DEI Journeys Begin With Actionable Steps

July 28, 2021 | Diversity & Inclusion | 4 min read

As a woman of color in the tech space, I’ve been on my own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey for about 10 years now — both as a member of marginalized groups and as an ally for others. Recently, I was honored to speak at the PeopleMatters virtual DEI Leadercamp, "Working Towards an Equitable Future." And, I introduced myself like this:

"My name is Rashim Mogha, GM for leadership and Business vertical at Skillsoft. My pronouns are she and her."

I share this with you to illustrate that enabling DEI is an ever-evolving journey. Until recently, it wouldn't have occurred to me to state my personal pronouns. But, as I continue to learn about allyship (we are all always learning!), I have realized that when cisgender people include pronouns, it normalizes the practice for everyone and protects trans and gender diverse people when they include theirs. It creates a safe environment for gender-diverse workforce to bring their authentic self to work.

And, at Skillsoft, it's another important step we’re taking together towards a more equitable future for all.

In an exhilarating, interactive session delivered to over 500 DEI leaders, we broke down some actionable ways to make the DEI journey a little less overwhelming — and a lot more empowering. We also explored the very real "business case" for DEI and its impact on profitability. You can watch the Leadercamp sessions on demand, but I thought I'd summarize some of my favorite takeaways here.

Why invest in DEI initiatives?

Aside from it being the right thing to do, having a diverse workforce is also the smart thing to do:

I think the most diverse team will produce the best product; I firmly believe that. “

This quote from Tim Cook sums up why diversity is important from a business perspective. And when we talk about diversity, remember that we are talking about diversity across different dimensions — culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, experience, ability, and expertise.

An inclusive workplace has clear financial benefits for businesses. A recent McKinsey study — conducted on more than 1,000 companies in 15 countries — found that organizations that were diverse were more likely to outperform on profitability. In fact, companies with gender-diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to outperform. And if there was ethnic or cultural diversity among executives in the company, the likelihood of outperforming increased by 36%. Those are thrilling numbers.

Aside from increased revenue, diversity creates a global think tank of business innovation. A Boston Consulting Group study bears this out: innovation jumps once the proportion of female managers within an organization rises above 20%.

There are other benefits besides. Organizations that invest in strong DEI programs see higher employee engagement and retention because people want to be a part of an organization where their opinions are valued, and where they feel they belong.

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So, if diversity is this important, how can we build a better culture?

As an individual, it starts with you. You have the power to affect change by being an ally — both personally and professionally. Take the time to check your own unconscious biases — and then make a conscious effort to support and amplify underrepresented voices.

The first step: Ask yourself, "Why?"

Why do you want to be an ally? Do you want to effect change because you believe there’s an inequality in the world? Do you want to level the playing field for marginalized groups? Or, is it because of your business goals?

Knowing why you embarked on this journey will keep you motivated, and help you determine your next steps:

• Take responsibility to educate yourself, participate in trainings, and do your own research.

• Advocate for inclusion in team meetings, discussions, and projects, and look for opportunities to sponsor and mentor under-represented individuals.

Demonstrate allyship publicly. Set an example, educate others, and contribute to an ally culture where inclusive behaviors become the norm.

As leaders, we are uniquely positioned to be role models for allyship and influence decisions to foster diversity at work. What leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual feels included or not. And that’s why inclusive leadership is so critical to an organization's success.

So what can we do to lead more inclusively?
  • Start by sharing your diversity goals. Publish those goals or share them with your team. This makes your intention clear to your team and encourages them to hold each other accountable to achieve those goals.
  • Hire Diverse Talent.Write inclusive job descriptions that will encourage diverse candidates to apply. Think outside the box — for instance, beyond university degrees. You can use tools like gender decoder to make sure that the job requisition you create is not gender-biased.
  • Encourage a growth mindset. That can only happen when you provide your team with psychological safety so they feel comfortable sharing their ideas without fear. Encourage employees to view failures as learning opportunities.
  • Finally, hold your leadership accountable. Remember, DEI initiatives are not "check the box" activities. Listen to your team, be open to change, and make the commitment to continuous learning.

Speaking of continuous learning, Skillsoft's recently launched a new DEI curriculum. Through documentary-style, real-life stories, and expert-led roundtable discussions, you'll be inspired to start your own DEI journey — one (actionable) step at a time.