By Jackie Glenn, Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions

Now more than ever, companies across America are focusing their efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. It is often presumed that these matters are only pressing for organizations in major cities where workers of all backgrounds tend to rush together in the race for success. The same preconceptions lead many to believe that DEI is of less importance in more rural areas like the Midwest. On the contrary, statistics show that the minority population in Nebraska has increased from 8% in 1990 to 21% in recent years. The demographic landscape will only continue to evolve, especially when considering added metrics such as gender, religion, and disabilities. These shifts in the population can present a challenge for employers who previously may not have had the opportunity to accommodate a diverse workforce. What employers must realize is that taking on this challenge brings about tangible rewards — studies prove that diverse companies produce 19% more in revenue. Preconceptions aside, this data demonstrates exactly why an environment shaped by DEI standards should be a top priority for companies in Nebraska, especially those in the world of technology.

An inclusive workplace can be the difference between a company advancing into the future or stalling out where they stand. When it comes to the hiring pool, everyone is fishing in the same pond. Employers in the Silicon Prairie are competing with companies in booming cities like New York and Chicago whose bustling lifestyles and higher salaries have a magnetic effect on emerging talent. Yes, Nebraska can highlight its lower cost of living that will make one’s salary stretch much further; it can turn heads with its appealing balance of city and suburbs instead of the overwhelming chaos of a larger metropolis. However, existing ideas about the lack of diversity can cause hesitation for new graduates considering all the aspects of where to start their life. For those who do make the move, an inequitable environment can push them to leave. If Nebraska’s technology industry truly wants to be in the running, employers have to understand that diversity is not just a big city issue. The Silicon Prairie has the potential to be a top destination for tech professionals seeking to catch the next wave of success. In order to draw in the brightest talent from all backgrounds, increase retention, and advance as a whole, employers must make DEI a priority.

The advantages of creating a diverse and inclusive environment are abundant. The key is determining how to effectively introduce DEI practices into an organization. As a 30-year strategist, former Chief Diversity Officer and Global VP of Diversity for a Fortune 500 company, I have seen it all. While employer intentions surrounding diversity are good, the execution of strategies can at times lack substance, which leads to greater challenges in this area. So, where to begin? There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to get things done, go to the top.” This holds true when it comes to DEI practices.

Here is the first step of a five-step approach of the journey towards creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable working environment. I will be sharing the next four approaches in upcoming articles that expand on how to make diversity, equity and inclusion a reality. 

Step 1: Educate from the Top Down

Educating leadership about diversity, equity, and inclusion can bring awareness and open the door to perspectives that weren’t recognized before. Leadership will now have the tools to support their employees and become champions of change. My 30 plus year experience has taught me that when leadership understands the business imperative, it is more likely for them to support and usher it down to the next level. It is proven that an inclusive environment leads to happier employees and higher profitability. Companies that make DEI a priority experience a significant return on investment. You can see for yourself in this Forbes article. Stay tuned for the next steps!

Jackie Glenn is a best-selling author, speaker, 30-year veteran in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, as well as the former Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global Diversity for a Fortune 500 company. She is currently the owner of Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions, a boutique consulting company that offers consulting services, curricula, and content that effectively evolves corporate cultures.