How to Demonstrate Diversity in Your Personal Branding

Putting together a diverse team, however, requires you to demonstrate your own diversity. Until you highlight what makes you different, how can you expect people of all genders, races, creeds, and cultures to follow you?

How to Demonstrate Diversity in Your Personal Branding

It’s not just your responsibility to be inclusive; it’s also to your advantage. On average, diverse companies generate 19% more revenue than more homogeneous ones.

Putting together a diverse team, however, requires you to demonstrate your own diversity. Until you highlight what makes you different, how can you expect people of all genders, races, creeds, and cultures to follow you?

The good news is, everyone has something that makes them stand out: Were you the first African-American executive at your company? Did you drop out of college but still manage to land your dream job? Have you lived or worked in another country?

Think through what distinguishes you, and play that up. Here are seven simple ways to do it:

1. Lead by Example

If you make a point to educate yourself and get to know your full community, your brand will naturally become more diverse. Demonstrate your diversity by committing to diversity.

Attend diversity and inclusion initiatives. Provide internships to members of underrepresented groups. Bring diverse speakers and clients to your campus. Both financially and through your team’s volunteering efforts, invest in nonprofits that champion inclusivity.

Just as importantly, highlight the existing diversity on your team. This could be as simple as acknowledging the different religious and cultural holidays celebrated by your employees. Simply asking them how they plan to spend the holiday or rescheduling meetings shows genuine interest and respect.

2. Educate Yourself

You’re never too old or too wise to go back to school. Especially if you didn’t engage in cultural studies the first time around, give them a shot. Even community colleges offer sociology seminars and women’s and gender studies courses.

You might be surprised at the business value of these courses: Being able to relate to people of different races, for instance, can entice new types of candidates to work for you. Plus, managing people becomes a lot easier when you understand their challenges beyond the workplace.

What if you can’t make time to take a course? Get online: You can join cultural groups on social media, watch explainers on YouTube, and read content on other cultures. Best of all, there’s no question too embarrassing to ask Google.

3. Check Your Hiring Processes

If you haven’t built a diverse workforce, then how can you expect people to take your commitment to diversity seriously? You have to put your money where your mouth is.

First things first: Nobody should ever be cut from the team to make room for a “more diverse” candidate. That cuts against the whole point of diversity, which is to recognize people for who they really are rather than how they’re often labeled.

What’s the right approach? Work with your talent acquisition team to bring more diverse candidates to your door. Give every applicant a chance to tell you what makes them different.

Start with your job ads: Researchers at the University of Waterloo and Duke University found that masculine words, such as "competitive” and “dominate,” discouraged female job seekers from applying. Be cautious of your content.

Another critical point in the process is application review. Adopt a “blind resume” protocol: Strip personal information from application materials, including name, gender, and age. Sometimes, years of experience is also removed to reduce bias.

4. Travel Abroad

In an increasingly globalized workforce, traveling abroad can help you understand people who hail from different countries. Content and courses can help, but immersion is the best approach.

Traveling internationally is also a great opportunity to improve your language skills. Speaking a second language, even if you’re not fluent, is an excellent way to show your interest in other cultures.

Multiculturalism is particularly respected by younger generations. A survey of 2,301 U.S. adults found 65% of Millennials said it’s critical to learn about other ways of living when traveling, compared to 53% of the broader sample. Think ahead, even if your business is lucky enough to have little turnover.

Traveling abroad is also a great way to enhance your network. You never know which of those could lead to new leadership insights or career opportunities. Don’t use people, but do be open to them.

5. Acknowledge Your Own Biases

To be an inclusive business leader, you need to recognize your own unconscious biases. Start by taking Harvard’s implicit bias test: You almost certainly hold some prejudices, even if you do your best to be objective.

Regardless of how hard you try, however, realize that you’ll never understand every belief system or culture. That’s OK: We’re all limited by our life experiences, and that’s why it’s so important to own our biases.

A good way to root out unconscious biases is diversity training. Invite a diversity consultant to come chat with your team. Not only will your team members respect you for it, but it’ll help everyone work more effectively together. These training sessions can also help your team deal with conflict in more constructive ways.

6. Push for Change

It can be scary to talk about inequalities, especially those that you’ve benefited from. But if you do it respectfully and constructively, those around you will respect you for it.

It’s all about how you go about it: Remember Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad? Relying on stereotypes and tone-deaf jokes will ruin your brand, and potentially, your entire career. When in doubt about a statement or marketing asset, run it past the people who identify with the groups you’re portraying.

Whenever possible, use your voice to empower others: Tracey Grace, CEO of IT consulting firm IBEX, uses her platform as a successful black woman entrepreneur to encourage the tech sector to employ more women and minorities.

Your story is more powerful than you think. Highlighting what could have held you back shows humility. Lifting others up — especially when they haven’t been offered a ladder by others — is an uplifting experience.

7. Create Authentic Content

How you conduct yourself in the office and in conversations with other business leaders matters. But the truth is, your content can reach a lot more people than any in-person conversation ever could.

This isn’t to say every blog post you pen needs to be an essay on diversity. But you should pepper in personal anecdotes that demonstrate a degree of self-awareness: Do you suspect you were chosen for a management role over another candidate because of your race or gender? Did you put on a facade at a networking event because you were worried you wouldn’t be accepted?

Let those things bubble up organically as you write. There’s no “wrong” perspective to share, so long as it’s true to your experience and relevant to the topic you’re writing about. If you’re worried a story could come across as offensive, remember to ask a few representatives of the relevant demographic or cultural group.

As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to not just hit your quarterly projections, but to be an ally. That means having the hard conversations, being honest about what’s held you back, and making an effort to ensure those same things don’t get in the way for others.

As a business leader, your community looks up to you: Be the type of person everyone — not just people who look and think like you do — can look up to.

About the Author

Stephanie Jones

Stephanie Jones is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Personal Branding Blog and writes for a variety of major media outlets.

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