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How to increase diversity in business

Feb 07, 2019


Top tips to help you create a more diverse workplace that improves employee wellbeing, enhances culture and helps drive your business into new and exciting directions

New companies and technologies emerged in 2018 that truly have the potential to change the world. 

Karma are fighting against food waste; Zinc, launched its second mission to help people hit hardest by globalisation; the first CRISPR clinical trial began in Europe for people with blood disorders; and Entrepreneur First expanded into Berlin and Paris.  

The common thread connecting each of the companies above is that they all have female founders. 

And yet the technology sector, as with many other sectors, is not changing fast enough. 93% of capital invested in European companies last year went to all-male founding teams.  In fact, less than 0.2% of funding was raised for minority ethnic women in the US. And how many LGBTQQIAAP or founders with disabilities are there in the tech industry? The answer is very few!


Diversity in business


But what are the reasons for these unequal stats? Does business want employees to be clones of each other? Is it because we see too many leaders with followers that blindly follow? (enter Hitler, Genghis Kahn, Emperor Palpatine, and Nigel Farage!). Do we think that facilitating yes-men will truly help a business grow? 

We’ve all been taught not to ‘upset the apple cart’ and that someone who offers a different opinion is considered ‘difficult’ or a ‘trouble maker’.  

Niklas Zennström, Founding Partner at technology investor Atomico, wrote a detailed Practical Diversity in Business Guide. He categorises diversity into three broad groups:

Demographic age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical resources

Experiential economic or social position, education, occupation, faith, abilities, dependents, caring responsibilities

Cognitive how we approach problems and think about things

While developing a Diversity and Inclusion Policy, businesses must consider whether each group is genuinely facilitated for, or whether they are subject to conscious, or more commonly sub-conscious, discrimination. 

The media certainly appears to contribute to the lack of understanding of different groups, instead of embracing the differences of people, the media often labels, and highlights factions, based on someone’s beliefs or interests: Brexiters against Remainers, Meat eaters against Vegans, Women against Men, Old against Youth. 

But adding diversity within the work place will bring different life experiences, different perspectives, different ideas, and different skillsets that, if managed right, will help drive companies into new and exciting directions. 

As Devika Wood, Co-founder and Chief Care Officer of healthcare platform, Vida says, “To me, diversity also refers to someone’s skill set. Beyond education backgrounds, we look for hires who illustrate a variety of skills. “

It is important to ensure that inclusion policies can effectively integrate diverse/minority groups, so they have the confidence to contribute and introduce new ideas. 


What is inclusion in the workplace? 


Inclusion involves people’s well-being at work, safeguarding people’s mental and physical resources, and championing rights and cultural differences all of which collectively help people to succeed at work. An inclusive environment allows individual contribution to matter, so they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances.


Top tips to understand bias


1.     Start by learning about bias 

Educate others about bias 

2.     Run bias training within your company. 

Decide the most effect delivery method, will people engage best with a workshop, presentation or team building exercises. 

3.     Evaluate all aspects of your workplace (including any existing policies) 

Evaluate your workplace through discussion groups, surveys or even an independent consultant. 

4.     Write a Diversity & Inclusion policy 

Use the document to write down company values, expected outcomes of a Diversity and Inclusion strategy and projected timeline. 

5.     Allow for failure 

Let everyone know that not every new idea will work. Build a culture of constructive feedback. 


Considerations when hiring


1.    Source candidates from a diverse talent pool – think about the different ways that diversity can exist such as Niklas Zennström’s groups that we outlined earlier.

