotypes.
Some ideas: As a Southern-based company, our Unexpected Virtual Tours employees are big fans of the word “y’all.” Here are some other gender-neutral and gender-inclusive words to use in your company’s communications as well as your own language.
More examples: the United Nations published a thorough guide to gender-inclusive language.
6. Renovate Offices as Needed While Workers are Remote
Even while many of us are working remotely, it’s important to consider how the physical layout of an office can lead to greater inclusivity. For example, single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms can provide privacy and comfort to people of all genders. It’s also extremely important to offer employees a dedicated nursing space that’s not a bathroom or conference room - as well as supporting employees by giving them time to pump. A nursing area should have a locking door, a comfortable chair, and a small table or shelf. It’s wise to also include a refrigerator to store pumped milk as well as a sink. While many workers remain remote, now is the perfect time to consider any renovations that might be needed before workers return.
Pro tip: if your budget won’t allow for renovations, consider Mamava - a woman-owned small business that sells and rents lactation pod spaces.
7. Create Slack Channels for Affinity Groups
These days, many remote teams are using Slack more than ever to communicate. Consider creating Slack channels for your company’s affinity groups - for example, parents, women, LGBTQ+ employees, Latinx employees, etc. This can help create a safe space for dialogue as well as a dedicated forum to share opportunities and resources.
Helpful resource: check out these existing Slack channels geared toward diversity and inclusion and networking opportunities for affinity groups (anyone can join!).
8. Be Mindful of Dietary Restrictions & Needs
Even while many of us are working remotely, there may be times when you decide to treat your team to lunch or a delivered meal. During these instances (and when we’re back in the office), it’s important to be mindful of dietary restrictions and needs. Ask your employees about their dietary restrictions before placing an order. Equally as important - when eating in a group setting, encourage team members to not take food meant for a specific dietary need if they can enjoy other options. Otherwise, you might end up with a vegetarian who has only meat sandwiches to pick from because their carnivorous coworkers decided to try the roasted veggie wrap.
Helpful article: to learn more about different dietary needs and how to accommodate them, read through the Society for Human Resources Management's tips on how to boost inclusion over a meal.
9. Support BIPOC/Local Business When Purchasing Employee Gifts
Whether you’re providing your team with lunch delivered to their home or celebrating a company milestone with branded swag, consider purchasing from a BIPOC-owned (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), woman-owned, and/or local business to have a tangible impact in these communities.
Our favorite gift idea and a great option for Women’s History Month in March for women's history month: Unexpected Virtual Tours’ Empower Foodie Gift Box. The box ships free nationwide and features products from BIPOC-owned small businesses, including salted caramels and teas picturing iconic women, an “empowered women” towel, tropical berry marshmallows, and your message handwritten on a Maya Angelou card.
10. Make Your Website Accessible to All
While the internet has made information readily available to the masses, many websites remain inaccessible for people with disabilities. Consider whether your company’s website is user-friendly to people who may be blind or visually impaired, dyslexic, hard of hearing, prone to seizures with bright flashing visuals, cognitively impaired, etc. Fortunately, many easy-to-install widgets can help ensure ADA compliance with a simple line of code.
Ensure accessibility in just a few clicks: UserWay is an easy-to-install paid widget trusted by the likes of Disney, GE, FedEx, Coca-Cola, and many others.
11. Post on Job Boards Geared toward BIPOC Groups
To build a more diverse team, consider branching out from your usual job posting sites when listing your company’s opportunities. Posting on job boards geared toward diverse candidates will help you broaden your pool of applicants.
These job boards are a great place to start:
12. Celebrate Pride Month in a Meaningful Way
Nowadays, many companies commemorate Pride Month in June. This is a time of celebration, but it has also become a commercialized occasion, with many large retailers participating and selling Pride-themed products. If you sell a Pride product, it’s important to donate a significant portion of your proceeds to LGBTQ+ related nonprofits or causes such as The Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign, or a local cause. Similarly, if you purchase items for your employees to celebrate this occasion, consider shopping local and buying directly from LGBTQ+ owned brands.
To learn more about the intersection of Pride Month and corporate culture, read the Washington Post's opinion article, Pride for Sale.
13. Offer Flexible Holiday Leave for Different Religious Observances
Holidays and religious observances can be deeply personal, even sacred, times to practice important rituals, spend time with family, and reflect on our lives. Rather than offering specific days off company-wide, such as Christmas Day or Easter, consider giving employees a set number of holiday days off per year to use as they wish. This system helps ensure that employees of all backgrounds and religious beliefs can celebrate their special occasions without worry.
Case study: read what happened 7 months after Spotify implemented their Floating Holiday policy in 2017 for their employees of 90+ nationalities around the world.
14. Avoid and Call Out Problematic Language
We all know that some words are unacceptable to use, and most of us are familiar with the obvious slurs. However, there are some words that many folks still use without knowing their problematic history and implications. For example, calling a “team pow-wow” is disrespectful to Indigenous people. Saying that you got “Gypped” is a slur toward Romani people. It may not be possible for us to always be aware of every problematic word - but you can create a corporate culture in which employees feel comfortable calling out unacceptable words and learning from each other. It’s important for company executives to set the example and use these moments as an opportunity to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to inclusivity.
Discover how to speak more inclusively with Buffer's guide to inclusive language. These tips are geared toward startups and tech companies but are helpful to people in all industries.
15. Honor Diversity in Your Photography, Quotes, and Other Materials
Take a look at the photography your company uses on social media, on your website, in your product catalog - anywhere photography is used. Similarly, take a look at the inspirational quotes that you might share in an e-newsletter or on your office walls. Wherever you are using images and words of other people, examine if these materials accurately reflect our society. Many retail brands have experienced consumer backlash for primarily using photos of young, slender, white, heterosexual, cisgender individuals. In addition to racial and gender diversity, consider diversity in ability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
This roundup of 11 diverse stock photo resources is a great starting point to expand your diversity and inclusion in digital and print materials.
16. Conduct a Survey to Ask Employees What They Want
Not sure what your employees are missing or craving when it comes to diversity and inclusion? Ask them! Creating an anonymous survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey is one of the best ways to hear feedback directly from your team. Carefully evaluate the responses you receive, and remember that some employees may feel uncomfortable or even fearful in sharing their feedback. It’s important to reassure folks that their input will remain anonymous and will be taken seriously. Follow through by sharing the survey results and taking action on suggestions. As you incorporate new initiatives and as employees come and go, consider repeating the survey on an annual basis.
Examples and best practices: start with Quantum Workplace's list of Diversity & Inclusion survey questions and tips.
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