Diversity Without Inclusion is Pointless: How Mentorship Furthers Inclusive Leadership


“We are living in a racism pandemic” said Sandra L. Shullman, president of the American Psychological Association.


The recent death of George Floyd, an African American man killed by Minneapolis police officers during an arrest, sparked anti-racist protests all over the world. CNN reported that “Floyd was arrested after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store” and that there is no evidence that he “physically resisted” the police, further proving that Floyd has fallen victim to a brutal racist act.


For many, the incident has brought increased attention to the everyday discrimination and “systematic racism” that stills persists in our society.


In past decades, companies have increasingly allocated a portion of their budget to diversity and inclusion initiatives, with $8 billion estimated to be spent each year in the United States alone.


But has the situation gotten any better in the corporate environment?


Not fast enough. Many brands claim to support racial justice, but we still don’t see much (sometimes any) presence of underrepresented minorities at the C-Suite level.


The failures of diversity training are claimed to be many, but today we want to focus on a specific one. 


Interesting research from Deloitte found that:


Diversity + Inclusion = better business outcomes

“Simply put, diversity without inclusion is worth less than when the two are combined”.


What this means is that it’s not enough to simply train people on the importance of diversity in organizations. Doing that might increase awareness, however, it will not necessarily foster an inclusive culture. For example, unconscious bias training is great to recognize intrinsic biases but momentum dies if it’s not followed up with practical allyship tools that drive lasting behaviour change.


Reasonably, an initial step towards tackling this problem consists in understanding what inclusion really means.


“At its highest point, inclusion is expressed as feeling “safe” to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation, and when people feel “empowered” to grow and do one’s best work. Clearly, these elements are critical for diversity of thinking to emerge”. (Deloitte) 


So how can we grow inclusive leaders that are able to actively listen and embrace everyone’s perspectives? This seems to be an ongoing concern for many companies, but data shows it’s easier said than done.


“Two thirds (68 percent) of leaders feel they create empowering environments—in which employees can be themselves, raise concerns and innovate without fear of failure—but just one third (36 percent) of employees agree”. (Accenture)


This staggering finding from Accenture is only another piece of evidence of the underlying problem: leaders are ill-equipped to manage diverse employees.


How effective mentoring can be a game changer


Since inclusion is established when employees feel truly valued, creating a support system based on genuine and open relationships is key.


Effective mentorship is one, if not the most, powerful method to encourage that. But why is that? Simply put, mentorship creates unique engagement opportunities for employees to connect with mentors that have the right skillset and experience to support them.


More specifically in relation to “diverse mentoring”, research has found that:

  • Mentoring is a critical component when trying to retain a diverse workforce
  • Women and minorities tend to value mentoring experiences more, as it’s considered a key tool in helping them accelerate their careers and achieve professional growth


The main implication of this is that a more inclusive environment can be fostered through promoting a culture of mentorship.


As experts in the industry, we have outlined 3 main considerations that will help companies attain mentoring effectiveness and utility. If these are overlooked, we find that mentorship will fizzle out fast.


1) Grow your employees to become better people leaders


Diversity training cannot be effective if it doesn’t encourage more inclusion. Therefore, ensuring that everyone in the company has or develops strong communication and empathy is one of the key factors in growing better people leaders and managers.


But this is still not enough. Potential mentors cannot establish effective and sustainable mentoring relationships if they don’t have a structured plan to manage them. For example, they need to know how to set up a formal goal-setting process, provide constructive feedback, and measure progress along the way.


When a clear strategy is missing, results will take longer and a higher time commitment might be needed. In our experience, we often hear professionals saying: “I wish I had more time to mentor all the people who ask me”, so the onus should be on the companies to provide them with actionable tools & proven processes to be more productive.


2) Motivate your employees to become mentors or advisors 


For mentoring relationships to be successful, it is crucial to have people within the company who feel committed to helping others.


It’s about creating that culture of mentorship, or “pay-it-forward” culture, that we mentioned before.


“Foreign visitors to Silicon Valley continually mention how willing we are to help, network and connect strangers. We take it so for granted we never even bother to talk about it. It’s the “Pay-It-Forward” culture.” - Steve Blank, retired serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur


To encourage this, companies should clearly communicate how mentorship can be as beneficial and fulfilling for mentors. In fact, many forget that like all relationships, workplace ones need to be a two-way street.


For mentors, mentorship:

1) Grows leadership equity

2) Furthers personal development

3) Encourages reflection on personal goals

4) Gives the chance to inspire the next generation of leaders


3) Facilitate interactions by developing mentorship programs


We tend to connect with people we know, like and trust for mentorship conversations but if your ideal mentor isn’t in your social circle or direct team, how do you reach them? It’s often hard to reach out to someone to start a mentoring relationship and sometimes our own gender or cultural biases hold us back. That’s why women and underrepresented minorities might benefit from focussed attention or a company-sponsored program.


Among the different ways to facilitate interactions with potential mentors, a powerful one is through the creation of diverse mentoring programs (DMPs).


DMPs provide a select group of people with a network within the organization and a mentor to help them grow and progress in their careers.


“This is done by matching diverse populations across teams, functions and hierarchy, ensuring each mentee receives a mentor that has the right skills and experience to help them grow according to their career aspirations".


“Diversity mentoring also builds relationships and breaks down silos in the workplace by connecting diverse populations with each other, letting them share their experiences and perspectives with coworkers for greater understanding and empathy”. (Chronus)


Last tip: consider providing additional training to underrepresented minorities


To better support and champion underrepresented minorities, it can also be beneficial to offer them additional opportunities to gain confidence, create powerful peer allies and strengthen their voice and visibility within the company.


To do that, leadership experts that specialize in diversity and talent development can take a cross-cultural lens to create tailored training that suits a groups’ specific needs better. The positive intention behind this type of training is to help create more diverse talent pipelines, bring people together to talk about shared experiences and amplify each other’s voices to drive meaningful change for everyone. This is how we can step towards more equality and equity in the workplace.


In conclusion, it's time to take action!


The importance of a diverse and inclusive culture can no longer be overlooked.


Now more than ever companies need to recognize the benefits of an empowering environment for everyone and step up to become better corporate citizens.


Organizations with an inclusive culture are:


2x as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
3x as likely to be high-performing
6x times more likely to be innovative and agile
8x times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.


Diversity training can be a first step towards creating a culture of equality. However, the measure of a company’s inclusivity ultimately lies with the perception of all employees, and especially those who are part of underrepresented minorities.


Mentorship plays a crucial role in unleashing the power of diversity through inclusive leadership. By creating a psychologically safe environment, mentors that have the right tools and skills to empower diverse employees can create relationships that actively focus on talent development and career progression.


The road towards more inclusion is not easy, but by being willing to take dedicated and intentional action as well as establishing a method to measure outcomes, it is possible.


Interested in exploring actionable tools to promote a more inclusive culture of mentorship in your organization?

Connect with us to learn how Mentorship Moment can help!


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