True diversity starts within your organization and emerges organically. It often requires difficult conversations that many people aren’t ready to have. Superficial hiring strategies and tactics won’t create lasting value; indeed, they can even damage your brand.

Rocki Howard, The Mom Project’s Chief People and Equity Officer, joined Rep Cap’s CEO Mary Ellen Slayter for a lively session at Managing Editor Live 2021 this year, where they discussed how HR and marketing can work together to close the gap between your publicly stated diversity goals and reality.

Building Your Diversity Brand Equity

We know people will buy from and work for brands who can demonstrate genuine diversity. Creating a diverse environment in any organization requires a strategic plan — and a sustained commitment to achieving your goals.

This goes far beyond adding a tiny diversity section on a brand’s career page. Indeed, even the placement of your diversity statement can be seen as a signal to diverse talent about how serious your commitment is. Rocki shared a story about a candidate who told her that if they see that statement at the bottom of the page, rather than the top, they move on. Why? Because they feel the company has demonstrated inclusion is an afterthought, instead of a priority.

For the vast majority of workers, just paying lip service to inclusion is unacceptable. Indeed, a survey by Glassdoor found 76% of candidates expect companies they are interested in working for to not only have a clear diversity strategy but to share it actively.

Amplify Underrepresented Talent Voices

It’s one thing to talk about a diversity strategy/goals in the workplace. It’s quite another to actually implement a strategy that makes space for underrepresented voices.

“When you look around the table, look at whose voice isn’t heard and whose perspective isn’t represented, and go find them,” Rocki says.

Content marketers can play a key role here, in partnership with HR. A strong relationship between HR, diversity leaders and marketing increases the odds that diversity goes beyond a blanket statement for the brand. “Diversity brand equity means it can be found at every touchpoint,” Rocki says.

Whether you are in talent acquisition or the head of diversity, you must understand the importance of making your career site reflect your diversity commitment. You also need to be certain your marketing team is aligned with the strategy. Any progress your company may be making towards true diversity can be undermined if your advertising continues to present non-inclusive messages to customers and job candidates.

Recognize You’re a Work in Progress

Rocki recalls when an organization invited her to apply for a promotion. It was a Fortune 500 business that had received awards for diversity and as a best place to work. Yet they couldn’t see past the dreadlocks she had at the time, asking her to cut her hair. When she refused, they told her she couldn’t have the job.

Many C-suite leaders genuinely want to see the world as an inclusive, diverse place, but they fail to recognize the hypocrisy in embracing “diversity” by putting strict limits on how it can be expressed. The result can be an outreach that reveals itself as deeply insincere and totally insufficient for real progress.

“I think it always comes down to authenticity,” Rocki says. How can a company prove its efforts are authentic? Like the saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. They should supply the funds to initiate strategies. To create diversity at every touchpoint in our companies, we have to hire diverse talent, update our language, and invest in tools to enhance our efforts. It’s great to give to organizations working to bring more diversity to the workplace. But when a company fails to pay its own workforce equitably, it utterly undermines its “commitment” to DE&I.

One of the most effective ways a company can demonstrate their commitment to increasing diversity is by acknowledging that they still have work to do. Companies can even reach out and ask their audience to tell us how we can improve. It shows vulnerability, which is far more persuasive than a company claiming everything is perfect when even a casual observer can tell there are clear problems.

Inclusion in Action: Introducing The Mom Project

The Mom Project, which Rocki joined this fall, connects professionally accomplished women with world-class companies. They recently raised $80 million in capital that they are investing in the future of working moms. Their vision: Create $1 billion of economic opportunity for working moms and women who use their platforms.

The Mom Project has also launched Rise, a scholarship program committed to accelerating equity for moms and women of color by providing access to upskill tech certifications at no cost to participants.

Watch Rocki’s full session here: