Walking the Talk

Author: Jasmine Zhu       

Earlier this summer, a panel of speakers from across a wide variety of industries — tech start-ups, pharmaceutical companies, and more — gathered at CNBC’s Talent@Work event to discuss a hot-button issue: diversity in the workplace. Those gathered were interested in more than just talking about inclusion — many came ready to share the steps that had been incorporated at their own companies.

Here are some of the highlights from the panel, “The Equality Equation.”

1. Get the Right Kind of Data

According to Wanda Bryant Hope, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Johnson & Johnson, a strategy for workplace diversity should start with gathering data. “Approach [diversity initiatives] as any business opportunity or challenge,” Hope said.

Panelists suggested new data points to consider — instead of just considering overall diversity representation, looking for other, less obvious data points along different employment cycles is crucial, said Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO, Paradigm. “What’s happening at hiring levels? Who’s leaving? Who’s getting promoted? These are invaluable data points. There are all factors driving barriers.”

2. Share and Embrace Different Points of View

Active listening to what employees are saying about your company can help with reforming work culture, suggested Bo Young Lee, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Uber.

And start from the bottom, not the top: “Do a lot of listening, especially to customer service/first-line employees.”

Unconscious bias happens to everyone, Hope added. She cited her own biases, including an instinctive preference from hiring from her own alma mater. “We have to catch ourselves a little bit and make sure our actions are in line with our intentions.”

3. Start Now

All of the panelists emphasized that diversity initiatives should begin as soon as possible.

“Embed good practices early on,” Emerson said. “Change can be slow. Moving the needle takes a long time. The earlier you start working the earlier you’ll scale as a diverse company.”

And set goals. The Paradigm for Parity aims to help corporations close the gender gap in leadership by 2030. Panelist Ellen Kullman, co-chair for Paradigm for Parity, offered her organization’s five-step roadmap, which includes setting measurable goals and holding senior team accountable.

You can learn more about it here.