There’s so much talk about how companies should add more diversity to their workforces, especially upper management. But how does a leader actually change the ratio?
Meetup, a U.S.-based platform that connects people with similar interests for real-life get-togethers, gives us at least one example. It went from a mostly white, male company to one where now eight of the 18 most senior executives are women. Backchannel‘s Jessi Hempel wrote about the transformation. Here are some of the ways CEO Scott Heiferman made it happen:
- The first step is always admitting the need for change, right? Heiferman did just that, having an “aha” moment after an ill-fated attempt to introduce Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book to (only) his female employees.
- He made one of his first big female hires from within. Caroline Simard, at Stanford’s Clayman Institute on Gender Research, told Hempel that one of the best ways to add women to management is to pull from an internal talent pool. Yet it rarely happens because leaders are concerned that a female employee won’t succeed in a role she hasn’t had before. Whereas they assume a male employee will succeed no matter his background. “[W]e hold women to a higher standard,” Simard said.
- Heiferman didn’t rely on a recruiting firm to find female candidates. By turning to his personal networks, he was able to find non-traditional candidates.
- And for his CTO role, Heiferman recruited someone who wasn’t looking for a new opportunity. “No women applied for the job” is not a valid excuse for a homogeneous workforce. The talent is out there, leaders just have to find it.
These steps are subtle, but that’s the point, Hempel writes. Diversifying a company happens “deliberately and often maddeningly slowly, one-by-one, starting at the top of the organization.”