“We don’t have the time or resources to prioritize D&I.”

4 minutes, 9 links

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This comes up a lot, at all levels and stages of a company.

startup At startups you might hear things like, “We don’t have the luxury to focus on this right now” or “There will be time for this later; we have to figure out the business first.” Or with even more urgency, “I’d love to think about diversity, but right now we need someone yesterday.”

If you’re at a larger company, you might hear something like this: “It’s too late for us to build a diverse team.”

The Basics

Many companies still see D&I as a nice-to-have and not an integral ingredient to success. “Diversity fatigue” and the feeling of being overwhelmed are also sources here, for both small and large companies. When people don’t know where to start, they might just decide to give up. Often, a fixation on diversity numbers as the end goal is the culprit.

At the same time, we are seeing how costly diversity debt can be. From founders being ousted,* to loginmillions lost in employee productivity, or talent drains, or lost revenue and costs to the economy, and even the complete collapse of companies, deprioritizing D&I carries significant risk.

When someone voices this concern (or if you’re feeling it yourself!), you might say, “I appreciate that this is a concern. I know how hard this can seem. But we’re not going to focus on perfection here. We can change our goals and redefine success to focus on progress.”

Another tactic is to say, “Let’s consider the costs of inaction.” You can point your employees or bosses to the data on the increased profitability and productivity of diverse teams. But if painting a picture of D&I done well doesn’t motivate people, it might be worth trying the opposite tactic. “We don’t want to be the next Uber” can be surprisingly effective in getting different folks to pay attention. Companies have to consider not only the competitive disadvantage created by not acting, but also the higher risk of incurring an incident that will cost them something tangible—whether it be loginproductivity, shareholder value, or the company itself.

Going Deeper

startup If you’re at a smaller or newer company, one crucial way to gain a competitive edge against other startups and larger companies is by hiring a diverse team and ensuring all of your employees are in it for the long term. The data are conclusive: diverse and inclusive companies have better products, more stability, and higher revenue. When someone says, “We can’t afford this right now,” an appropriate response is: “Can we afford not to?” Remember that the longer you put off D&I efforts, the more diversity debt you rack up, and the harder it is to get started.

Is building a diverse team harder when you’re starting with a larger team? Yes. But there will never be an easier time to start than right now. There is no point of no return. If your team or company has already incurred diversity debt, paying it down won’t happen overnight. But the goal doesn’t have to be achieving perfect parity or representation, especially for large, established teams for whom it will take many years. The goal is to make meaningful progress from wherever your starting point is today. And you can start making improvements by acknowledging blind spots and attempting to better understand the impact of your processes and decisions moving forward. You may wish to review how to set D&I goals. It’s OK to start small if necessary.

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