Inclusivity is a Mindset

My boss, the CEO of the company, exclaimed “the only way to end up with diversity is to start with diversity!” A decade ago I was VP of Software and my primary duty was to retain and hire diverse set of developers for our growing startup. He had tasked me to find people that didn’t fit the mold and hire them. I suspect that one factor in my being promoted into my role was that I was Indian-American and open to his coaching. He was ahead of his time in thinking about diversity.

I remember this conversation ten years later and it is in my mind every time I take part in a hiring process. Diversity leads to better decision-making and as a minority executive he grokked that fact1. Ten years later, and after much reflection, I think he was partially right about diversity leading to more diversity. Diverse leadership does correlate to diverse candidates. But I now believe that diversity is an outcome and the true cause is an Inclusivity Mindset.

Setting a good example, and clearly adopting an Inclusivity Mindset, is Kapor Capital. “Genius is evenly distributed across zip codes. Access and opportunity are not.”2 Kapor has recognized the problem in their field of venture capital. Not only are they taking action, through investments and hiring, to make progress on the problem but they are also proposing changes to foster an Inclusivity Mindset. For example, their G.I.V.E. framework uses volunteering and education to help people grow their experience in order to change their mindset.

The recent Hamilton Commission, examining the underrepresentation of Black people in UK Motorsport, also came to a set of recommendations to improve the current state. A key takeaway from the report reinforces the need for an Inclusivity Mindset amongst those in leadership roles:

Those in leadership roles across motorsport must take personal responsibility for driving measurable progress on diversity and inclusion, to provide equity of access and experience for Black people and other underrepresented groups, and champion inclusive workplace cultures which will in turn, act as an enabler of organisational success. Unless this happens, the other actions recommended in this report will not achieve the intended impact.

Hamilton Commission Report

Getting to a diverse company requires recruitment practices that are mindful of inclusivity. In my experience there are a few signs that a company is not on the right path. The following statements are warnings that an organization or team may not have an Inclusivity Mindset:

  • We only hire the best – This approach maintains status quo. It allows for the organization to signal their DEI intentions and pose that they are meritocratic and color and gender blind. However, an Inclusivity Mindset recognizes the disparities that exit and allows for opportunities to those that have not had them.
  • We hire for culture fit – By definition an Inclusivity Mindset means that they are comfortable hiring outside of your culture and adding different perspectives.
  • We can’t find any qualified candidates from a diverse background – In this case the organization is not going deep enough to recruit candidates or has too many limits in place. For example, in the case of The Hamilton Commission, they identified motorsport companies that required 1st class honors from the Russell Group Universities as a first sift of their candidates.3

Other mindsets, like the Growth Mindset, are often contrasted with their opposite. In the case of the Growth Mindset they call that it a Fixed Mindset. Perhaps the Inclusivity Mindset can be contrasted with an Exclusivity Mindset, and the statements above could be attributed to the Exclusivity Mindset.

This past weekend the Boston Globe published a deep look at the Boston Tech scene, which focuses on the challenges of diversifying our tech workforce.

But overall, the needle has yet to move much on the industry’s woeful record on diversity. The tech industry remains largely white and has not shed its reputation for elitism. The talent pipeline routes through a select number of exclusive and expensive universities, and the hiring process skews in favor of candidates with educations from traditional degree programs.

“Nothing Actually Changes” – Boston Globe

It’s a duty for leaders to go deeper to identify candidates that will strengthen their teams, and to change their hiring practices. The InIt’s a duty for leaders to go deeper to identify candidates that will strengthen their teams, and to change their hiring practices. The Inclusivity Mindset is one which requires effort and improvement over the long term. It also requires general acceptance of the underlying problem and personal responsibility to change from decision-makers. I’ve changed my mind in the past decade. No matter your starting point, without an Inclusivity Mindset, it is difficult to achieve the end outcome of diversity.

1 https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarterand
2 https://www.kaporcenter.org/press-release-posts/with-40-million-dollar-investment-kapor-organizations-double-down-on-tech-diversity-at-white-house-demo-day/
3 https://www.hamiltoncommission.org

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