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Inclusive company culture goes way beyond quotas

August 25, 2015

A recent story by Davey Alba about Intel’s Radically Transparent Plan for Embracing Diversity has grabbed my attention because it highlights how important inclusive leadership is and how hard it can be for organizations to become more inclusive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

“When Intel recently posted signs setting aside some choice parking for pregnant employees, a lot of people went nuts,” Alba writes. “They weren’t at all happy that Intel had taken away the prized spots in front of the buildings. Some actually asked, ‘Isn’t it better for pregnant women to walk a long way because then they’d get better exercise?’

“‘There was an uproar from a lot of people, including women who weren’t pregnant,’ says Richard Taylor, Intel’s head of human resources. ‘I was shocked by how quickly that conversation got out of hand.’

“It’s unfortunate, but not terribly surprising, even at a company pouring millions into addressing its diversity problem. Any effort to change the culture at a company as big and entrenched as Intel will experience some growing pains. In fact, it’s all but expected. In the end, the signs stayed, and Taylor says he learned a vital lesson: explaining your decisions so employees understand the reasoning behind them is crucial.

“Overall, you have to give the company credit for trying. Intel just released its mid-year diversity report covering January to July. It is among the few companies that has clearly stated its hiring targets and held itself publicly accountable for achieving them. (Pinterest recently did the same thing). Other firms, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, have released their diversity numbers, driven in large part by Pinterest Tracy Chou’s effort to collect data on women in tech.

“But the needle still has not moved much. To effect real change, Intel says, radical transparency is key.”

Continue reading.

I applaud Intel’s transparency and their efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in their organization. But the pushback that Intel’s head of human resources experienced from having parking spaces reserved for pregnant employees shows that raising awareness for diversity and inclusion issues is important but ultimately, only the beginning.

The real impact occurs in the doing, i.e. the actions senior leaders take, the performance metrics they are willing to commit to, and the diversity of thought they use to accomplish strategic imperatives. When it comes to creating a diverse and inclusive organization nothing really happens until senior leaders start to question everything, including who gets the opportunities to advance in the organization. We are learning with our clients—specifically African American executives—who we’ve found need to complete three high-visibility projects for every two that their white counterparts complete before being promoted to the upper levels.

The truth is creating a diverse and inclusive culture requires much more than numbers. And that’s why we encourage companies to not only look to hire a more diverse workforce, but also to help their leaders understand how the choices they make (who is included in or excluded from meetings, emails, and promotion considerations, etc.) impact the organization in subtle and profound ways.

I’m excited by the work we’re doing to help our clients create inclusive organizations based on validated data. And we’ve created an Inclusive Leadership Assessment that’s specifically designed to help you understand just how inclusive you are.

So, the question is: How inclusive are you? Your success—and the success of your organization—may be riding on your answer.

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