Executive Resource: Breaking the Barriers to Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
In this Executive Resource, Professors Linda Basch and Anne Weisberg share the thought leadership and teaching methodology behind their course Inclusive Leadership, and explain why they believe middle managers hold the keys to more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces.
Read the excerpt below and download the full resource here.
The Middle Management Roadblock
At a time where public demonstrations against racial injustice have brought issues of diversity squarely to the fore of life in the US and around the world, many organizations have recognized this moment as a crucial opportunity to address the barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across all dimensions that exist in their workplaces.
For example, the 2019 McKinsey report on Women in the Workplace highlights that, while the proportion of women in senior roles is improving, the real block remains much closer to ground level, in what they term ‘the broken rung.’ The report finds that for every 100 men, only 72 women are hired or promoted to first line manager roles—and within this group, the numbers for Black and Latino women are significantly lower than for white women.
Anne Weisberg has been researching and writing on diversity and inclusion issues ever since she failed to get hired as a young mother fresh out of Harvard Law School in the mid-1980s.
Since then, Weisberg has become a champion of greater inclusion, having run programs at Deloitte and Blackrock and now as Director of the Women’s Initiative at the leading international law firm Paul, Weiss.
Weisberg believes that today, the greatest potential for DEI change lies with the mid-management of organizations. She explains that a diversity problem on the lower rungs of the corporate leadership ladder “just compounds, resulting in the pool of diverse talent being increasingly limited at the more senior leadership levels.”
Weisberg works with Linda Basch—an anthropologist whose career has spanned academia, senior roles at the United Nations, the presidency of the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) and corporate consultancies—to create training programs that help business professionals develop the skills needed to become more inclusive leaders and combat DEI roadblocks at the middle management level.
After all, Weisberg and Basch note, it is precisely these middle managers who can make the most difference.
Essentials of Inclusive Leadership
For those who strive to become more inclusive leaders, Basch and Weisberg have identified crucial building blocks of workplace DEI. “What we do is structured,” they explain. “We break it down into three components” which form the crux of their leadership training methodology.
Creating awareness of the implicit assumptions we make about individuals and their identities. If you don’t understand your unconscious biases, you are unable to address them.
Make the Business Case.
Review current research, business cases and examples to understand how DEI initiatives lead to better business outcomes and improve day-to-day performance.
Develop Inclusive Mindsets and Practices.
Learn about issues of social identity and in-group preference, and understand how these impact hiring, development and assessment. As with unconscious bias training, identifying these issues helps you build checks and balances into your organizational processes to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.