For small and medium-size businesses with 50-250 employees, starting a diversity, equity, and inclusion program can be difficult. Team members don’t have enough time, current budgets don’t allow room for new programs, and company leaders are unsure of how to make DEI a core part of their employer brand. These concerns are valid, but they usually stem from the idea that prioritizing DEI requires a big team, a big budget, and endless resources. We’re here to tell you that you can still make a big impact by starting small.
Here are 5 small and medium-sized businesses that are making a commitment to DEI and inspiring others to do the same.
Equator Coffees is a San Francisco-based coffee shop with roughly 140 employees and was named Small Business of the Year in 2016. The company’s DEI efforts started by examining their privilege. Its executive team read the book Erasing Institutional Bias by Dr. Tiffany Jana and since then, they have revamped their hiring and training processes to be more inclusive.
Equator Coffees actively recruits women of color and has an internal mentorship program designed to give entry-level employees clarity on their career path and support from experienced coworkers. Women of color comprise only 4 percent of C-level positions despite representing approximately 18 percent of the US population, so proactive measures like this will help women of color have equal access to promotions.
Equator Coffees’ focus on developing their current employees is a great example of investing in your talent with the goal of promoting them to make your senior-level team more inclusive in the future.
Forum One, a strategy, design, and technology company based in Arlington, Virginia, started its DEI efforts with company-wide prioritization and buy-in. Forum One developed a clear purpose and mission to ensure all 140 employees understand what DEI means to the organization, and move toward the goal together.
Forum One provides mandatory training for all staff, including the C-suite. The team also has an internal working group that conducts surveys, collects feedback, holds workshops, and works with a consultant to create a long-term DEI plan.
Forum One has also outlined inclusive language principles that the entire company follows, such as adding pronouns in email signatures, to create a sense of belonging in the workplace.
Less than 50% of Milk Makeup’s staff identifies as a BIPOC person, and none of these people are on its executive team. The company publicizes its employee demographics and acknowledged the need to increase representation of underrepresented employees. Company leaders have committed to updating their progress every June and December, and this transparency allows the public to hold leaders accountable for diversifying their team.
Milk is also hiring a DEI consultant, completing a team climate and culture assessment, and conducting bias and allyship training for all members. As a makeup brand, they have also ensured that more than 50% of their promotional images include BIPOC people.
As a company with about 120 employees, Milk has donated $50,000 to organizations including the NAACP, The Center, and AAPI. They also have an employee donation-matching program up to $500 per employee per year, and donate 1% of their sales.
Your company can take after Milk and be part of the 4 percent that discloses diversity statistics. You can also start with internal donations or fundraising efforts – no matter how big or small.
Ultranauts is one of the youngest companies on this list but is nevertheless committed to building and maintaining an inclusive workplace. With 90 employees, the company offers fully remote work benefits to team members across 29 U.S. states.
Ultranauts says a cognitively diverse team is a competitive advantage, and have achieved 50% annual growth with their team – 75% of whom are on the autism spectrum. They have a data-driven approach for recruiting and do not rely solely on resumes and work experience. Instead, they incorporate aptitude tests and offer desired-time-equivalent work weeks so that employees can work the way that best suits them.
Companies can improve their recruitment pipeline for neurodiverse people by replacing tests with a time limit, and offering a take-home test with a longer time frame to complete it. Another option is to encourage candidates to bring samples of their work to the interview or create a pitch that they can prepare in advance.
BrainPOP is an education company with 250 employees that offers online learning resources in science, English, math, arts and music, engineering, and tech.
As a commitment to the career growth of women, BrainPOP has also sponsored employees’ memberships to Career Chasers, a membership community that advances women of color in their careers.
As one of the most accessible and impactful learning solutions for all students, they have improved the inclusivity of their product offerings by creating content that educates students on the history and culture of Native American, Black, Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, such as its Juneteenth course.
Creating similar content can be time-consuming, so one alternative is to block off time on employees’ calendars and make it a required learning session where they take time learning about different cultures.
Not all teams have the time, people, and money to create an entire DEI department from the ground up. The lack of resources, however, shouldn’t keep company leaders from starting new initiatives. Investing in your team’s learning and development, practicing inclusive language, and making DEI part of your employer brand can be the first steps toward an equitable workplace.
Ready to make DEI a priority?
Our team at Perfeqta will work with you to create DEI strategies and cultural content. Tell us more about your company’s goals here.
Thuy Doan is a software developer in EdTech, speaker, podcaster, and content writer. She is passionate about advocating for mental health, career development, and uplifting people in underrepresented communities.
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