Change is hard. Getting diversity and inclusion right in any organization is a function of change. It’s about overcoming barriers, as well as getting people out of dominant paradigms about diversity such that they link diversity and inclusion to other change initiatives that have worked successfully. It’s about empowering people to see connections and to understand diversity and inclusion as part of the overall livelihood and capability of their organizations. And that means providing models and templates that get results.

Here we present frameworks that draw on the research and expertise of Darden faculty. These practical templates will help empower you as an individual and as a leader and help disperse the work of diversity and inclusion across the entirety of your organization. These are pathways that will help you to normalize diversity and make it part of business as usual — to make change happen by building and deploying a set of inclusive skills into everyday work and everyday development.

As Darden Professor and Senior Associate Dean and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin N. Davidson says: “When that switch happens, suddenly people who are deskilled and anxious and walking on eggshells around diversity, these people suddenly become solution-oriented. They start becoming innovative and agents of their own learning. And that’s a mindset shift. So it’s about getting to a critical mass of mindset shift among people who understand the business, the organization, the strategy and who can then merge D&I with everything else they do.”

Getting diversity and inclusion right is not an off-the-shelf activity. As a leader you have to do it by investing in people inside and outside that can help you learn how to do that for yourself. Here are things you can do today.

Build a More Inclusive Hiring Process

Practical Insights From Darden Professor Toni Irving

  • Referrals: The old adage has it that it’s not what you know, but who you know. And it stands to reason. Networking and employee referrals can accelerate recruitment practices. But bringing more diversity and inclusivity into your company via personal recommendations is contingent on having diversity within your workforce and organizational ecosystem. Irving recommends hiring managers reach out to people of color in the organization to ask for referrals. If they are reluctant, she says,  they should examine it as a data point in how the organization is viewed — then evaluate and take action regarding its structural issues.
  • Interview callbacks: Irving cites research by Stanford and Rotman Business School that finds that interview callback rates for minority candidates are higher when those candidates “whiten” their CVs by altering names or other details that could reveal their race.1  One way to counteract this is with the use of technology that takes some of the subjectivity out of the process. Blendoor, for example, uses people analytics to counteract bias in the job application process. The app hides the candidates’ names and photos to focus only on their skills, experience and education.
  • Salary history: Companies like Google, Whole Foods and EY understand that education, salary and professional experience questions can limit inclusive hiring by undervaluing minority groups or making them seem inexperienced. These organizations have taken the extra step of removing college degree requirements from their recruitment practices, recognizing that they often have little bearing on the actual skill needed for certain roles.
  • Inclusive networking: Within the organization, Irving suggests that HR and D&I leaders ensure that networking, mentoring and development occur across all employee demographic groups and job levels. As in the hiring process, “who you know” is key to promotional opportunities, she argues, and development is key to unlocking potential for future roles. Leaders should recognize that this commitment is needed, and invest in it especially for minority groups and people of color.

Design for Intelligent Inclusion

Game-Changing Ideas From Darden Professor Martin N. Davidson

  • What’s in a name? However well intentioned, your D&I efforts may be misconstrued. Where one Black or female leader may feel impassioned by your commitment, another might feel stereotyped. Shaping how minority professionals perceive and experience inclusion programs is critical to their impact. Calling your D&I program “Value in Difference” risks alienating some individuals, for instance, whereas naming it “Value in Equality” is more likely to confirm fair access to opportunities.  Reducing psychological reactivity helps to reduce racial, gender or other types of friction and paves the way for intelligent inclusion.
  • Talk about it. The conversation about race, gender and other minority identities needs to be bold, open, explicit and inclusive. Silence hinders people’s ability to interact authentically across the dimension of difference. Find contexts in which senior leaders (white and male as well as those of different races, gender and others) can develop their capacity to talk comfortably about diversity.
  • Build knowledge. Seek to build knowledge about race, gender and other dimensions of difference across and throughout the organization in ways that do not silo the conversation or lean too heavily on minority colleagues. One way of avoiding diversity fatigue is to start a book or film club featuring writers or filmmakers from different backgrounds.
  • Develop a learning culture. Learning about race, gender and difference shouldn’t be a discrete act — a one-off project with a conclusion — but something fluid and ongoing. Be guided by demographic shifts that are creating more diversity in our society as people emigrate from Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere, adding to diversity in Black communities and complexity to understandings of Black experience. Integral to that experience is navigating the shock of racially significant events that highlight the ways Black people in particular frequently experience injustice.

The preceding is drawn from the white paper Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and 5 Things You Can Do to Normalize DEI in Your Organization. Please see How to Normalize DEI in Your Organization: Part 2 for more frameworks to normalize DEI in organizations.

  • 1Sonia K. Kang et al., “Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market,” Administrative Science Quarterly 61, No.3, , March 2016,
Normalize DEI in Your Organization
Read more insights in the white paper