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August 11th, 2021 · 5 min read

How businesses can promote greater diversity in leadership

Understanding the importance of leadership diversity

How to promote diversity in leadership positions

Diversity and inclusion leadership competencies

  • Practice deference
    This soft skill is critical, especially if the individual comes from a more privileged background or cultural identity. Inclusive leaders must be able to trust their employees when they say that there is an aspect of the workplace which is harmful to them and take action to swiftly address concerns.

    This also means that this person is willing and able to defer to an expert when there is a DEI issue that lies beyond their expertise.
  • Uplift other perspectives
    A hallmark characteristic of an inclusive leader is their ability to recognize the importance of different perspectives in the workplace. This means recognizing points of view that might be missing from a team and finding ways to uplift those individuals to ensure their voices are heard.
  • Commitment to action
    As DEI practices shift within your organization, so will company culture. Inclusive leaders must be willing to embrace those changes and take steps to accommodate ever-evolving ideas of how to support diversity, equity and inclusion within the company.
  • Holds themselves and others accountable
    An inclusive leader is one that’s willing to acknowledge when they participate in oppressive or harmful practices and call out this behavior if it’s observed among other members of the organization.

Strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion in leadership positions

  • Provide diversity training that’s designed for managers and executives
    Many organizations require employees to take some type of diversity training throughout their tenure with the company. What’s often overlooked, however, is the importance of leadership-specific training. Employees at different levels of management have varying levels of job responsibility — this means they also have varying levels of responsibility when it comes to promoting DEI across their respective teams.

    When evaluating your existing training efforts, consider offering training courses or workshops that are uniquely designed for people in managerial or executive roles. 
  • Utilize employer-sponsored education
    A lack of access to quality education often means that employees from underprivileged backgrounds don’t have the qualifications that are typically required for leadership positions. Consider implementing a workforce education program that provides employees with the opportunity to earn degrees, certifications or other credentials while they work. This type of program can help you to attract diverse hires and develop dedicated career education paths that equip employees with the foundational skills needed to take on a future role in leadership.
  • Revisit mentorship programs
    Mentorship programs are not a new concept, but they’re often overlooked or underutilized. When implemented correctly, a mentorship program can be a powerful tool for promoting diversity within your organization — especially for employees who aspire to take on leadership roles.

    Pair current executives and managers with junior employees to help them develop attainable career paths and build soft skills and competencies which prepare them for positions in leadership. Prioritize giving these mentorship opportunities to the employees who need them most. 

You can address talent development challenges