In the News

Fostering diversity, inclusivity and equity in your business

Diversity is good for business. Diverse teams are more productive, innovative and efficient. And research indicates employees want more diversity and inclusion at work.

Spending time working on your company’s diversity, equity and inclusivity is not just the right thing to do, it makes business sense.

What is diversity (and inclusivity and equity) and how does it relate to my business?

At its simplest, diversity is about respecting and appreciating the differences of your team. Diversity is not about sensitivity training or nondiscrimination policies — at least, not on their own. Diversity is also not about filling quotas. Instead, diversity seeks unique voices not to check a box, but for the intrinsic value of variety.

Closely related to diversity is inclusivity — the act of creating a space where people feel empowered and welcome to show up as their whole, authentic selves. Inclusive companies actively work to create a culture where those perspectives are seen, heard and valued by all members of the team.

Finally, equity is the recognition that structural and systemic barriers prevent full participation and access to opportunities for some groups of people. Working toward equity in your business means identifying how your practices may exclude (intentional or not) certain groups or people from being at the table, and then working to eliminate those barriers.

How do I build diversity in my company? Isn’t not discriminating good enough?

Abiding by local laws related to hiring, promoting and firing protected classes of people is the baseline for building diversity in your business. But it is not enough if your goal is to create a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive space.

In addition to utilizing best practices that encourage the hiring and promotion of diverse candidates, you must also be willing to look at your own policies and change practices that discourage diversity and inclusivity. Seek out assessments, guidance and training from professionals to give you a starting point.

You also need to educate your leaders. Make sure all your managers, executives and board see the value of creating a diverse and inclusive workspace and they are committed to making changes necessary. If your leaders are engaged and enthusiastic, your front-line employees will be as well.

Finally, empower your employees to be part of your solution. Give the reins over to an internal committee or team that has the power to make recommendations and implement changes. Listen to your staff, especially those who are speaking about inequities they face in the workplace or elsewhere. Be willing to set job titles aside for the sake of creating a welcome and supportive workplace.

Diversity work is hard work. It forces us to challenge what we think we know and who we think we are. However, investing in building a more diverse, inclusive and equitable business will result in a company that is responsive to its community, where people want to work and customers want to support.

NAWBO Member Q&A: Brittney Haskins

Brittney Haskins is the owner of One Sweet Kitchen, which creates unforgettable sugar cookies and French Silk Pies. In addition to her small business, Haskins just joined the NAWBO Iowa board of directors as secretary. Haskins had a career in the nonprofit and public relations space before jumping into entrepreneurship.

Can you take me through your personal background?

I grew up in Adel, Iowa, and went to the University of Iowa where I graduated in 2011 with a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication. I spent a few years in the nonprofit events and public relations space before turning my side hobby of baking into a full-time job.

What is your profession/business?

I own One Sweet Kitchen, a licensed bakery that helps people create memorable moments for clients and loved ones with unforgettable decorated sugar cookies and French silk pies.

What is the favorite part of what you do?

My favorite part of running my own business is the flexibility I have in creating my own schedule. The amount of orders I take on, when I decorate cookies, and when I need to step away from the kitchen is all up to me. Having extra treats on hand is also a great perk — I love being able to surprise friends or customers with extras when they need a pick-me-up!

Who is someone you consider a mentor and why?

Christina Moffatt, owner of Creme Cupcake + Dessert, has been more than generous with her time and advice to not only me, but the Des Moines small business community at large. Since we're in the same industry, I was intimidated to even approach her, but she's just one example of how inclusive and collaborative the Des Moines food scene is.