As we close Black History Month and recognize International Day of the Woman, I reflect on the many conversations in Silicon Valley about representation and a culture of inclusion. Many focus on the large initiatives to increase representation which are indeed vital and important. However, it’s my belief that it’s critical to start where we are, and not boil the ocean. So, what low effort, high return on investment ideas can leaders and individual contributors come up with? An inclusive culture is the responsibility of every employee in a company — not just the Diversity and Inclusion team, HR and the executives, but everyone!
Here are a few ideas for how to begin to create a culture of inclusion in the workplace.
Employee community groups
Having employee communities are important in the workplace and they build a sense of connection for like-minded employees. We are proud of our employee communities at Oracle as they serve to develop and elevate underrepresented women and minorities in the workplace. Their collective missions of supporting each other across the communities assists with building a culture of inclusion. In addition to cross collaborations, each group also focuses on mentorship, development, and external community engagement.
Be an ally
Allies are an important component of creating an inclusive culture – which means everyone supporting each other without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion.
How do we become allies? Being an ally includes supporting communities and standing up for what is right “when no one is looking” or when participating in meetings or conversations where there may be no diverse representation.
Ensure that all voices are heard
As leaders, creating a culture on your team where everyone feels empowered to share ideas is one small step to success. Leaders are only as good as the teams that they cultivate. However, we do not always take time to use the entire intellectual power of the team. We tend to provide opportunities and ask input from team members who think like us.
How do we break this cycle to start to notice those on your team who may be more introverted and hesitant to speak up in meetings? Are we providing a forum for the employee to be heard? Or, are we only leveraging input from the extroverts who speak up often?
Successful leaders have 3 keys skills. They know how to lead, execute, and coach. PriceWaterhouseCooper and Forbes have reported that coaching provides huge ROI to companies. Take the time to coach employees, and speak with them to understand how you can provide a forum for them to speak up and be heard in meetings.
Empowering employee/s to share their ideas will increase engagement on your teams. Gallup polls have shown that disengagement on teams can negatively affect the bottom line and the culture of a company.
Expand circles of comfort
As an employee, take time to connect with individuals on and off your team. We as humans tend to stay in circles where we feel most comfortable. This could be based on socio-economics, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors. Expand your circle of comfort! Invite someone on your team who you may not directly engage with to a 30-minute virtual or physical cup of coffee.
How do I start the conversation? Share about yourself and ask them to share about themselves. You won’t find out everything about the person in a 30-minute conversation, but you are building the foundation to a relationship. By building relationships, you may learn you have more commonalities than not.
There are countless studies that support the business case for diversity and inclusion. Theories and numbers aside, progress begins with some of the very simple kinds of actions mentioned above. It takes a little courage, willingness to learn, and the desire to help develop an inclusive culture — one where everyone is empowered to participate and feels comfortable being who they are.
To learn more about Oracle’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts, visit https://www.oracle.com/corporate/careers/diversity/.