A List of Five Surprising Measures to Support Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Your Workplace

We’ve all heard that what’s measured gets done.  When striving for equity, we have to balance two things: the need to accomplish what we’ve set out to accomplish and the recognition that measurement alone is insufficient* and is often used – particularly by white people – to check off boxes so that we can be more comfortable by claiming that we did what we set out to do and then move on to other priorities.

I say all of this so that we understand that extensive measurement is not a replacement for authentic listening, an open mind, and a willingness to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.  Simultaneously, when we measure the right things in the right way – by allowing our measures to emerge through collaboration with the people who know what matters – numbers can support a holistic effort to create a more just society.

With this in mind, I’d like to share Five Surprising Measures to Support Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Your Workplace.

  1. Caregiver status. I recently read a blog post by Mindful Return, a website that helps new parents return to work mindfully.  The post recommends tracking and reporting caregiver status in the optional field of the EEO-1 form.  Numerous authors – such as Anne-Marie Slaughter – have asserted that caregiving is not limited to new mothers, nor is it limited to new parents.  Caregiving more broadly defined includes the care of family and loved ones, whether old, young, or in-between.  Caregiver status is often unreported and undervalued, and – based on personal experience – misunderstood.  Caregiving takes more than time; it takes emotional energy and impacts how you show up at work.  Tracking caregiver status would help employers understand the extent to which supports (or a lack thereof) are ensuring that caregivers are getting the same opportunities to thrive and advance in their careers as non-caregivers.
  2. Meeting Agendas.  As a former qualitative researcher, I’ve seen the value in reviewing pages of qualitative data.  In equity work, one untapped resource is the meeting agenda.  I write elsewhere about the importance of process to equity, but here I’ll focus on the idea that simply building out the agenda in a way that gives everyone the chance to participate is critical to ensuring equity.  Think about it; we’ve all been in meetings where the agenda was created five minutes beforehand and the creator of the agenda – typically the person with the most power in the room – has booked themselves the most time to talk down to their employees.  Sometimes, everyone gets a tiny slot set aside to talk; other times, only the people with the second-most power in the room are allotted a tiny bit of time.  Where does that leave everyone else?  Simply sitting and listening – or not.  Gathering team meeting agendas and analyzing them as a whole body is one way to discover the extent to which power dynamics are denying people opportunity to contribute.
  3.  Meeting Participation.  Sometimes, despite efforts to lay out an equitable process, agendas are ignored.  I’ve often heard women complain about being talked over, looked over, or simply ignored in the workplace.  I’ve witnessed men take over a meeting, knowingly speaking until the end of the allotted meeting time despite the fact that female colleagues come after them on the agenda.  However, data around this phenomenon are rarely collected by employers.  If an organization is truly interested in ensuring that everyone has a voice – not just a seat – at the table, employers could measure minutes.  Rotating volunteers could sit in on other teams’ meetings to audit the extent to which the voices of people of color and women are being elevated – or shut out.  In our current culture, it’s hard to argue with bar graphs that show that individuals from the dominant culture are overtaking meetings, while the ideas and contributions of their colleagues aren’t getting any air time.
  4. Calendar / Time Spent Analysis.  Many of us have analyzed our time spent in order to assess efficiency.  What if we analyzed time spent in order to assess equity?  This is particularly important for people who manage more than one person.  Collecting data over the course of a month can give managers and senior leaders insight into who is getting time with their managers, and what those individuals have in common.  Bias in time spent is often completely unintentional; some people simply connect more quickly and enjoy each other’s company more.  However, if managers are interested in equity, they will learn from analyses such as this, particularly if the organization facilitates conversations around the deeper meaning of disparities in time spent. Are disparities reflective of underlying fears or biases?  Might there be an opportunity to give this precious resource – time – more equitably and intentionally across the team?
  5. Task v. Strategy Allocation.  Most professionals are savvy enough to not use the term, “woman’s work.”  However, if we step outside our roles and observe the tasks of our colleagues, we often notice a two trends.  First, women and people of color are disproportionately taking on tasks for which they won’t be credited in a performance reviews.  Think of how often you see the women and people of color in your workplace setting up for convenings, cleaning up, taking notes during meetings, or scheduling meetings on the calendar for themselves and their peers.  This is in part due to a desire to help the organization, and in part due to the fact that managers assign and/or praise women and people of color when they take on these tasks.  Second, notice how often men – particularly white men – are pulled aside to “strategize.”  This typically involves brainstorming, coffee meetings, diagramming, or meeting up after work for drinks.  Just as we are acknowledging that we need to praise young girls for things besides their looks, we need to praise colleagues from traditionally marginalized communities for their higher-level contributions.  Women and people of color can do more than execute tasks, and it’s time we start praising and assigning accordingly.

Like I said, there’s more to come!  If you’re interested in learning more about the services we offer at RenaissanceLista, check out my services or contact us.

*I love the book Decolonizing Wealth, in which Edgar Villanueva writes, “Diversity statistics that get held up as a sole measure of progress are an insufficient measure, because we need to go beyond mere representation, to access to power and ownership.”