As our society evolves, the need for more inclusive operations in business and in our daily lives becomes more and more apparent. While businesses are afforded the opportunity to play a role in supporting minority communities and promoting inclusivity in society at large, embracing diversity provides considerable benefits to you as a startup, or as an entrepreneur, from broadening the scope of experience to increasing the range of sociocultural awareness.
It is considerably easier for large companies to make diversity and inclusion a priority, in contrast to small companies and startups, in which the entire company will often consist of just a few individuals. The larger an organization becomes, the more people it employs, and so the more likely you are to find people from diverse backgrounds. This is in stark contrast to your typical startup, where members are far more likely to be of similar backgrounds in terms of race, region and socioeconomic status. However, there are many ways in which even small businesses and startups can actively join the conversation.
Achieving a greater level of diversity within your organization will require intentionality, and when you see diversity as a culture, as opposed to merely a vacuous list of boxes to check, the areas of your company that are lacking in the diversity department will become clearer to you over time.
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Here are a few simple yet efficacious ways you can encourage diversity within your own organization:
Diversify your team
As your business grows, there will be many opportunities for you to diversify your team. Contractors and freelancers can play a huge role in your business. You should aim to look beyond just your in-house employees and ensure you are working with people from various backgrounds, and have a diverse team supporting your business.
By doing so, you can broaden your knowledge and gain more authentic insights into the lives and experiences of people from various communities. These valuable insights could alert you to new opportunities for your business and provide you with a competitive advantage. Additionally, this can alert you to ways that you can be a more effective change agent within minority communities.
Related: How to Fix a Racially Biased Venture Capital Model and Commit to Diversity in Entrepreneurship
Diversify your contacts
Your contacts list is likely to predominantly be made up of your friends, friends of friends, family members and people you went to school with, so all in all, it is not likely to be a particularly diverse list.
While it may seem as though there is little you can do about this, remember that the key word here is “intentionality.” From the networking events you attend to the potential collaborators you discover via social media, there is a lot you can do to keep your network from looking homogenous. Broadening your network will provide you with a wider contact circle, as well as a more dynamic approach to your role in the business. Nothing kills the growth of a startup like staying in your comfort zone.
Implementing diverse marketing
No one wants to restrict their market by focusing on a single demographic, but if done sloppily, your attempts to reach a wider audience may easily backfire. Many attempts at inclusive advertising or marketing campaigns in recent years have gone awry at the hands of public scrutiny, with many being accused of appearing ignorant, insincere or even patronizing, by failing to avoid tokenism, stereotyping and cultural insensitivity or appropriation.
From the models and marketing assets to the optics and vocabulary, there is a lot to look out for when targeting a specific audience or demographic, and having a diverse team working on a campaign dramatically increases your likelihood of producing a well-rounded, culturally-sensitive body of work.
Partnering with diverse businesses
Running a startup might often require you to collaborate with other businesses on one-off or recurring projects. Partnering with people outside your in-house team is a great opportunity for you to work with those who may not necessarily have the same background as you, but who share a similar goal or interest. By doing this, you will be exposed to new perspectives and ideas, and perhaps be able to reach a wider set of consumers from other communities.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Be sure to keep an eye out for the little things you can do to encourage a culture of diversity and help foster a more accepting workplace community.
Remember, embracing diversity in business is not something you have to do just for the sake of it. Being inclusive provides tangible benefits to you, your organization and the society at large, and the more you recognize this, the far less likely you will be to let such opportunities pass you by.