I’m a Latina with 20 years of multicultural management experience, and I'm currently leading a diverse team of 10 to help foreign national female survivors of human trafficking achieve economic independence. Seven of my teammates grew up abroad in Chinese, Korean, Hispanic and Israeli cultures, four are program graduates and only two are male.
Though I have championed the benefits of diversity for many years at major corporations, know the effects of tokenism on performance and have personally experienced the difficulties of being the only female or minority on a team, I still struggle with managing diversity.
Why? In my high stakes role, I want to quickly and easily make sound decisions to maximize team performance. Since I feel more comfortable with those who share my background, my preference is to avoid entrusting certain critical projects or tasks to those who are different.
However, executing with a homogeneous team is not an option for my organization given the population that we serve and our commitment to survivor leadership. I’m challenged daily to discern between my biases and true areas for growth for each member of the team.
I found this study from McKinsey and LeanIn.org helpful to check in on how I’m empowering or disempowering those who are not like me. It quantifies the impact of specific situations on white women and women of color compared to white males and males of color, and informs how to ensure adequate representation of all groups at all levels of an organization.
Based on this data, I have crafted four questions to check how I’m interacting with each teammate daily, whether we are similar or different, so I can level the playing field:
- Do I ask some teammates to prove their ability to me more than others? Are there assessments that can help me more objectively identify their growth areas?
- Do I mention their strengths as much as their weaknesses when speaking about them in public, and in meetings with my peers and superiors?
- How am I ensuring that their contributions are recognized? How can I give them credit when they are the first to express an idea in a meeting?
- Am I cultivating an atmosphere of respect by addressing those who make demeaning remarks about a teammate’s gender or culture, or mistakenly perceive their seniority?
Your organization may not tackle human suffering nor rely heavily on multicultural customers, but workplace diversity still matters to your success because it drives better outcomes. As you focus on hiring more females and minorities, and mindfully address what causes them to feel disempowered on a daily basis, you and your whole team will reap the full benefits of diversity.
Sandra Diaz helps bicultural professionals land great marketing jobs. Students in her job search boot camp (www.sparkcareercatalysts.com) get more interviews and ideal job offers in 90 days. Sandra’s coaching approach draws from her experience as a marketing executive at L’Oréal, Sears, Sara Lee and Colgate Palmolive, and as an independent consultant. She is an avid learner and connector, frequently in the loop about new job openings.