When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, more companies are using surveys as a way to measure how they’re doing. However, the question many companies are still faced with is how to interpret this data, and what to do next.
At a panel event, Culture Amp spoke with four company leaders passionate about diversity and inclusion:
- Lauren Williams, Senior Manager of Vertical Marketing at Pandora
- Dr. Stephanie Royal, (previous) Executive Director of Workforce Partnerships at LaGuardia Community College
- Nithya Das, (previous) SVP General Counsel at AppNexus
- Brandon Atkinson, (previous) Chief People Officer at AppNexus
Diversity data helps companies make a plan for action
By using employee surveys, organizations can begin to understand on a holistic level, how people are feeling in terms of diversity and inclusion. This data provides a concrete form for the sometimes hard-to-quantify idea of diversity and inclusion.
Dr. Stephanie Royal says, “The data demands that you have courage in assessing where you are with your diversity and inclusion efforts. Looking at the data holistically is one thing, but then you need to take a deep dive to see what the numbers really show.” She suggests asking questions about diversity at different levels of the business (from entry to senior level) to uncover more.
Outside of surveys, it’s important to dig deeper into other diversity metrics. “If there’s a company that says, ‘We’ve got 40% people of color at our firm,’ but 80% of those people of color are in administrative roles or lower-level roles, that’s not successful,” Dr. Royal explains. Diving deeper into diversity data will showcase these areas for improvement. A successful approach to diversity and inclusion requires data to help inform decisions along with a multi-layered long term strategy.
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Leadership buy-in matters for making change
All panelists highlighted leadership buy-in as essential to building an inclusive company. Brandon says, “Getting executive buy-in and spending is a precursor for any program to have an effect.” Nithya added that AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelly is a big advocate for diversity and inclusion. “He’s usually the one who’s pushing us to do more. He’s always pushing both Brandon and myself to make it more of a priority, take it further. When you have that coming from somebody with privilege, it’s pretty meaningful,” she says.
Employee groups are champions for diversity
While leadership certainly matters, individual employee voices continue to make a difference. Lauren sees herself in a unique position to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion. While her role isn’t formally to oversee diversity and inclusion programs, she makes sure her voice is heard. She’s on the steering committee for Pandora Mixtape, one of Pandora’s three communities (the others are Pandora Women and Pandora Pride).
“Not only is this group a place where people of color can gather and feel safe, but it is also a way for us to put our voice out into Pandora. That way, they know that we are here, and they know that we want to make this company the best that it can be,” she says. Leaders of these steering committees are advocates for their communities, speaking with members of the leadership team.
Do we need to say, ‘Diversity is good for business’?
The general consensus on the panel was, unsurprisingly, that diversity and inclusion is important in the workplace. However, whether or not we need to say it’s “good for business” was up for debate. Dr. Royal explained that she sees allies as the people who need to create a safe space for dialogue about diversity. “It says a lot for that ally to be having that conversation. I think the deeper that individuals can dive into diversity, the better that individual will be, and their leadership, and that’s going to endure to the company itself,” she says.