BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO DIVERSITY

Challenge

Women and minorities continue to believe that entry into careers in business come with too many risks.

Solution

Use inclusive language when describing careers broadly and jobs specifically. The language used impacts perceptions of that job, says Michele Williams, assistant professor and John L. Miclot Faculty Fellow in Entrepreneurship. “A word like ‘analytic’ could generate a stereotypic image in potential employees’ minds. This image may or may not fit with their perception of themselves, or their perceptions that an organization or career would be a good fit for them. An alternative word choice could be ‘problem-solving’.” Williams says studies have found that high-ability applicants from non-majority groups are more likely to apply when inclusive language is used. And that itself begins to address the challenge of representation.

Challenge

There aren’t enough women or minorities in a company to mentor and sponsor the women and minorities they have hired.

Mentors and sponsors don’t have to have the same background. “It is important to remember that mentors and sponsors do not need to have the same demographic characteristics as their proteges,” says Williams. “Providing and nurturing opportunities for authentic connections across demographic and hierarchical boundaries can foster life-changing bonds. In a recent study of generational differences in teams, I found that team diversity was associated with how trusted individuals felt in their one-on-one relationships with colleagues who had different demographic characteristics.”

Solution

Dr. Michele Williams

Professor Michele Williams, Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, has taught negotiations to executives, startups, MBAs and undergraduates at leading schools of management for over 10 years. She is co-author of the Four Capabilities Assessment.

First appeared in Tippie Magazine Summer 2020 Issue

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