5 Steps to Diversity-Friendly Leadership

Published: September 18, 2014

The audience for the recent "Women in Technology" keynote bore little resemblance to the demographics on the convention floor at CTIA’s 2014 Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. While the exhibitor booths were commonly staffed with more men than women, female attendees of the workshop represented greater than a 9-to-1 ratio. The elephant in the room was not the fact that the keynote speaker was man. The travesty was the glaring absence of male participants in an industry needing to "get" the diversity advantage.

In many industries, the gender diversity gap widens at the leadership ranks. Some industries are notoriously imbalanced – telecommunications for one. Even in professions that are largely female dominated such as education and health care, males more commonly hold the power positions. One of the unfortunate consequences of this trend is that women are expected to adopt stereotypically male characteristics as a ticket to entry. In some workplaces, women need to
out-man the men to gain credibility with their peers.

Gender is only one of the many variables of diversity that makes an organization healthy. Strong businesses weave difference into the fabric of entry-level, middle management, and senior leadership talent tiers. Thriving teams find a way to reflect the broad demographics of their customers in the design and delivery of their products and services. The greater the leadership accountability, the more essential diversity becomes.

Forge a call-to-action from the top down. Implement the following steps:

1.    Anchor a commitment to leadership diversity in the goals and tactics of your strategic plan.

2.    Include diversity-sensitive mentoring resources in the professional development investments made in your employees.

3.    Populate your organizational values, mission statements, and performance measurement with diversity-friendly behavioral expectations.

4.    Continuously ask your customers who they’d like to be leading the innovation and design of your products and services.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.