How to Advocate for Equality in Your Workplace

By Ellevest Team

We will charge our corporate diversity groups to advocate for us on closing money gaps, to press for leadership teams that reflect the composition of our country today, and to change any corporate policy that is better suited for 1967… and thus saps our earnings power… all by 2025. We will ask our questions and make our cases in company town halls and gatherings. - Let’s Disrupt Money

Diversity, inclusion, and equality aren’t just nice-to-haves. They happen to be fantastic for business: Diverse teams perform better … and not like 2% better. One study has it at 95% better. (Ninety-five percent!) Also: Teams who think their workplace is inclusive are more innovative. Diverse teams make decisions 60% faster, and those decisions are better 87% of the time. (Eighty-seven percent!) Meanwhile, businesses that fail at diversity see higher turnover.

Study after study shows the benefits of diversity and inclusion — yet, only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. And that number is even lower (much lower) for people of color. And one in four LBGTQ employees reports discrimination on the job. No surprise that the gender money gaps aren’t closing any time soon.

What’s keeping businesses from — well, doing better business? Especially when it means doing right by women, people with disabilities, people of color, and LGBTQ and nonbinary people at the same time? Turns out, a lot of things … and the way to fix it is to get involved at your workplace.

Diversity programs don’t work that well

So your workplace has diversity trainings and tests … problem solved, right? Er, no. Traditional diversity programs tend to fail, for a lot of reasons. People get turned off by negative messaging, hiring managers let white male applicants jumping the line on job tests designed to eliminate bias (oh, the irony), and white men (and white women) resist being “force-fed” policies.

Meanwhile, backlash is a real concern. One study found that women and nonwhite people in leadership who were perceived to value diversity were rated as being less effective. (Ugh.)

Diverse hiring works, though

One of the major blockers to workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion is that hiring managers tend to hire people who remind them of themselves. Here’s what you can do to fight that bias:

… and inclusion really, really works

Getting diverse people on the payroll is only part of of the work. Making sure they’re included, and that people of all types are communicating, is key. A few ideas to boost inclusion:

  • Mentoring (teaching junior people valuable skills) and sponsorship (being an advocate for employees who aren’t in the room) are crucial ways to start fighting against bias. Research shows that if people are active mentors, they end up believing their mentees are worthy of opportunities — even when those people are different from them. And one study found that mentoring programs boost representation of women of color by 18% for black women, 23.7% for Latina women, and 24% for Asian-American women.

  • Another method that works: Diversity task forces that look for problems and make recommendations, but don’t punish. Transparency on sticking points encourages social accountability — which can cause managers to start asking themselves if what they’re doing is right. Task forces like this have goosed representation of white women and people of color in management by 9% to 30%.

  • Find the white guys who can become allies and advocates, and encourage them to get involved. Because they tend to be the leaders, because they get no backlash for recommending diversity, it’s critical to get the least diverse people bought in.

  • Bring them in by finding common ground: White men tend to respond better to diversity and inclusion topics when they can relate it to an experience in which they were the minority, when they have a daughter, or when they can relate their workplace to their wife’s, mother’s, or sister’s experience. (Having a woman boss helps, too. Of course.)

  • Explore new ways of communicating within the office so that the same old people aren’t always talking to each other.

  • Practice active listening.

You know what else works? Speaking up.

  • Volunteer to join or start a diversity task force. But share the research about what does and doesn’t work, ask what management is doing about backlash, and recommend that diversity teams themselves be diverse.

  • Once you’re on the task force, work with your group to prioritize a series of questions about what the company does and doesn’t do. Ask about hiring practices. Ask about mentorship and sponsorship programs. Ask what they’re doing to create equality in leadership teams.

  • You’re not done — nope, not by a long shot. Ask whether they’re willing to implement family-friendly policies to attract and retain more working moms. Ask about their performance review policies and what they’re doing to minimize gender bias there. Ask about how they’re measuring inclusion, not just diversity.

  • As an individual, you can speak up, too. When you share stories relevant to your workplace, look for perspectives by women, LGBTQ and nonbinary people, people of color and people with disabilities. Stories matter. When you see someone being given “office housework” or notice a “manterruption” or a “hepeat” in meetings, say something about it in whatever way you feel comfortable.

Have you stood up for equality in your workplace? How did it go? What tactics have worked for you and you teams? We’re most effective when we’re sharing our experiences openly — share yours with the hashtag #DisruptMoney or email us.

All opinions and views expressed by Ellevest are current as of the date of this writing, for informational purposes only, and do not constitute or imply an endorsement of any third-party’s products or services.

Information was obtained from third party sources, which we believe to be reliable but not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.

The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice.

The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person.

Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.

Investing entails risk including the possible loss of principal and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.

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Ellevest Team

The Ellevest team is working to help women reach their financial and professional goals.