In large corporations, the phrase Diversity & Inclusion often refers to ensuring that employees are treated (and hired) fairly regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual preference.
Which begs the question, how does Diversity & Inclusion apply to a Small Business (less than 10 employees) or an Entrepreneur?
There are many articles and conversations about hiring, and considering your internal team dynamic, however, if you’re a true small business your team is so small that this concept is a little difficult to wrap the brain around. Yet, as you reach your goals and your team does grow it’s likely something you want to consider since a study from the Harvard Busines Review found that found businesses with multiple dimensions of diversity were significantly more innovative and enjoyed better market growth than less diverse businesses.
Again though, right now that seems like a ‘someday‘ conversation. What are things you can be doing today?
Consider including a lens on Diversity & Inclusion in your messaging, both how you market/advertise and how you communicate with existing clients. Because that’s something you can start today, while you may not have a large team you do have clients.
Don’t worry, I have many ideas, but first, we can’t really go down this path together without first touching on some basics.
- Know and own your own biases. Consider your unconscious biases as they also tend to result in unknown prejudices, which may potentially stunt one’s growth by hindering the flow of new and challenging ideas.
- Know who you want to serve. Many business coaches and mentors push you to identify your ideal client (me included) and this can feel like the opposite of inclusion. However, if you are clear on who you want to attract you can then consider each of the points below and choose if they should be included.
- Know your boundary. As a business owner, your personal life and business overlap in many many ways. Depending on your business and the brand you’ve created it may not be appropriate for your business to be where/how you express your desire to be an ally and support diversity.
- Know what you stand for. If diversity is not something you’ve ever considered in your business before, I would not recommend tackling all of these at once. Pick one topic that is dear to your heart and start there.
- Know your budget. As with anything, there is a cost associated with an effort like this, even if the cost is simply your time. Before you begin, think about how much you want to invest, don’t forget to think about the long-term ROI though. While you may not notice an immediate return, remember the Harvard Business Review study, over time diverse companies thrive.
Alright, with that said. Let’s break down how you can approach each of diversity topics in your messaging.
The world of stock photography is whitewashed, which means that you must be intentional if you wish to represent diversity in the images you use.
The business justification for this is that using images that represent all races and cultures will allow people to see themselves in your marketing and, in turn, purchasing your services/products. There’s also a larger conversation to consider. If you identify as an ally to People of Color and an advocate for equality, walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. Make a conscious effort to present people of all races in your content.
There are many sites and projects dedicated to stock photos including people of color, here are a few I’ve used:
Most large cities have programs specifically geared toward supporting minority communities in entrepreneurship, consider donating time or money to these organizations.
The obvious answer here is to focus on representing all genders in your images and messaging unless of course, your target demographic is one gender.
However. Gender fluidity is no longer a taboo topic and more common than you may think, especially in metropolitan areas.
Consider using gender-neutral grammar whenever possible. In environments that are especially sensitive to this conversation, it is common to ask someone what their pronouns are he/him/his, she/her/hers or they/them/theirs. By using they/them/theirs as much as possible you ensure that even those who are non-binary will be able to identify with your message. This can be confusing if you don’t’ have much exposure to this topic or are a grammar stickler. Do some research to help educate yourself if that’s the case.
Religion & Holidays
Take a look at your client base. Do you have folks in Canada? Did you know that Canadian Thanksgiving is in October and that they have a holiday directly after Christmas called Boxing Day? Honoring this for them will make them feel included and honoring it with your entire community shows that you have a commitment to Diversity & Inclusion.
If you work heavily with resources from India or China (to name a few) it can be helpful to know (and respect) that they take entire weeks off to honor specific holidays in their area.
Wildflower has clients who are Pagan, Jewish, Hindi, Buddhist and Christian. We also have clients in 7 countries. We make an effort to honor every holiday we can find and it’s amazing the response we get both from our clients as well as new leads.
Odds are you don’t know the religious affiliation of your clients. Consider if you want to honor many holidays – or none. And know that only honoring those you yourself celebrate, that is the opposite of inclusive.
While the world is changing, there are still many people who, while they support LGBTQ rights and equality, they aren’t personally connected to the community. Out of sight out of mind and as a business owner it can be quite easy to accidentally fail to include the LGBTQ community in your message. The good news is, with a tiny bit of consideration you can easily remedy this.
Make an effort to show diversity in your images. If you have occasion to show happy families or couples, attempt to find images that include same-sex couples.
Watch your language, when referencing a family avoid assumptions that a woman has a husband or a husband has a wife. Lean toward terms like Significant Other, Life Partner or Spouse.
Consider supporting Pride and diversity efforts in your city. Seek out networking events for the LGBT community and attend as an ally.
Taking the time to consciously include Diversity & Inclusion in your strategy as a Small Business is a small way to walk the walk and lead by example in living out your values. It’s also a great way to appeal to a larger audience.
If you don’t have a strategy or if you don’t have any clue how to incorporate the ideas I’ve outlined, let’s talk.