Hiring diverse candidates is just the beginning. These five steps can help leaders build supportive paths for them to succeed.

By Keith D. Dorsey, EdD

This article was originally published by MIT Sloan Management Review. Click here to view the original article. 

No matter how diverse the pipeline of job candidates is, if we have not properly prepared our organizational landscape, the odds are stacked against the talented professionals we work so hard to find, recruit, and welcome aboard. Many organizations have instituted measures to monitor and increase their diversity hires; however, less attention is paid to what happens after the hire. Only when we effectively create a more equitable landscape and support women and people of color in navigating it can we benefit from the full engagement and contributions of all of our people and avoid losing them to turnover or disengagement.

Occupational minorities — those individuals who are relative rarities in their profession due to their gender or sexual identity, ethnicity, age, or other factors — have accomplished what countless more have only dreamed of: They have broken through the glass ceiling, navigated the often inhospitable corporate jungle, and often successfully negotiated the glass cliff. Although the executives who represent diverse populations in your organization have successfully overcome these challenges, an important task remains: building a path for others to follow. This is hard, painstaking work that requires many different tools and competencies, yet it is necessary if others are to safely navigate the landscape.

Steps to Sustaining Diversity

Although various resources offer suggestions for how professionals from underrepresented populations can navigate and overcome organizational challenges, it is equally essential that organizations identify where persistent systemic bias and racism lurk and take concrete action to address them. Organizations can take the following five steps to begin the process of creating more inclusive environments where all employees have equal opportunities to thrive and advance in their careers.

Step 1: Establish leadership commitment to diversity with sponsorship.

Leadership throughout the organization must demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. When leaders model these behaviors, employees throughout the organization naturally follow their example. However, this commitment cannot be limited to one-off efforts or statements on corporate values.

Leaders must consciously exhibit their commitment to hiring people from underrepresented populations by helping to develop and equip these candidates for advancement. Specifically, every leader, regardless of organizational level, should identify at least one such candidate to intentionally sponsor. After getting to know the candidate’s background, career goals, and support needs, the leader should (1) counsel them in navigating the organization, (2) support them in developing the competencies needed to advance in their career, and, critically, (3) help them secure progressive leadership positions.

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1. M.K. Ryan and S.A. Haslam, “The Glass Cliff: Evidence That Women Are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions,” British Journal of Management 16, no. 2 (June 2005): 81-90.

2. T. Morgenroth, T.A. Kirby, M.K. Ryan, et al., “The Who, When, and Why of the Glass Cliff Phenomenon: A Meta-Analysis of Appointments to Precarious Leadership Positions,” Psychological Bulletin 146, no. 9 (September 2020): 797-829.

3. A.D. Galinsky, E.V. Hall, and A.J.C. Cuddy, “Gendered Races: Implications for Interracial Marriage, Leadership Selection, and Athletic Participation,” Psychological Science 24, no. 4 (April 2013): 498-506.

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