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Creating inclusion in a historically homogenous workplace
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Creating inclusion in a historically homogenous workplace

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Suited
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So, the recruiting cycle is over and you’ve hired the most diverse class of entry-level analysts ever. Good stuff — so far, anyway!

Suited’s core product is focused on helping companies acquire the best early-stage candidates who possess the raw potential to succeed. Our methodology for helping companies achieve this is two-fold:

1. Expand the places they look for these candidates (e.g., more schools)
2. Evaluate candidates on qualities that actually matter (e.g., consider the right data points)

Applying these methods to sourcing and assessing talent results in a much more diverse set of candidates that are inevitably selected for interviews and ultimately, employment. 

You’ve started to nail the diversity part of D&I, but there’s actually a lot more to be done, specifically as it relates to the inclusion. How do you engage and retain all of these new employees in the particularly fast-paced work environment of finance? How do you make sure they are being developed and advancing at the right pace?

No surprise here — we have some recommendations: 

Train leadership and anyone who will be managing new employees 

Woke folks don’t just belong in HR — in fact, leaders, whether in the C-Suite or middle management, have the most influence on creating positive change in an organization’s culture. When an organization begins to hire more diverse classes, leaders have to exemplify and embody inclusion efforts in order to enforce an accepting corporate culture(1). According to a recent study by Deloitte, when a leader practices inclusive behavior, an employee’s feelings of being highly included increase up to 70%, citing experiencing increased levels of fairness, respect, value, belonging, psychological safety, and inspiration. This effect is even stronger for those in the minority.

So, it’s important firms incorporate diversity and inclusion training in leadership development programs. Doing so can help leaders become aware of behaviors that don’t promote inclusion and prevent them from occurring, acting as role-models for what behavior is not only appropriate but welcoming. Training should also be focused on developing leaders to have an action-orientation towards resolving exclusion that arises from increasing diversity in an organization(2). 

Address biases, but then teach your employees how to manage them

Training employees on implicit biases and identifying which prejudices they hold is a great first step in fostering a more inclusive culture. Though, one training session isn’t going to be a cure-all for your employees. As Lily Zheng, an Organizational Consultant and Executive Coach, puts it in Quartz, “the outcome of any implicit bias training shouldn’t be to cure people’s bias or make them more objective — it should be to make people bias-aware.” It’s more about understanding your own place in society and then course-correcting your behaviors and decisions by questioning if your hangups about other people might be getting in the way of seeing situations clearly.   

However, a concept we love from the CFA Institute is that just being aware of your biases doesn’t protect you from acting on them. It’s important your firm takes additional steps in not only recognizing stereotypes but disconfirming them in order to reduce discrimination. If you have willing participants ready to engage in an open conversation about these issues, an effective method is to encourage the use of personal stories to help people understand how experiences have shaped their colleagues.

Delegate quality work assignments fairly

A concept we can easily borrow from law firms is that when quality work assignments and training are provided early in one's career, long term success is empirically more likely to occur. Thoughtfully and equitably distributing certain deals or projects fairly across all demographics of analysts is a concrete way to ensure everyone feels like they are provided an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

Hold social events with and without upper management 

Create opportunities for employees of diverse backgrounds to interact with one another in a non-professional setting. People are more inclined to interact with others that they perceive as being similar to themselves, so requiring everyone to hang out after work honestly may be the best way to get things rolling. A range of social opportunities should be offered so that individuals from different backgrounds can find similarities based on interests — because not everyone loves a late-night happy hour.

Be sure to ask upper management and leaders to come to some of these events as to not create distance or disinterest between the two groups. 

Help others develop and enforce inclusive language

For traditionally male-dominated industries (ahem...finance), adopting gender-inclusive language can help facilitate inclusion for women in the workplace. Gender-exclusive language has been found to negatively impact female candidates’ motivation and job identification(3). Basically, you should speak up if you hear bro-talk. 

You should also be careful of heteronormative phrasing, which happens, usually unintentionally, a lot in this industry. Using phrases like “happy wife, happy life” can actually make people feel outcasted, and could potentially suppress their sexuality at work, while others get to express theirs freely without judgment. Having this sort of double life can have a tremendously negative impact on an individuals’ self-worth and esteem(4). While employees should feel free to talk about their wives or husbands, other people have very different structures at home, so best not to assume or normalize certain ones. 

Work towards even more representation 

The more diversity you add to your workforce, the less some of your historically underrepresented employees will feel tokenized. The goal shouldn’t be to just hire some additional women or POC — the goal should be to diversify the employee population to the point at which any candidate will one day walk through the doors of your firm and feel welcomed and accepted by proxy of the culture you’ve created. 

Don’t rely on those employees from historically underrepresented populations to do all the work 

Just because someone is a woman, doesn’t make them the spokesperson for all women’s issues, and just because someone is Black, doesn’t make them the perfect candidate to help lead your internal D&I initiatives. According to the CFA Institute, there is a negative correlation between doing extra D&I related work and getting promoted. Sometimes, the best thing these employees can do for themselves and for the culture of your company is to continue growing their own skills. We love this blog post by Bukky Adebayo discussing this exact topic and we highly recommend reading it.

If you have individuals who are genuinely willing to assist in your internal efforts — that's great! Just make sure they are all being recognized for their work and that it doesn’t get in the way of their primary career goals.

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