The 21st century started with all of the technological tools in place to create a truly global marketplace. However, before you can begin creating, promoting and supporting products for this marketplace, you have to make an attempt to understand your customer. Also from an internal standpoint, barriers of entry that were previously in place that kept people from many backgrounds out of mainstream workforce are crumbling. Thus creating a more diverse, multicultural and inclusive workplace is a desired goal of modern corporate culture.
As a Black Jewish woman, I am frequently made aware of and challenged by shortcomings made by a lack of cultural savvy and awareness. However things are improving as time goes on…mainly due to exposure (you live and you learn). But for businesses and professionals who want to get an edge, this mode of learning is not good enough. Being proactive and taking it upon yourself to learn tips and techniques on how to manage and appeal to multicultural populations will give you a competitive edge.
Do not make the mistake of underestimating the costs of not being culturally aware. Many large, successful firms have done this and lost out big time in the end. Some examples include:
- Twitter – who had an African-American jump ship, then put them on blast for racial insensitivity.
- Abercrombie & Fitch – who lost a U.S. Supreme suit to a Muslim woman who was denied a job their due to her decision to wear a headcovering
- McDonald’s (wow, it really hasn’t been good for them lately) – getting sued due to the racism and sexual discrimination from their staff members.
And that’s just what occurred in 2015 🙁
Perhaps you are already working at a company that is ahead of the curve in regards to corporate diversity and inclusion. If so, that’s awesome! If not, then the first place to start is trying to get to know your environment better.
Look At Your Organizational Chart
How many members of upper management are racial minorities? How many are women? Are any LGBT (that you know of?)
See if the HR Department Makes Employee Demographic Information Available.
You may be very surprised at the breakdown of race and gender in your workplace. Also understand that this information is many times voluntary and there may be individuals who declined to share their demographic information.
Create or Join an Employee Resource Group
Connecting with others and listening to those who are underrepresented in their firms can be invaluable.
Also, whatever you do, do not think that White men are not welcome in corporate diversity and inclusion efforts!
And remember, it has to start somewhere. If you work for a company that is lacking in D&I, promote your services and job openings to those who would add diversity to the mix. Even if you don’t work in marketing, talk about your corporate brand and put a face (so personal public appearance or if written/electronic, headshot) to your statements.
And finally if you really feel that your current work environment is a dead end in regards to D&I and it is bogging down your career, please, consider packing up shop and leaving for greener pastures.