Keith Yamashita, Chairman and Cofounder of SYPartners, developed thinking on how leaders can create positive change around diversity and inclusion in small moments throughout their workday—and inspire change in others by example.
In February 2016, he spoke on the subject before an audience at Powershift, a convening of leaders in San Francisco. He was joined by other key innovators in this space— Frans Johansson, Kimberly Bryant, Joelle Emerson, Lareina Yee, and Lenny Mendonca.
Yamashita’s thinking is based on the following facts: Studies have shown that diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and experience makes teams more innovative and higher performing at work. As organizations today tackle increasingly complex challenges, this kind of diversity is more important than ever.
But the biggest threat to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, however, is often too small to detect: Microaggressions—everyday behaviors, often rooted unconscious bias, that create a hostile environment for marginalized groups.
Major policy changes and training are critical, but it’s everyday changes to behavior that forwards lasting progress. Yamashita and SYPartners posit that leaders can start to check their own behavior and start to change it by asking, for example:
• When I need to tackle a new problem, who’s missing?
• When I am recruiting, casting, or choosing my team, what am I assuming about this person?
• When I issue a calendar invite, who gets invited to the meeting?
• When someone not like me presents a perspective I had never considered, how do I respond to new ideas?
• When I encounter a room of people I have yet to meet, who do I acknowledge, and who do I not see?