The Openbox team is diverse and inclusive and everyone has a voice regardless of title or role. Worn takes a similar approach. “At Worn, we don’t want to just talk about what companies should be doing, but be the example for other leaders to look to when thinking about how to create a culture that supports women,” Rush said. “So, even as a small business, we are thinking about things like maternity leave, smart diverse hiring, office wellness, and hiring an all-female film crew.”
Worn gets it, too. Their team is a majority woman team, but even more importantly, they come from different professional and personal backgrounds. They also learn from their diverse clients. We can “learn, be aware, and adapt to the evolving startup and company climates and challenge our clients and community to expect more and be consciously fearless,” Rush said.
Empowering the Next Generation of Talent
To foster a more inclusive culture, you might advise your clients to re-evaluate long-standing hiring practices. An article in the Independent asks, what if diversity is not so much about a talent shortage, but an “opportunity gap” in which the best talent lack the networks or degree that until now has traditionally opened doors? Some agencies are actively championing solutions.
Again, many in the technology, strategy, and design world are leading by example and actively championing solutions. Stillwell worked with Black Girls Code to get more women of color into the tech industry. But to him, this was only half the mission. “It’s about the process of learning how to code in an environment that has not been traditionally welcoming to a different group of people ,” he said. “These women are given tools for problem solving, building their confidence, strengthening their muscles to engage in entirely new ways of thinking … to step into the many industries that need more diversity and inclusion.”
The WIN team also embraces a skills-based approach and finds that its most impactful events are the ones that presented tangible skills that could be immediately put into action. These tactics have ranged from negotiation skills to building confidence and a personal brand to exploring “radical empathy” when innovating.
And we can learn from each other along the way. Beyond tools and experiences to succeed, diverse leaders also need room to fail. “Learning and growth doesn’t happen without the room to stumble … but the truth is that women and minorities are held to a different standard, and don’t always get the second or third chance,” Stillwell said. “Access to failure must be met with a strong network, supportive mentors, and especially, conversations with strong leaders willing to tell stories about their own failures on the journey to success.”