By Jewelle Saunders
Having an inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplace has many benefits. Some of the common best practices to keep in mind when building an inclusive workplace, according to Ideal, include fair treatment and equal access to opportunities; a focus on teamwork and collaboration; representation at all levels; diversity, equity and inclusion training, and education; and effective and consistent communication.
These best practices may seem self-evident, but it is important to see how these steps look in action. We consulted with a few YLAI Fellowship alumni to illustrate their best practices for building an inclusive business. The interviews below feature insight from Betty Álvarez, co-founder of C&A Legal Advisors; René Espinoza, founder of the Lazarillo app; and Bibi la Luz González, founder of Eat Better Wa’ik. Read on to learn why inclusion is important for your business and how to work to build an inclusive workplace.
Why is it important for businesses to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion?
René Espinoza: Any company that wants to serve consumers needs to understand them. The best way to understand your consumers is to have a diverse employee base. Otherwise, you will not understand why your projects are succeeding or failing. Having people with diverse backgrounds on your team is very beneficial because they have different views to contribute and it helps you better understand your consumers.
Betty Álvarez: From the business’ perspective, if your team is only formed of people like you, or that think just like you, or with your same train of thoughts and tastes, that is the only demographic you are ever going to get. Having a broad and diverse team will give you a new perspective on outreach, new products or services, even a new use for something you already have.
Do you have any best practices regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and allyship in the workplace?
Bibi la Luz González: It is important to focus on inclusion, to have diverse representation, voices, perspectives, and issues within your main focus, and broaden your actions to intertwine them. Embrace creativity and uncertainty, and bring together those who may not work in your exact field to bring in new ideas.
Álvarez: I work in a very diverse environment, and the main thing that keeps this group moving and working effectively is respect. Even if I may not share your same opinion, that is OK and I respect you and value you as a person and a co-worker.
Espinoza: I learned that for Lazarillo, we can’t focus on just one place in one city; we need to understand the changing needs of our community. We have users in 45 countries. People using Lazarillo in the U.S. will have a different experience than someone in India. Whenever you do something global you need to understand the different needs, so having a diverse team is very important so you can better understand them.
Álvarez: In 2019, our organization trained members of the civil society, LGBTQ+ leaders, the police, district attorney’s office, and the senatorial office on advocacy and public policy focused on issues like equal pay and sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2020, we had entrepreneurship virtual training with the participation of 20 members of at-risk groups who received direct support and printed materials delivered directly to them.
González: Within our board, managing team, and program participants the majority are women. However, for our interventions, mission, and programs to be successful for Eat Better Wa’ik, we make it evident there needs to be a link between women and men in the same household, who together will achieve our food security, climate sustainability, and human rights goals.
Espinoza: Ask for help, let people know you want to be inclusive and you want to help. You can create an atmosphere by constantly improving. Don’t only make one change. You need to change what you are doing from the ground up. How are you getting to the people you are hiring?
What advice would you give to other young leaders to do the same in their community and their businesses?
Espinoza: I have in my team people from the U.S., Panama, Argentina … my team is fully diverse. We live in a world where we need to embrace that. You can work wherever you want. I would tell any YLAI [Network member] who is hiring to think about not only your city and your country but to think about other countries and the broader network for a diverse team.
González: If your main focus is to get rich, you’ll probably fall short in that, and fall short in creating lasting change and worthy impact. Expand your vision to multiple spheres, to places unknown to you, have dialogues with people with different backgrounds and positions, listen to them, analyze their perspective and shape an improved version of your common goals. Call out when comments and actions are clearly discriminatory or in violation of the respect of others. My main message to you is: In these times of change, if we don’t improve, what else is there left?
Thank you for your insight Betty, René, and Bibi! Access more of our YLAI4All resources to understand how we’re better together.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.