Achieve Leadership Diversity with these 5 Steps

Leadership diversity doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a conscious effort and steadfast commitment to achieve a mix of diverse talent within the executive ranks.  Your company can employ these six steps to balance the leadership diversity scale.

1. Find Your Visionary Leader Who Sees Both Leadership Diversity & Success

Who among your current leaders can see what’s possible?  Is it you? This visionary leader can imagine what’s possible for your organization. This is someone who can realistically imagine your organization  (1) with a diverse team of leaders that (2)  is achieving record success in earnings, market share and brand reputation. In other words, you need people who understand that gaining diversity is not about losing in the marketplace. It’s not a trade off.  Companies actually do better with diversity.  As Indira Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi noted, “Most companies target women as end users, but few are effectively utilizing female employees when it comes to innovating for female consumers. When women are empowered in the design and innovation process, the likelihood of success in the marketplace improves by 144%!”

It takes someone who understands that diverse leadership is not about lowering the bar or compromise.  It’s not just about being kind and generous. Diverse leadership is a good business practice.

2. Set Leadership Diversity Goals

Your visionary leadership needs to put a stake in the ground. Set stretch goals for your organization, knowing it will require you to be bold. Sharing these goals with the company can be a challenge, but it needs to be proactively addressed. Break these goals down into milestones and building blocks that can be achieved over the course of a year.

3. Share the Current Data on Diversity

As you set these visionary goals, you may fear alienating the existing majority within your company. It’s imperative to understand where your workforce is today. Analyze the demographics of your employees at different levels. This data tells a story. While 50% of your overall employees may be women, what’s that percentage at the top management levels? Sharing it throughout your company allows everyone to clearly see where the gaps are. This starts a rich and meaningful dialogue about what the impact is to the company if you don’t strive for gender balance.

Use this telling data as a springboard to motivate people to embrace the change initiatives, helping you build grassroots support and achieve an organizational-wide mind shift. Accelerating the careers of all high potentials will take buy-in at all levels.

4. Tap into Job Boards for People of Color

Organizational practices can sometimes be a barrier to the advancement of women and minorities. We encourage companies to do a check: Where do you recruit? How diverse is your applicant pool?

Make sure that your hiring process systematically includes talent platforms such as,,,, BlackCareerWomensNetwork, and HBCU Connect, a network for students and alumni of historically black colleges.

Another area to analyze is your current employee development programs. Of the people who are enrolled in your highest leadership development program, what percentage of them are women and people of color? Determine if the criteria for those programs promotes career growth for women or prohibits it. This goes for your interviewing and hiring practices, committees, and stretch assignments. Gaining awareness of your current practices can unearth reg flags that previously went unnoticed or unaddressed.

5. Institute Manager Involvement & Executive Sponsorship to Increase Leadership Diversity

Involving managers and executives in the development efforts increases diverse candidates’ visibility. Line managers are an employee’s #1 advocate for future growth opportunities – yet can also be the #1 barrier. Connect both the diverse employee and her manager with a professional coach during your development program. This third-party coach can help your managers understand how to maximize their role in supporting career advancement for minorities and women.

If women and people of color don’t have relationships with various executives within their organization, they’re likely missing out on opportunities for growth. Executives are aware of opportunities for new departments, new roles, or new products; however, they are not always aware of the importance they can play in sponsoring women and minorities for these opportunities.

Enhancing leadership diversity takes a bold commitment to dive in. Is now the time to tap the diverse high potentials at your organization? Here’s a great place to start:  Discover the difference an integrated Women in Leadership program can make among your ranks.

Dig Deeper to Attract & Retain a Diverse Leadership Team

Promoting diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s the right business strategy. And to get there, you must make sure all talent is equally positioned to succeed. That means that women and people of color get hired, get growth opportunities and are judged impartially for promotions.  How ready is your organization to advance more women and minorities in the workplace?  Perhaps assessing your company’s gender diversity is your first step. Get a free copy of our checklist to see how you’re doing!