Building a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce


Frank Starling, Founder and CEO of Variety Pack (a Diversity & Inclusion consultancy group) shares with us his learnings from his extensive work as a community activist and diversity and inclusion expert.

"Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough: we must commit to action”

Being inclusive with our hiring practices is about taking a step back and considering the different barriers that people may face. This can take effort and commitment, and feel uncomfortable, but it’s important to dissect the ways that bias impedes our judgement and perpetuates un-inclusive teams and unsafe work cultures.


In order to build a truly equitable workplace, we need to challenge our own prejudices and commit to building a safe and inclusive work environment which caters to its diverse workforce.

Read on for Frank's tips on how to create an equitable and inclusive workforce.


Consider the ways that bias may affect your judgement


Affinity bias explains how we tend to gravitate towards people that we share a lived experience with. In the workplace, this can lead to homogenous teams that lack diversity of thought. 


Stereotypes reinforce our biases and cloud our judgement of individuals. This can lead to people being pigeonholed based on prejudiced assumptions about their demographic, which restricts their ability to be seen for who they are.


Confirmation bias happens when you focus on a body of evidence that is likely to prove your belief as a means of testing the original belief.


Bias is often unconscious. Be honest and transparent in your journey, and seek to upskill yourself to better recognise your own (and your team’s) internal biases.


Consider the barriers that candidates face 

Be aware of job descriptions that include language and phrases which are known to deter people from underrepresented groups. As an example, a lack of information about office layouts may put off someone who identifies as disabled or neurodiverse.


If you're looking to attract a more diverse candidate pool, consider the diversity of the people within your hiring process. Who's interviewing candidates? Who are the hiring managers? Will the candidate see someone who they identify with during their interview experience? Do you acknowledge the importance of diversity and inclusion in your hiring process?


Looking to reach a more diverse pool of candidates? Consider where you can advertise the job to reach certain communities and demographics.


Consider unconscious bias and stereotypes.

We have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for our own biases. We all make subconscious judgements, so it's important to catch them as they happen, and question ourselves when we have ‘instinctive’ perceptions of people without knowing much about them.

Remember, we are responsible for our second thought and our first action. When you make an instant judgement, check yourself and where this opinion might be coming from.


Consider the difference between equality and equity 

Equality assumes that everyone benefits from the same support – it is about treating everybody the same regardless of their differences. 

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

To create a truly equitable workforce, it is about levelling the playing field, and giving each person the support they need to feel comfortable, involved, and valued.

Create Psychological Safety

Once you've hired a diverse workforce, the focus should turn to creating a culture of inclusivity. People should feel safe to express their own identity and shouldn’t feel pressured to ‘assimilate’ to others. You need to create a work environment that avoids micro-aggressions and other situations where people retract from their true selves.

In order to create psychological safety, ask yourself: do people have a sense of belonging in the workplace? Do they feel safe to express ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes without being humiliated? Do people have to mask or cover parts of their identity in order to “fit in."


Calling people in vs calling people out 

If you think you are seeing bias in your team, create a safe space for it to be challenged. Encourage open dialogue about diversity and inclusion. 

Part of being an ally in the workplace is about working to remove the stigma of speaking out about bias.


Many of us struggle with confrontation but remember that these conversations are about inviting people into conversations about diversity and inclusion, rather than calling them out or cancelling them.


Actions you can start making today

Want to ensure you're creating an inclusive and equitable environment for your teams? Here are some changes you can make to build greater success:

  • Have a clear diversity statement and inclusive language 
  • Upskill yourself to challenge a bias 
  • Connect to new communities
  • Ensure all roles have standardised criteria
  • Use a comprehensive checklist to challenge bias 
  • Monitor voluntary demographics
  • Build new partnerships and tools

Want to catch the full replay of Frank's talk? You can do so here.

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