2.    Build an approachable company profile 

3.    Demonstrate an inclusive work environment (e.g. through offering flexible working) 

4.    Remove biased wording from job descriptions 

5.    Set targets for your ‘candidate shortlist’ to ensure a diverse candidate pool is fairly represented 

6.    Experiment with new ways of finding candidates (sometimes the best candidates come from unconventional backgrounds and won’t be on standard job boards) 

7.    Remove bias when assessing candidates - Focus on a candidate's competency, rather than their credentials 

8.    Early stages at the company - check whether your new recruit has any specific requirements (e.g. flexible working requirements, special access, specific office equipment) 

9.    Educate new recruits about your workplace (give them a guide to any workplace jargon and let them know about different interest / support groups) and share the company strategy 

10.  Create a buddy system (making sure the system is inclusive, e.g. crossing different ages, ethnicities etc.) 


How to increase diversity within the workplace 


1.    Balance your teams 

Use Belbin https://www.businesscoaching.co.uk/files/belbin_team_role_theories.pdf  techniques to check your teams have a balance of roles, and they respect each other’s strengths 

2.    Development plans and feedback 

Pair new hires with team members to make sure the new candidate feels welcome in their team and understand the company as a whole

3.    Working environment 

Check the physical environment matches the needs of employees and customers (e.g. gender-neutral toilets, wheelchair accessible entrances, flexible furniture solutions and induction loop for hearing impaired colleagues and guests) 

4.    Human resources 

Check both the legal standards and best practice for your workplace. This may vary between sectors. Try developing inclusion, parental and adoption policies; and consider training programmes for equality, human rights and bias. 

5.    Social 

Consider whether an employee resource group is appropriate for your firm - they may be a helpful forum for discussing community- specific needs and opportunities.  Consider the time, location and nature of employee commitments and socials, to make sure 


Are your products inclusive?


1.     Look at guidelines for accessible design 

These could be legal requirements or more general features that are more inclusive for all. 

2.     Start early 

It is cheapest and easiest if you build inclusion into your product from the start. Think about your target audience: does it include underrepresented groups? Think about your mock-ups, beta versions and MVP’s - do they represent a diverse pool of potential users? 

3.     Think about tech specs 

Check your product will still work on a variety of operating systems.

4.     Widen language options

Translate your product into widely spoken languages such as English, Chinese and Spanish. Also think about reading ability and dyslexia - keep language simple and try using dyslexia-friendly fonts. 

5.     Consider visual impairments 

Use simulators to see how your app will look for those with partial sight or colour blindness. Also think about embedding audio controls, and options to scale font sizes. 

6.    Think about physical disabilities 

Understand what assistive technologies are used by your community. Large buttons and clear fonts could be a useful starting point for inclusive design. 

“Failing to engage employees as participants in debiasing organisational processes can limit the impact of those efforts.”

Joelle Emerson, Founder and CEO of Paradigm https://www.paradigmiq.com

(Diversity and Inclusion consultants)


Some recommended considerations for different groups


Parents - Employees who balance work life with raising a family. 

Potential requirements: Parental Leave Policy, flexible work agendas, childcare support. 

HR Team - Employees who work together due to their shared profession in Human Resources 

Potential requirements: Tools to mitigate bias before and during recruitment. 

Workers with physical disabilities - Employees who have physical, mobility or dexterity limitations. 

Potential requirements: Improved access to building facilities, flexible workplace arrangements. 

Underrepresented Employees – Individuals from minority ethnic groups

Potential requirements: Greater company awareness of cultural differences, Equal Opportunity Policy 




Ask yourself whether your business can embrace diversity better? Most of us may not be consciously discriminating in the workplace, but social conditioning and our own experiences can naturally affect the way different workers are treated and catered for.  This unconscious bias can easily stifle co-workers which will ultimately be bad for morale and profit margins. Consider how different life experiences, different perspectives and different ideas could help drive your business into new and exciting directions.

“Only once people of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives feel safe and confident to participate will we truly realise the potential we are collectively capable of.

Niklas Zennström CEO and Founding Partner at Atomico


Useful tools and further reading


Colour blindness

Considering colour blindness in UX design 

www.econsultancy.com/ considering-colour-blindness-in-ux-design- with-five-examples/ 

Textures.js is a free JavaScript library for creating SVG patterns, designed to improve the readability of data visualization. Free riccardoscalco.it/textures/ 



Add your own subtitles and captions. Simple guide to using YouTube’s subtitling functionality support.google.com/youtube/ answer/2734796?hl=en-GB 



Inclusive Design Toolkit. General mobility & dexterity accessibility tips, including products, built environment, and transport www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com


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