I’ve witnessed firsthand the lack of diversity existing in large corporations’ leadership teams. This experience in the corporate space inspired me to explore a career in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging – or DEIB for short. The C-suites for some of the world’s most powerful organizations don’t accurately represent what our world looks like today – and that needs to change.
To get our leadership teams to a more accurate place of representation, we have to start somewhere. This includes bringing DEIB leadership to organizations that didn’t previously have people in these kinds of positions. I was drawn to Zayo for this reason – the DEIB management role was a brand new one at the organization. I saw an opportunity to open people’s minds and provide a diverse perspective while helping employees feel understood and empowered.
The True Value of DEIB
There are vast benefits to fostering a more diverse, more inclusive workforce where employees feel like they truly belong and are heard, seen, and valued.
To understand the value of diverse perspectives, it’s first important to understand what I mean by “diverse.” It’s not just what you look like or how you present to your coworkers. Aside from more latent diversity like diverse representation in ethnicity and gender identity, diversity can refer to neurodiversity, educational and financial diversity, and differences in marital status and sexuality. We all have a unique perspective to bring to the table formed from a diverse set of experiences.
So what is the value of diverse perspectives?
1. Adaptability to Business Shifts
First, diverse teams are more adaptable to business shifts. The constructive friction born from teams with diverse perspectives breeds greater resilience. Teams that have already explored and overcome differences are better equipped to handle external challenges. Plus, these teams are less liable to fall victim to groupthink, allowing for a diverse set of ideas to come forward for greater decision-making and problem-solving.
Diversity also heightens employee engagement. When employees feel more seen and heard by their colleagues and management team, they feel more comfortable participating and sharing their ideas. Feeling like a part of the team can motivate employees to help the company reach its goals. This is where inclusion is key – it’s one thing to offer employees a seat at the table, but another to ensure that they feel welcomed and valued in that seat.
Today, DEIB leadership is critical to ensure organizations stay true to DEIB initiatives and foster psychologically safe environments where employees from all walks of life can find their place and thrive. One of the most important roles DEIB leaders play is sitting in on conversations that don’t traditionally consider diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and bringing those elements into the conversation. Yes, we have programmatic DEIB initiatives, but DEIB should be foundational to the business and considered in cross-functional conversations.
In addition, DEIB leadership serves to nurture future leaders. Point blank, our boardrooms and executive leadership teams need to look more like our society as a whole if we wish to truly progress. DEIB leaders have a knack for spotting diverse talent and ensuring they develop the confidence and skills to someday lead departments and companies.
My ultimate goal is perhaps strange from the outset – I don’t want roles like mine to exist ten years from now. It’s not that I aspire to be out of work – I want DEIB to be so integral to every business’s culture and operating model that roles like mine are no longer needed. This will involve, on a large scale, dismantling the systems that make it difficult for historically marginalized people to get a seat at the table and rebuilding our systems to make them inherently more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
All in all, DEIB initiatives and diverse workforces foster deeper trust and a more engaged workforce, competitive advantage, and a broader range of skills. Creating a workplace environment where all employees can feel accepted, valued, and heard isn’t just good practice, it positively impacts an organization’s bottom line.