How Can Managers Support Young Talent From Underrepresented Backgrounds?

 How Can Managers Support Young Talent From Underrepresented Backgrounds?

By Ali Shahbaz

In a constantly evolving marketplace, one positive trend is the growing appetite for hiring diverse talent across industry areas. But the journey for diversity and inclusion does not end at the point of hiring. In fact, it is the beginning of a pathway to build potential in the new generation of talent. Data, however, has continued to reveal industry segments that are still characterized by underrepresentation of select groups.

These gaps signal the imperative to create a workplace environment that is safe and inclusive to retain and nurture existing young talent from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Dedicated efforts to cultivate support for all employees is a mandated corporate responsibility for business leaders. This is because an investment in young, diverse talent is critical not only from a humanistic lens, but also from a financial point of view — an empowered, diverse team is conducive to better performance and higher productivity. Here are three meaningful ways for managers to emulate these objectives.

Choose Equity over Equality

Principles of equality may be glorified as hallmarks of fairness. However, in business settings, managers must recognize that not every hire begins from the same start line; life experiences, educational opportunities and professional development exposure can vary. And with systemic institutional biases at play, some groups may consistently be positioned at a relative disadvantage. The reality is: While sensible in theory, non-contextualized application of equality can be structurally limiting for the growth of those that have inherited legacies of exclusion and underrepresentation.

A more pragmatic alternative is the concept of equity, which is embedded in the common understanding that each individuals may have distinct needs to optimize their potential. When applying an equitable approach to decision making, managers become attuned to the specialized and differentiated requisites of their teams. This is inherently significant in the long-term growth and capacity building of talent.Recommended For You

Dare to Unlearn

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, industries have managed to develop norms and behaviors that determine their workplace cultures. Overtime, these standards have solidified to create corporate identities that are recognizable — but not always accessible. Dictating a culture of uniformity can be stifling; Black women, for example, have persistently shared experiences of being pressured against wearing their natural hair in the workplace. At it’s core then, the perception of normative professionalism can be damaging to identities that are constantly striving to rectify years of underrepresentation.

Effective managers must lead with intentionality and be actively on the lookout for opportunities to challenge obsolete corporate attitudes. Change is difficult. But it becomes easier when leaders acquire an affinity to unlearn the assumptions, beliefs and expectations embedded in organizational structures. Young professionals particularly bring a unique voice that successful managers must appreciate to accelerate company culture. Staying nimble is key.

Address The Elephant In The Room

Most recently, young people in the United States demonstrated remarkably higher participation than other age groups in the Black Lives Matter protests. Talent today is increasingly aware of the world it operates in. People are motivated to disrupt, contribute to causes, and push for impact. Here’s the dilemma: when on streets, young people may freely engage with questions of systemic discrimination, violence and complicity. But when in workplace environments, they may be compelled to self-regulation to maintain an apolitical corporate presence. This is in line with the long-standing debate on the issue of mixing business with politics, which presents a fair argument: politicization of workplaces, when unchecked, can raise tensions and impact collective harmony.

However, systematically brushing intersectional issues under the carpet can be deeply alienating. A culture of silence may limit allyship, impact performance and affect mental health and well being, especially of vulnerable young employees from diverse backgrounds. 

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Originally posted on Forbes

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