By Maji Tharpe

Now that I am toying around with a low-committal hybrid veganism diet (yes, it’s a thing), I am inspired to succeed this summer despite my annual epic gardening fails. Through my experimentation with mutant agricultural engineering (eg the five foot romaine lettuce tree of 2016) and the annual dirt grooming, the most important lesson that I have learned is not to plant all of my hope in a single seed.

The responsibility to develop and implement a written strategy for diversity and inclusion fits squarely on the shoulders of management of every company.  Planting this seed empowers the attention of the company to focus less on outlining the problem and more on aligning its support and decisions. Once planted, the plant may need to be pruned and may need to be fertilized, but this will become the beautiful shrubbery that surrounds and protects the garden.

There should be generous resources allocated to help nourish the strategy. Although this may be a single seed, it may more likely be a strategic variety pack that could include initiatives such as staff outreach or mentoring time, targeted philanthropy, aligning spending with strategy, necessary analysis etc., Without this seed, the written strategy is unlikely to ever bear fruit.

And although the seeds that are planted  are endless, the final seed I will address in this article is faithfully creating an internal and external environment where diversity and inclusion insight is welcomed and can thrive. Team members and industry colleagues should be encouraged and empowered to identify and problem-solve diversity and inclusion issues of which their leadership and peers may be unaware. This is where many organizations have historically blocked their own returns on investment from prior diversity initiatives.

We often tend to steer toward the principles of democracy – every person gets one vote.  Or an executive leadership style where the top determines strategy and controls “policing”. However, in environments where underrepresented individuals are not leading the executive team and where their views are perpetually outnumbered, management must set the stage for their ideas to be heard.  To reap the benefits of the first seedlings of diversity and inclusion efforts, management must set the example that everyone’s outlook is respected and must not tolerate backlash for feedback that does not “fit in” with current group norms. “Culture norms” can inadvertently serve as a fence to protect the weeds of discrimination or unfairness that have begun to override your garden.

Encouraging the voices of those feeling the discomfort of non-inclusion can lead to:

  1. Clear vocalization of the culture issues that could affect retention.
  2. Safeguarding of environments to callout language and practices that are not inclusive.
  3. Recruitment of new non-underrepresented group allies to champion your strategy and provide creative input.
  4. New or revamped initiatives addressing identified obstacles.

Every organization’s management should create policies and accountability measures for diversity and inclusion. Every organization’s management should creatively allocate resources. The seed that many forget however is that the management of each organization should conscientiously cultivate a climate where front-line staff can provide insight, cultural guidance, problem-solving, and most importantly, recruit allies. Without an army, no war is won.  And with only one seed, this summer my family will not eat.

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